Archive for May, 2014

Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro

File:Nocturnes.jpgIt was about three years ago when I read Never Let Me Go. Back when there was a massive hype with the movie (which is a fantastic adaptation, by the way, so uncharacteristic of most book-to-movie adaptations), I picked it up, because I wanted to understand the excitement over this ‘spectacular’ book.

I remember being underwhelmed.

I remember wanting to like it so badly, but I never felt that I really understood it.

I’d gone into it knowing it had won critical acclaim, and expected a droning and long and embellished writing style that took five thousands words to describe one chair and I expected unlikeable and extremely over-dramatic characters. I don’t know why. I expected it to pour out some moral message and poke me with it for the next couple hundred pages.

This hype had convinced me that this book would be some masterpiece I couldn’t understand for its obvious complexity that I could see, but not understand.

Never Let Me Go was conversational. It was simple. It was poignant and subtle and carried you along gently and easily and I was so completely confused by all this that I left the book feeling cheated out of what I had expected.

And this year, I decided to give him one more go, and I am completely baffled by everything I missed in Ishiguro’s writing.

Safe to say that I liked this one.

Summary

Five Stories. Lots of Music. And lots of other stuff, too, but we’ll get to that.

Cons

I’m still trying to understand this story so I have no idea.

But, quite honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d want to change.

Pros

There isn’t exactly a way for me to summarise what this book took me through.

I don’t exactly understand what it was that it left me with. Not longing, but not sadness. A mixture of the two, I suppose. The characters are not unique snowflakes that will stick in your mind long after you close the book, but that is the beauty of it all. They are so wonderfully ordinary, so foreign and yet intimate with the reader that you see them in the person you walk passed on the street, or catch a glance of a table away. They embody the universal feelings that everyone has experienced, or fears or wishes to experience, which is a sense of purpose.

Our narrators are young musicians on the cusp of what they believe to be success. They are people waiting for the long promised ‘big break’ of their careers, or perhaps we the readers are, because we wonder why we watch the more than ordinary musicians live their lives.

Nocturnes does not force a message down your throat, nor does it persuade you to take sides. It simply shows you a moment, and lets you decide what to do with it. It’s about the promised romanticism that music delivers versus the reality of life, which is luck and coincidence and does not always favour those who work the hardest. It is about a person’s passion for life and love, and how easily it can be lost. It shows you hope, and you ask yourself whether it really is delusion or virtue. Cynicism meets Idealism and one has to reflect on if one is really better than the other.  Whether greatness is really all that great, and if it is only reserved for the few that are lucky enough to stumble upon it.

It is a collection of stories that asks questions. That sense of the inevitable, of hope and longing and loss that it leaves the reader with, is not so much a reflection on the characters’ lives, but on your own life. It gives you a chance to reflect on your life, and on your own future, and perhaps the truth of what potential and talent and the promised ‘big break’ really is.

It is so powerful because while the characters and the stories may exist only as a trickle of music in the mind, a few lovely notes of some distant melody, that intense atmosphere lingers long after the book is put back on the shelf.

Quotes

  • “She might be a great person, but life’s so much bigger than just loving someone.” 
  • “If disappointments do come, you will carry on still. You will say, just as he does, I am so lucky.” 

Overall

Nocturnes is strange because in a lot of ways it is not about the story itself. We travel across the world and see these different situations, these comical and poignant things, with a common thread of music, and along with that, of losing the drive and determination to mean something, or perhaps clinging onto it for too long when that something really means nothing at all. It is a small and modest thing, it tells of ordinary people and ordinary situations, but that, in a nutshell, is the quiet and lovely magic of it all.

5 shuriken stars

Random Book Reviews #1

Sometimes I am too lazy to write full reviews.

This is what happens.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan

Two boys, one name. Also romance and friendship and extraordinary musicals.

I enjoyed it – of course I enjoyed it, I love John Green and David Levithan is amazing. However, I didn’t come away from it thinking anything other than that was fun. The writing was gorgeous. The characters were solid (if not a little predictable). Not life-changing, but definitely not bad.

4 shuriken stars.

Paper Towns – John Green

Boy likes girl. Girl disappears. Boy searches for girl. Road trip = fun times.

Loved this one. It grew on me as I thought about it, and I learnt a lot from it. Fun characters, fun times. However do I love it as much as TFIOS? That’s hard.

5 shuriken stars.

Out of the Easy – Ruta Sepetys

Girl’s mum is a prostitute. Also it’s set in the 50’s which makes it extra fun to read.

