Sabriel by Garth Nix – Re-Read Challenge 2016 Post # 1

When I First Read Sabriel

Here are some fun facts about Garth Nix from Epic Reads.

I don’t remember exactly when I first read “Sabriel” by Garth Nix, but I believe it was during my high school years, over a decade and a half ago. I only started reading books for fun during first my freshman year of high school, so I was pretty new to reading back them. I was still discovering the things I liked and didn’t like to read.

I was drawn to this book because it had a female protagonist. I was also curious about the heroine’s using bells in battle against her foes. I thought it was a unique concept, and still think it’s  novel a novel idea today.

What I Remember of Sabriel

“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” – Garth Nix, Sabriel

I remember the bells and how Sabriel used them to enter the realm of the dead. I recall how each bell had a different effect when rung. I also remember Mogget transforming into a white glowing creature I always imagined looking like an archon from the StarCraft video game series. Mogget is awesome.

Why I Wanted to Re-Read Sabriel

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Here is a photo collage of my very precious copy of Sabriel.

I really enjoyed reading “Sabriel” the first time, and then re-reading it several times after that. I’ve actually read the whole Old Kingdom trilogy a couple of times already. Garth Nix’s novel is simple and easy to read. The romance wasn’t very central to the story, and I enjoyed that a lot. The focus was actually on saving people.

I also liked the magic system in this book. The use of Charter Magic and the bells. The different gates one passes through on the way to death. It was all very interesting without ever being complicated.

How I Felt After Re-Reading Sabriel

If you can spare an hour, here is a more comprehensive podcast interview with Garth Nix by Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Re-reading “Sabriel” was like catching up with an old friend. I still have the original copy of the novel I bought around 15 years ago. The pages are all yellowish and crumbling in places. When I was a child, I always wondered how long it took for books to get that crumbly.

When I was a teenager, I was even more confused because I noticed my mother’s copies of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “The Notebook” getting all crumbly, but I didn’t think the books were that old. After all, weren’t the movies just coming out back then?

Anyway, the “Sabriel” didn’t lose any of its magic over the  years. It’s a timeless classic for me, and I hope that many more young adults get to read it like I did.

This post was written for Belle of the Literati’s Re-Read Challenge 2016. You can also read more about why I joined the 2016 Re-Read Challenge.

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It by Stephen King – Book Review

Freshman year was one of the most memorable school years of my high school life. That was the year my best friend Josh introduced me to Stephen King. He made me a fan. He led me toward falling in love with reading. I remember looking forward to recess and lunch time each day because it was during these times when Josh would talk about the latest Stephen King book he was reading. He discussed the horrors of Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining. But most fall, he talked about It, and how terrifying and wonderful the novel was.

“We all float down here!” – Stephen King, It

He spent a long time talking about It, probably because of how lengthy the book was. My paperback copy is 1,090 pages long. I listened to him narrate the novel over the course of a month or two. Josh was a great storyteller, and he got me hooked on Bill, Ben, Beverly, Eddie, Mike, Richie, Stan, and their Derry adventures with Pennywise the Clown long before I bought a copy of the novel.

I had a couple of false starts reading It, partly because I felt the book wasn’t living up to the way Josh narrated it, at least at the start. Mostly it was because I was lazy. I thought I already knew the story from start to finish, as if I listened to the audio book version of It—but I didn’t. I knew Josh’s version of the story, which was great. Now, I have my own version of the story, and that’s even better.

“Your hair is winter fire
January embers
My heart burns there, too.” – Stephen King, It

It tells the story of seven friends who grew up in the small city of Derry. These friends would have had pretty normal childhoods, except that their hometown was haunted.

Correction: It was haunting. It was hunting. It was hurting. It was killing the people of Derry. They defeated It when they were kids, almost killed It. But now the monster has resurfaced and is out for revenge.

Sounds pretty simple, but there is so much story and depth in this massive novel. Most of it is set in 1958, when Bill, Ben, Beverly, Eddie, Mike, Richie, and Stan were kids.

That year was an eventful one. It was when these seven losers and outcasts, became friends, partly because of their shared experiences of being constantly lonely and bullied.

It was also because they all survived their encounters with It, also known as Pennywise the Clown. Together, they managed to defeat It that same year.

“We lie best when we lie to ourselves.” – Stephen King, It

I love how Stephen King shifted between the points of view of all seven protagonists as kids and as adults. King even gave the points of view of antagonists, side characters, and even seemingly inconsequential characters who die or leave the story after several pages. No character is the same, and I found myself relating to many of them in different ways.

