Lord of the Flies by William Golding

8016155I have no words to describe this book; simply stunning, incredibly disturbing yet it was such a delight to read.

This book had been on my radar for quite some time and I had been meaning to read it and then I got sent this by my Twitter friend who said she wanted to hear my thoughts on this, so here you go;

I must admit the litany of descriptions of the island made me hold up a little bit. I had to reread the same part over and over in an attempt to visualize what the island looks like and what paths the characters are taking, etc, etc… it got me stumped. That said, the writing is absolutely gorgeous and the plot is magnificent – incredibly dark and heavy, it made me feel sick in the stomach. I cannot say anything but AMAZING.

What I found quite disturbing and jarring was Jack’s transformation from a boy to nothing but a bloodthirsty savage; he is gradually stripped away from his rationality and fair judgement, and gets obsessed with hunting and even becomes capable of a horrific murder – it literally sent chills down my spine. So unnerving, so spine-chilling.

You may find the first half is kind of slow at first but the latter half is definitely a page-turner. I loved how the creepiness begins to crawl into every sentence and each scene and how the descriptions get more and more graphic as the story moves on. The jolt definitely comes in the latter half and it only gets intensified from there.

The cast of characters and the dynamics are just brilliant. In my personal opinion, the main two characters, Ralph and Jack are at the opposites end of the spectrum; Ralph represents rationality and order while Jack savagery and feral instinct and I found it really well done, simply stunning.
The power struggle happens in the latter half is also gripping, too. Despite Ralph’s attempt to bring order to the group and hold everyone together again, the small society crumbles and the assembly ends up a complete flop; Jack starts to gain ground and eventually assumes power – he literally reigns  as an invincible sovereign in the uninhibited island with the charismatic authority. This gradual power transfer is written so perfectly, it’s just glorious and riveting.

The last four chapters may be too graphic and horrific to read; I actually had to put it down so many times and take a breather to calm down. My heart was beating so fast that I thought I could hear my heart was bumping against my rib cage.

Could this really happen to kids, or us were we left to our own devices with no adult supervision or intervention?
Could our mind really be grawed at and overtaken by our own inherit feral instinct?

Such idea like those made me think, really THINK.
I honestly don’t want to admit it, I really want to refuse, but I also know it CAN happen and that’s what I found the most horrendous.

Nevertheless, I can also say that’s where things start to happen and the plot becomes intense and captivating. It’s gory, yes, but it’s like watching a horror movie between your fingers – you cannot stand the goriness but you want to see how things unfold.  That’s what happened to me.

Like I mentioned, I did struggle to grasp the story and took me some time to get into the flow, but I am now glad that I made it to the end.
Since the writing is rather graphic, this is definitely not for the faint of heart, this is not for everyone, but I think this story will stick with me and I’m sure I’ll come back to this at least more than once. I quite enjoyed it.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

29542234One cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel to a labyrinthine library of forgotten titles, hidden in the old city of Barcelona. Allowed to choose one book, Daniel pulls out The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of library curiosity turns into a race to discover the truth about the life and death of Julian Carax, and to save those he left behind…


This book is simply amazing and superb.
I can find hardly any flaws in this. The story line is wonderfully and intricately crafted and it’s so twisty till the very last minute, which makes a perfect Gothic Mystery, I literally devoured this book. I gulped down the last 80 pages in almost one sitting; it goes to show how stunning and riveting this book is.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous; very strong and solid, not a single word is out of place, every single word is there for a reason.  It’s also very descriptive and suspenseful.
I like how the shadow of ‘Lain Coubert’ hangs in Daniel’s life in the first 100 pages or so.
Ever since the first encounter with the limping, faceless man under the name of the character from The Shadow of the Wind, he hovers like a shadow over Daniel’s life, his presence is always felt, wherever Daniel goes and whenever the moment is. It adds a lot of tension and creepiness to the already gripping story and makes it even more enthralling.

The plot is also very intriguing and twisty down to the very last minute of the book.
I personally think this is one of those books that makes you really think. Tugging the hints and the foreshadowing scattered here and there throughout the story, putting two and two together, you try to solve the mystery yourself. At least that’s what happened to me. I did a lot of tabbing and re-reading the paragraph and scene where the specific events and characters first mentioned in the book.
The power of the story and the writing is so strong. Although I have to admit that I felt it a bit dull somewhere in the middle and I reached the point where I almost gave up, but it makes sense; I now think the first half is spent on building up the story and tension that will come to a head in the second half. I am glad that I didn’t give up on that point. The story develops a lot from there and it only gets more intense and gripping.
I don’t remember how many annotations and scribbles that I made, which is a rarity for me.