Loved the setting, loved Josie, loved loved loved the writing. Especially loved Willie. However, some of the characters were a little under-developed with such a short book and I didn’t feel like it came to much conclusion by the end (also, the twists were kind of predictable, though not bad twists at all).

4 1/2 shuriken stars.

Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Boy meets girl. Girl has supernatural powers. They fall in love.

Expectations were way too high going in.

Forgot that I was reading a high school paranormal romance until it got to the book and then I went “Oh. Right. This again.” The characters were fun (though the emphasis on Lena being such a special snowflake because she wasn’t a ‘slut’ or ‘fake’ grated on my nerves, and – though I wouldn’t know from any personal experience – there seemed to be a lot of negative southern stereotyping), plot was a little dense and hard to follow, and I admit that I wasn’t paying much attention while reading, but the book held my attention.

3 1/2 shuriken stars.

Mark of Athena – Rick Riordan

The demigods meet, but unfortunately, it’s not like the Avengers.

Kind of disappointing, to be honest. The initial interactions were very mild and friendly, which was a little boring. I was looking forward to some complex characterisation and relationships, but everyone was pretty content with each other. (Except Leo and Frank, whose tension was more annoying than interesting. The love triangle amongst all the other love triangles was just one too many, I’m afraid.) Also, there wasn’t much character development, but I always enjoy seeing my favourite characters, and the plot is beginning to gain pace.

4 shuriken stars.

Champion- Marie Lu

Summary (from goodreads to avoid spoilers! 🙂 though there may be some spoilers to follow after the summary…

He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

Champion (Legend, #3)Cons

The weird ghost things, and religion connotations
It just didn’t fit really with book since the book is all about war and politics and dystopia and stuff. It just seemed a little washy to be honest with the ghosts. I did think it was kinda cute though but I personally just didn’t really like it that much because I don’t really believe in the afterlife.

The last part- the 20 years later thing
I loved what June did for Day at the end before the 20 years after. I thought it was so smart and cute and it made me truly feel how much she loved him. But the 20 years after part, while it gave hope and stuff, it made Junes sacrifice for nothing.

Pros

The ending
It was bittersweet. I loved it. But at the same time I hated it. I felt like the characters deserved a better ending, but as a book it couldn’t have ended better (though I didn’t really like the last last part of it with the 20 yrs later).

Characters- development
Anden: When he was like his dad he was terrifying. So that put me in a strange place as a reader, as he seemed to be both the hero and a villain. But that’s what good books should kinda do 🙂
June: In legend, while I did like her, I didn’t love her. I grew to love her more in prodigy. By champion, its like “whoa, when did you get so awesome?” I loved her and how much she actually understood everything, especially at the end. Words can’t actually express how much I love her now.
Day: I loved how far he would go to save his family and how he would even go so far to give up his own life but at the same time, that was his flaw; that he only really considers his own life that he is giving up, not all the other people who would be affected if they lost him.
Eden: he is such a cool kid: “Daniel thinks you’re really hot” is what he says to June on their first meeting. Such an awesome kid 🙂

Writing Style
There’s not much to say on this point, only that it was awesome. It explored the views of loads of characters so I felt as if I was with them at almost every moment of the journey.

Plot
There’s also not much to say on this point: the title and it being in the “pros” section is kinda self explanatory.

Romantic stuff didn’t get in the way
Usually for dystopia books either the romance or the love triangle gets in the way but as you can tell from the title of my sub-paragraph in this book it didn’t! There was still a little romance to make it interesting, but not enough that it took over the book and just made it soppy.

Favourite Quotes (warning could be spoiler hints below!)

  • “Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.”
  • “You drive me insane June. You’re the scariest, most clever, bravest person I know, and sometimes I can’t catch my breath because I’m trying so hard to keep up. There will never be another like you. You realize that, don’t you? Billions of people will come and go in this world, but there will never be another like you” (the cutest quote of the whole series)”
  • “I can feel his presence here in every stone he has touched, every person he has lifted up, every street and alley and city that he has changed in the few years of his life, because he is the Republic, he is our light, and I love you, I love you, until the day we meet again I will hold you in my heart and protect you there, grieving what we never had, cherishing what we did. I wish you were here.”
  • “Day, the champion of the people, the one who can’t bear to see those around him suffer on his behalf, who would gladly give his life for those he loves.”
  • “I hear about you a lot too,” Eden replies in a rush, “mostly from Daniel. He thinks you’re really hot.”

Overall
Some books end their series with a sizzle or a pop, but not this. It ended like the New Year’s Eve fireworks with explosions of light and sound. 5 stars obviously.