This novel focuses on the power of childhood imagination. Children are able to survive the terrors of It because they had the power to imagine, accept the reality of even the most monstrous and terrible horrors.

“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all – how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.” – Stephen King, It

As children, we believe Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy in the same way we believe in the monsters lurking inside our closets and under our beds. As children, we aren’t afraid to let others know that we are afraid of the dark.

Adults forget or refuse to believe in imaginary beings from nightmares and fair tales. When they come face to face with impossible, they just can’t face the reality of it.

“What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again.” – Stephen King, It

The problem our seven protagonists face is whether or not they can kill, much less defeat it again, now that they are adults themselves. Fortunately, there are adults who still retain the wonders of childhood. There are still adults who believe in fairies; who believe they can fly. In a sense, King’s story is in some ways a much darker version of Peter Pan.

Stephen King’s It is a terrifying read. I imagine it would have been even more scary to read it as a teenager, but the impact of this story does not diminish with age or time. I think this is one of King’s best novels, and I am placing it among my favorites together with Carrie, The Shining, 11/22/63, and The Dome.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5
5 Beans out of 5

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day – Book Review

Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Author: Felicia Day
Release Date: August 11th 2015
Publisher: Touchstone

Serendipitously Meeting Felicia Day Online and at the Bookstore

I know about Felicia Day from the Internet. I was watching some episodes of TableTop on YouTube, when I clicked on a link to Geek & Sundry, then a link to Felicia Day, then a link to The Guild. I watched the very first episode of The Guild, and it was amazing.

My inability to focus on one interesting thing at a time, led to my only watching that one episode so far. But I never forgot how amazing Felicia Day was, and I wanted to read her book very badly.

I did a double take (even a triple take) when I saw a hardback of Felicia Day’s memoir displayed in Fully Booked, Ayala Center Cebu. I actually stared at the book for a couple of seconds focusing and refocusing my eyes until I couldn’t deny it any longer: Holy. Crap. It’s Felicia Day’s memoir!

Very sure the middle-aged man browsing the display of memoirs would grab the only copy of Felicia’s book, I broke out of my trance and ran towards the book display. I gave him a slight nudge, rushed a “Sorry! Excuse me!” I grabbed the book then ran away. Poor guy probably thought I was crazy.

Why Felicia Day’s Story Inspires Me

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is such an inspiring read. It’s also filled with so much quotable quotes, I had difficulty choosing which of them to include in this book review.

Felicia Day’s memoir makes me feel good to be myself: a quirky, weird, and introverted geek. Moreover, she was 28-year-old—the same age I am now—when she went through one of the biggest life-changing moments in her life.

Once you tell people exactly what you will and won’t do, it’s amazing how they’ll adjust. Or they won’t. And then an opportunity or relationship goes away. And that’s okay. – Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

I spent most of my childhood as a misfit. I had few friends, and didn’t fit in with what was normal among my peers. I was still an outcast when I entered the workforce. I tried my best to fit in, but the more I tried the more I failed.

That was depressing for me. My love for reading, playing video games, binge-watching TV series and movies, and liking geeky things were weird to my family and most of my friends.

Even my early attempts at trying to enter the world of geeks was awkward for me. Geeky friends were reluctant to welcome me to their Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering gatherings. Though that’s probably just my natural pessimism and hyperthyroidism talking.

Or maybe I’m just not geeky enough?

But the heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am—unapologetically…My weirdness turned into my greatest strength in life. – Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Why do I always feel like I have to change myself for others, when I should be happy just being myself? Actually, I often get “advice” from friends, colleagues, bosses, family members, etc. about how I should change and improve myself. They tell me to be a different person—often to be more like them.

I love it when people tell me I’m doing the wrong thing, or that something isn’t possible, or just straight dismiss me. That lights my fire in a perverse way, like a two-year old who deliberately touches the hot stove after you tell them not to. – Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

On the flip side. Things are much better now.

I have more friends who I get along with, many of them who like me for who I am. I’ve also recently joined a game night hosted by the Cebu Board Gaming Society, and had a blast! I’m starting to redecorate my bedroom and fill it with things I really like. More on this soon. I’m also buying more board games, card games, and such.

You’re never weird when you’re surrounded by people who are weird like you. – Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Reading about all the challenges and struggles Felicia Day went through to achieve success at doing what she loves really touched me. Here is someone I can relate to: someone who also often feels alone and misunderstood. Someone who is brave enough to stand her ground and remain the quirky, amazing person she is.