The characters are all well-fleshed out and feel very realistic. I personally loved Fermin’s character; he’s comedic and funny, however somber and serious the scene was, his presence and remarks always brought a ray of hope and smile. I also loved the despondent yet calm voice of Nuria. She carries incredibly heavy luggage from the past and her life has always been fraught with grief, sorrow and sadness, yet I think that’s what makes her endearing to me. I really love her voice.
Although I found the description of Julian Carax in the latter part a bit over the top, reminiscent of some super-human characters from Marvel comics, but it works perfectly to bring an end both to this grand, epic story and the outstanding unfinished business between Fumero and Julian. It is just amazing how the story beautifully and masterfully wraps up towards the end.

Like I mentioned earlier, there’s not a single piece which is out of place. Every single hint comes together perfectly in the end and the ending is simply glorious.
The way the author describes how each character leads his/her life after all the mysteries solved is purgatorial and delightful. It put a smile on my face.
The undertone of the story is dark and somber but it lightens up in the end which I personally am very happy with.

I myself think this story conveys the message of ‘redemption’ and ‘rebirth’ or ‘re-do.’
Daniel’s urge to reveal the secrets of Julian Carax, the author of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ ends up messing up almost everyone’s life and hurting them. It even drives a wedge between his long-time friend and himself in its wake and the consequence Daniel brings upon himself was heartbreaking for me; it was so poignant and haunting.

That said, I adore the message what I think Julian wanted to impart to Daniel – ‘live for me‘ – I thought it was so beautiful. It almost made me cry.
This is an incredibly dark, haunting and complex story, but the feeling that I had reading what a significant figure Daniel has become to Julian and how Julian starts to see a hope in Daniel is something I can never express with my words. It’s just inexplicable. It even felt purifying and purgatorial. It’s so, so good.

This book is beyond flawless. I almost gave up in the middle, but I am glad I persevered and kept reading. This now has become one of my favorites.
This is definitely worth your time. I highly recommend reading this.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

17571433My honest opinion when I finished this book was;

“What?! Is this gonna end here like THIS?”

With NO definite denouement, the story ends rather abruptly. It made me feel as though there were another 20 to 30 pages to wrap up this story, but there weren’t.
At first, I found it rather anticlimactic; I was a bit disappointed to say the least.
That said, however, it was because I was so invested in the story. I wanted to know MORE about it, I really, really liked it!

That being said though, I now look back on it and think it was a fitting end considering the underlining theme of this book, The Storyteller, and The story goes on.
I now assume that Jodi Picoult chose not to close the story with a clear-cut ending, she intentionally chose to leave the rest of the story to us readers’ imagination just like Minka did.
In regard to this, I think it’s clever. Some readers may not be in favor of such endings, but I think I could live with it. (Well, of course, I could be completely off the mark, though.)

The writing was very strong yet has got some calm, quiet quality to it. Even during Minka’s retrospective soliloquy reflecting back on her experience in the Auschwitz, her narration felt very calm and collected. It wasn’t at all over-dramatic, but incredibly intense and poignant at times, it literally cut through my heart. It was just brilliant.

As for the story, the subject matter this book deals with is quite heavy; there’s no doubt about that. What struck me the most in Josef’s narration was that how desensitized and numb a person can be under the pretext of orders and code of conduct. Josef seemed to have been a bit red-blooded, but didn’t used to be THAT brutal, but during his time in the Army, he turned himself into a monster who is capable of shooting people in the head for no particular reason, just like squashing insects with his shoes.
This was what sent chills down my spine while I was reading this book.

On a bit more positive note, I loved how Sage and Leo’s paths cross as the story unfolds and how they both develop their affinity toward each other. It’s a fainty, slow-burn type of love and I absolutely adored the budding romance between them.

In addition to that, the relationship between Franz and Minka also tugged at my heartstrings.
I loved how Franz starts to see Minka in a different light, not merely as a prisoner who doesn’t deserve to live, but as a storyteller. I absolutely enjoyed the scenes where he saves her from a predicament and puts her under his supervision, telling her to write the story 10 pages a night and reading it aloud to him. I adored Franz’s gentleness despite being a SS soldier, despite the fact he may have committed unspeakable atrocities, killing numerous people in his wake.