I aspire to be true to who I am in the same way she remains true to herself.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5
5 Beans out of 5

The Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: November 8th 2011
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Mistborn #4

I wanted to move away from static places, where millennia would pass and technology would never change. The plan then was for a second epic trilogy set in an urban era, and a third trilogy set in a futuristic era—with Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy being the common threads that tied them together.

These were the words of Brandon Sanderson in his acknowledgements to The Allow of Law, a prequel to his steampunk-era trilogy of Mistborn novels. If this novel is a taste of what’s to come in the next Mistborn trilogy, I am confident in Sanderson’s ability to set his fantasy novels in steampunk, urban, and futuristic times.

Perhaps we’ll see Mistborn robots and cyborgs, or maybe a Magneto-like character with control over metals. But how will that affect the line between fantasy and science-fiction?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

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The Alloy of Law is lighthearted, action-packed addition to the Mistborn series. I recommend that you read the first Mistborn trilogy before reading this novel, as the latter glosses over much of the exposition on the workings of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy. There are also references to past books that may confuse new readers.

What works best in this novel is the comedic banter between lead characters Wax and Wayne (even their names sound funny when said together). Their friendship reminds me a lot of the camaraderie between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Also welcome is the star-crossed attraction between Wax and Lady Marasi.

“That hat looks ridiculous.”
“Fortunately, I can change hats,” Wayne said, “while you, sir, are stuck with that face.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

The huge dose of humor in this novel is a welcome break from the doom and gloom seriousness of the last one. But I can already see undertones of a much deeper story that will surely develop in the upcoming trilogy.

The Alloy of Law features a different kind of action compared to the first trilogy. At first, I found myself nostalgic for the swords, knives, staves, shields, and horseshoes. But I found myself getting used to all the guns and brawling after a couple of battle scenes.

I think Brandon Sanderson has much room to explore regarding how his magic system can work with gunpowder weapons—perhaps including the ability to influence the movement of bullets mid-flight—and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in future novels.

The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones. – Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

Miles is a very powerful antagonist, but I would have preferred an opponent who isn’t invulnerable. His healing powers reminded me too much of Wolverine, who I think is one of the most overrated and overpowered X-Men. I would have preferred a battle among equals rather than an underdog outsmarting his opponent and winning in the end.

Nevertheless, I think this novel is a fine addition to the Mistborn series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 out of 5 beans

4 Beans

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Book Review

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1

Here’s an strong recommendation, from one reader to another, read completely the lengthy Goodreads synopsis of The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen before you begin reading the book itself.

It explains a lot about the story’s setting and core elements, which I had only the vaguest understanding of throughout reading the novel. Some early reviewers who didn’t have the benefit of this synopsis complained about the book’s unclear setting and abundance of superfluous details. With the synopsis, the setting is clear enough, the details welcome additions (instead of failures to clarify the setting).

Even a book can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and when that happens, you blame the hands, but you also read the book. – Erika Johansen – Queen of the Tearling

Early on, the book was promoted as the next The Hunger Games or The Game of Thrones. Though The Queen of the Tearling is vastly different from either fiction series, I enjoyed reading it. I read an e-book version. Later on, I was surprised to discover the novel’s print version was over 700 pages long.

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The Queen of the Tearling is not your typical fantasy novel. It does not have as much political intrigue as The Game of Thrones, as much action as The Hunger Games, nor as much romance or magic as The Throne of Glass—though it does have a sprinkle of everything. What it does have is a solid coming of age story.

Kelsea Raleigh must quickly learn how to become queen despite knowing so little of her past, her kingdom, and the magical powers of the Sapphire that is her birthright. Kelsea is a pillar of righteousness, representative of an ideal queen. She immediately asserts herself as an enemy of corrupt nobles and a champion of the poor. But is this really a good thing?

The mark of the true hero is that the most heroic of his deeds is done in secret. We never hear of it. And yet somehow, my friends, we know. —Father Tyler’s Collected Sermons, FROM THE ARVATH ARCHIVE Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling

By openly challenging her uncle, she risks assassination. By stopping the shipment of human slaves to the Red Queen of Mortmesne, Kelsea puts her whole kingdom in peril. She keeps making all these righteous yet rash decisions seemingly without considering the dire consequences of her actions. I look forward to reading how she will deal with the insurmountable challenges that she will soon face in the novel’s sequel.

Kelsea may seem annoyingly naïve at first, but I am quite fond of her being a genuinely good person. She is also very normal—not an extremely beautiful lady, shrewd politician, skilled warrior, or powerful mage. In fact, it is her being genuine and ordinary that make such an interesting character.