That was all the more reason why it broke my heart when I read what Franz did to Minka.
I was like, “Why, Franz, Why?!”
But I knew the reason; He had to. He had no other option left for him to save her at that point, at his brother’s presence.
And the blank notebook anonymously left to Minka as if to say,
Keep the story going on.
Live as a storyteller.
It literally shattered my heart; my heart felt so constricted. So sad. So poignant. Ugh…

The huge twist in the end completely took me by surprise; I didn’t see it coming at all.
Man, what a twist! What an unexpected turn of events!

Like I said, with no definite end, I wonder what future holds for Sage.
Having read the decision Sage has reached upon Josef’s supplication to aid his death, I’m now really itching to know how the story unfolds for Sage and Leo.

What will happen to THEM?
Will Sage divulge the secret to Leo? And what will happen from now onwards?
How is Sage going to live down what she has done to Josef?

So many question marks swirl around my head.
This, however, might be exactly how the author wanted us readers to be.
Well done, Jodi Picoult. You got me there hands-down. I’m completely sold.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

2813153■Synopsis (from the back cover)

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it.
Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life…

Forever.

 

This book didn’t blow me away as much as I hoped it would.
I did enjoy the reading experience and found it a quick read, but it just didn’t completely click with me.

In fact, I’m still indecisive about this book; while I don’t particularly adore this book, I still find this very haunting; it definitely left a vague, yet lasting impression on me.

This may be a kind of book that one may not particularly love yet can’t help thinking about. That’s exactly what’s happening to me, to be honest.

Like I said, this is a quick, engaging read. In each chapter with the number of cassette tapes you’re on – you’ll listen to Hannah narrating her side of the story as to what led her to taking her own life. Personally, I found it pretty voyeuristic.
There are thirteen reasons why she killed herself and are thirteen people on the list to whom the cassette tapes will be passed on.
Which means, each and every one of them will be listening to what each of them on the list had done to Hannah – in detail.
With regard to this, I think it’s very clever and engaging.

As for the writing style, it actually took me a while to get used to.
While the story is basically narrated in the first person -from Clay Jensen’s perspective, since we are supposed to be listening to Hannah’s soliloquy throughout the thirteen cassette tapes, namely thirteen chapters, there’s a constant back and forth between Hannah’s narration and Clay’s inner thoughts which I found pretty distracting and I actually had to do a lot of re-read to figure out which perspective I was on.

However, it may be only me who feels this way, but Clay’s teenage angst and wandering around the town not being inclined to go home kind of reminded me of Haulden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.
I don’t know why, but it just did. Please share your thoughts if you felt the same way.

Story-wise, I particularly liked the change that visits Clay’s mind after hearing Hannah’s tapes.
This story tells you what big of an impact you can have on someone else’s life; how your words and deeds can affect others. The ripple effect of your conducts, even though the effect of which is unbeknownst to yourself.

And once you know the truth, that’ll change how you view things and people.

Being blatantly shown what he could have done to save her but he didn’t must have been too much for Clay, trust me – it was so hard to read, I felt for him – but I liked how he changes – or tries to change – after such a revelation.

And he actually puts his determination to action.

That’s enough for me; it’s such a hopeful, rewarding end.

I gave this 3.5 out of 5 stars, but this rating could be changed afterwards (probably in a positive way.)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of CrowsI gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. This book definitely measures up to the hype and I quite enjoyed reading it.

Despite that, I must note that it took me quite a while to get into the story.
The reasons are:

a)I wasn’t particularly familiar with the Grisha world (I haven’t read the Grisha Trilogy) and,
b)There are just too many characters making an appearance at the early stage in the story and some of them turned out to be minnows who I didn’t necessarily have to keep track of.

What really drained me is b): the number of characters. As I previously mentioned, many of them ended up being of no importance thus I didn’t necessarily have to spend my time and energy in keeping track of.
However, I ended up doing a lot of re-read and skipping ahead to understand who is who and who the character is connected to, which drained a lot of energy out of me.

For those reasons, the first 40 pages, particularly the parley scene was really excruciating and mentally draining to me.
I didn’t find it info-dumpy, it was totally immersive and gripping once I picked up the book and started reading, it was really an exciting read. But once life got in the way and I put aside the book, the mental exhaustion that I had experienced in the first 40 pages actually made me a bit hesitant to pick it up again and I ended up dragging the hesitation the entire time until I finished the book.
Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this book.

Apart from the unfamiliar names and settings that come with the Grisha world, I think the writing is on point, brisk and very easy to get through. It’s also very descriptive and I could easily visualize each scene; some scenes actually made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I found the plot a bit predictable, particularly what was supposed to be a huge twist in the end, nevertheless, it didn’t make the story any less interesting. I really enjoyed it.

I gather this is a kind of book that you should go blindly knowing the bare minimum about the plot; even a brief mention about the heist seems to be quite spoilary to me. (So I wouldn’t.)

As far as the character goes, my absolute favorite will be Kaz Brekker and Nina. I assume Kaz will be a heartthrob to many, but I absolutely love Nina’s character. She is sexy, gentle and strong and capable. I particularly adore the romance between Matthais and Nina in the end… it made my heart swoon (not as much as it did for Cinder and Kai in The Lunar Chronicles, but it did).
But Nina, oh my gosh, Nina. What have you done?! It was actually one of my favorite scenes in the book. Some may see it as overly dramatic, but I just adore the scene. Love it.

Kaz’s feelings toward someone whose name I won’t name came as a bit of a surprise – I wouldn’t say I didn’t see it coming at all, nonetheless, it was a nice surprise. It actually made me a bit warmed up to Kaz.

The friendship built amongst the crews is also what I really liked about this book.
My favorite goes to the one between Inej and Nina and Jesper and Wylan.
The rest of the crews first disregard Wylan at the earlier stage of the heist, but as the story goes, as they go through a lot of predicaments together, they start to look at Wylan in a different light and think more of him. I liked the change A LOT.

Overall, I think Leigh Bardugo did an amazing job in weaving such an exciting, thrilling story by tactfully entwining each character’s background story with the main one with vital clues and revelations as to, for instance, why Kaz Brekker always wears gloves and things along those lines.
Despite the initial mental exhaustion that I experienced, I found the latter half is such a page-turner, a great read.

Although I’m yet to be ready to dive right into the sequel, ‘Crooked Kingdom,’ and I’ll be most likely to take a bit of a break, I highly recommend picking this up.
It is definitely worth your time and energy. It’s such a rewarding, exciting read. Definitely lived up to my expectations. I’m glad that I finally finished this book.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347I picked up this book because of its hype this book has gleaned from the book community, and most importantly, YA is my jam; I started this book with high expectations.

It’s been nearly four days since I finish this book, but I still haven’t been able to make up my mind when it comes to deciding whether I like this book or not.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. This is such a page-turner with a huge, surprising twist in the end. That being said though, when it comes down to the issue of liking it or not, I still don’t know which side I am on. I’m somewhere in the middle.

I gave this book 3 ~ 3.5 out of 5 stars.
As I previously mentioned, I enjoyed reading this; this book made me keep turning pages.
There’s not much of a plot going, it’s just narratives of the ‘Liars’ summers on the island where their grandfather has a great influence on. The Sinclair family is a well-off, distinguished family and they have almost everything and they have the luxury of spending summertime on the island every year.

What I found interesting is the relationship between the ‘Liars,’ Cady, Johnny, Mirren and Gat. They get along really well on the island, yet their relationship never goes beyond the summer; they lose in touch at some time or other and let it fall through the cracks until next summer. I wonder why, but they do and I assume that’s exactly what makes their summers on the island really special.

Another aspect that I found interesting is the crumbling relationship between their mothers. On the surface level, they seem to get along all right, but deep down they’re constantly against each other and currying favor with their father to secure the better family possessions.
The underlying enmity slowly elevates the matters to the point that comes to a head and that eventually drives the ‘Liars’ into taking the matters into their own hands – which leads to the shocking, devastating consequence.

A huge twist in Part 5 literally took me by surprise; It made me hold my breath and cry, ‘Oh my gosh,” I didn’t see it coming at all.

The writing is one of the strongest points in this book, I gather. As the story is basically narrated from Cady’s perspective, everything feels kind of hazy and untrustworthy; I constantly wondered whether to take in everything she says as is or not. I absolutely enjoyed the platonic, beautiful slow-burned love between Cady and Gat, but on the other part of me constantly doubted if it was what was actually happening. I personally think that’s what heightens the sense of suspense and makes this book gripping.

I enjoyed Cady’s narration as well – it’s very lyrical at times and the prose is very beautiful. I also enjoyed reading the short stories presumably written by Cady inserted here and there in the story.
It indirectly insinuates the consequences of her/their actions and reflects her emotions.
It was really well-done.