We don’t always choose, Majesty. We simply make the best choices we can once the deed is done. – Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling

My biggest issue with The Queen of the Tearling is how I still ended up lost and confused after reading the novel, despite the aid of the long synopsis. There are just too many mysteries and secrets that remain after the first book in this trilogy. However, I do look forward to reading the remaining two books, partly because Emma Watson has signed-on to play Kelsea in an upcoming movie adaptation of the trilogy.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 out of 5 beans

4 Beans

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – Book Review

Title: The Windup Girl
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Release Date: September 1st 2009
Publisher: Night Shade Books

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is a world-building masterclass. Imagine a post-apocalyptic Bangkok under imminent threat of being swallowed by the sea, in a world devastated by global warming. Its only defense a sea wall that must be protected at all costs.

“We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it.”  – Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl

Picture a world where so many species of plants and animals are extinct that calories have become the number one source of income and power for governments and corporations; Where new species of farm crops and fruits have to be genetically engineered repeatedly every time a new strain of blight taints the food, making it deadly for human consumption.

Here is a world where bio-engineered animals like megodonts (similar to mammoths; used to power machinery) and cheshires (feral cats with camouflage capabilities that scavenge on human remains) have become a normal part of human life. Here is the world where genetically engineered humans (e.g. windups) like Emiko exist.

“We rest in the hands of a fickle god. He plays on our behalf only for entertainment, and he will close his eyes and sleep if we fail to engage his intellect.” – Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl

Thailand, a country known for weathering constant political upheavals and natural disasters, is a perfect setting for this science-fiction novel. As the story progresses we see, the tensions between government, corporate, religious, environmental, and other factions constantly vying for power and supremacy.

We see how Thailand’s constitutional monarchy barely resists the influence and dominance of the farang (a Thai word meaning “a person of white race”), while the outside world continues pressuring the Thais to open trade routes and share biological research.

We see the people living and making a living in Bangkok struggle to survive, to find meaning in their lives, when a single spark could result in many lives lost, perhaps an entire nation destroyed.

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I love this book cover! I would buy the book, just for the cover. Source: 1

At the center of everything is Emiko, a windup girl. Once a respected Japanese courtesan, she now works at a Thai brothel, where she is mocked and ridiculed for her stutter-stop body movements, her always-submissive biological engineering. As Emiko continues to struggle against her design and dream of freedom, the tension within her winds up to scathing proportions.

“She is an animal. Servile as a dog. And yet if he is careful to make no demands, to leave the air between them open, another version of the windup girl emerges. As precious and rare as a living bo tree. Her soul, emerging from within the strangling strands of her engineered DNA.” – Paolo Baciaglupi, The Windup Girl 

Until everything comes to a head, and all chaos breaks loose.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is three-fourths build-up, and one-fourth explosion. I admit, I got bored somewhere in the middle. But it is all worth it in the end. Everything just falls into place. It is the kind of story I want to read again immediately after the first time because I feel like I can appreciate it much better the second time around.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 out of 5 Beans

4 Beans

Re-Read Challenge 2016

 

My favorite books are the ones I love reading again and again. I have a poor memory too, so I tend to forget names of characters and important things that happen, even in the books I love. There are also books that I’ve read half or or maybe a quarter of, but I never got around to finishing.

These are among the reasons why I’m excited to do the The Re-Read Challenge this 2016. My goal is to re-read at least 10 books this year.

Why only 10?

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The book cover is just beautiful. Source: 1

Firstly, I’m already overbooked with a mountainous to-read list as it is, excluding short story anthologies, comics, and magazines.

And don’t even get me started on my to-watch list. And if Netflix is as good as I’ve been dreaming it would be—it just launched in the Philippines today—I see my to-watch list expanding exponentially.

Plus, I also listen to a number of podcasts, including Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men. I also watch plenty of vlogs and music video covers on YouTube.

I’ve also joined the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge for 2016.

My Tentative Re-Reading List:

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Unwary readers might mistake this for an extremely thick children’s book. Source: 1
  • It by Stephen King
  • Sabriel (Abhorsen Trilogy, Book 1) by Garth Nix
  • Lirael (Abhorsen Trilogy, Book 2) by Garth Nix
  • Abhorsen (Abhorsen Trilogy, Book 3) by Garth Nix
  • S by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Quiet by Susan Cain

I’m already in the middle of re-reading Stephen King’s It. I’m a hundred or so pages away from the part where I’ve kept stopping for over a decade now (I don’t know why I keep stopping. The novel’s great. I blame Pennywise the Clown!).

I feel like once I conquer reading It, I can achieve all my reading goals for 2016.