The ending literally wrecked me. I definitely saw some hope in it, but it was, at the same time, very sad and haunting. Cady has to live on dragging the luggage of what she had done in the ‘Summer Fifteen,’ and how she herself recognizes it just broke me. It was heart-wrenching, yet also beautiful. I lost my words after closing the book.

As I said earlier, I still don’t know whether I adore this book or not. But I definitely have a soft spot for this kind of book.
I can vouch that this is a great summer read, such a page-turner. I recommend you picking this up if you haven’t already.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (Translated by Megan Backs)

124533This book is one of my all-time favorites, I first read this book in my second year at junior college.
An American teacher suggested that I should definitely read this and lent it to me.
“Give it back to me when you’re through this book. Take your time,” he said.

How many years have passed since then? I lost count.
That said, this book had always had a special place in my heart.

It was a cold winter day in 2015, I was hit by a strong urge to possess this book after all these years, it came totally out of the blue.
It may have been a nostalgic part of me wanting to dwell on the fond memories associated with this book, be that as it may, I got this book from Amazon and I just adore it.

Since I have never read any of her work before, I have no frame of reference with regards to which version of her work – the Japanese one and the English one – is better than the other, but I instantly fell in love with the atmospheric, beautiful writing.

The story revolves around young two man and woman who are somehow strongly connected by ‘death.’ Needless to say, the gloomy ambiance is running through the entire book; it’s slightly morbid, dark yet it’s incredibly delicate and beautiful.

It is quite surprising that even the translated version of the book -even with the rather clear, straightforward filter of the English language – pulls off conveying the fragile, delicate ambiance what the original edition of the book might carry (again, it’s my guess as I have never read the original one) throughout the entire story.
The descriptions of darkness, silence, raindrops, the moon and the fragility are beautifully delineated through the delicate writing. The writing is really descriptive yet calm and delicate, it is absolutely gorgeous.
I personally think the atmosphere and the writing are what draw us readers into the story.

The themes of the story is also interesting. The idea of ‘death’ always sits in the center of the story, but I found some other aspects – transvestism and transsexualism – rather daring considering the time when it was first published. In this day and age when we would never go even one day without hearing the talk of ‘gender,’ such themes that can be found in this book may not have much of an impact. That being said though, decades ago, how many authors actually dared to drop them in their work and put it out for the world to read, I wonder?
Personally, I’m intrigued to know.

I adore the two main characters, Mikage and Yuichi; they both are shattered and plunged into a state of despair after losing their loved ones, they both severely suffer from the loss, they wallow in their share of loneliness and sadness. Still, they both have their own feet back on the ground slowly and steadily as the story progresses.
It’s poignant and the tone is forlorn indeed, but the ending is quite hopeful and refreshing. It put a smile on my face.

Overall, it’s a stunning, delightful read. I absolutely loved it.

■Moonlight Shadow

This book comes with a short novella titled, “Moonlight Shadow.”
This is another beautiful, impressive story on the theme of ‘death,’ it’s pretty short yet the story line is quite solid and the writing is, again, splendid and descriptive.

I think ‘death’ is the recurring theme in this ‘Kitchen’ bundle; in this novella, ‘Moonlight Shadow,’ two main characters, Satsuki and Hiiragi struggle to bounce back from the loss of their loved ones.
The inner process of Satsuki is so heart-wrenching and poignant. She hits the lowest point having lost her boyfriend and has yet to come to terms with it. Her anguish, grief, and pain she suffers from the loss seem too much to overcome, but she tries to get by each day believing the day will break and the morning will come  – her struggles can be felt so close to me, it pained my heart.

What really pains Satsuki is not only the fact that she’ll never see her lover again, but she didn’t get to say proper good-bye to him.
With an eccentric but whimsical character Urara, the story takes an interesting twist.

The dialogue in the latter part that Satsuki had with Hiiragi made me cry. It beautifully tells how much Satsuki has been suffering and how much Hiiragi cares about her. There’s no love-triangle or messy business involved, of course, yet Hiiragi’s concerns over Satsuki and his willingness to overcome the pains together with Satsuki touched me.

And the ending, Ah, THE ENDING. It was stunningly beautiful. It was just amazing and incredibly emotional. My tears flooded as I read the scene, what a tear-jerker. It was just gorgeous.

Personally, I liked ‘Moonlight Shadow’ better. It may be because I was more emotionally attached to ‘Moonlight Shadow’ than ‘Kitchen,’ yet I can vouch that the both stories are just stunning. They are gems. I highly recommend picking this up.