The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane [2006]

10322664_871100446237480_2498033517098188260_nAuthor: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2006)

About (Goodreads):

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.

And then, one day, he was lost.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hoboes’ camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle — that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

I Say..

The real reason for acquiring a copy of this book has something to do with my obsession for You Who Came From The Stars. This book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, mirrored all of Do Min Joon’s feelings throughout his stay here on earth. Both Edward Tulane and Do Min Joon dared to know love…something they both refuse to acknowledge.

It appears like a child’s book up front and inside yet the emotions seem all so grown-up to me. Pellegrina’s little spell on the cold hearted China rabbit for not giving back Abiline Tulane’s love haunted him everywhere he went. Then again, it was love which ended the miraculous journey and dragged him where it all began.

Kate DiCamillo is one of the best storytellers I have encountered. This book held my heart for quite a while. The ending was such a nice surprise I almost cried 🙂 Thanks a lot, Do Min Joon for introducing a book so unforgettable.


The Catastrophic History of You and Me [2012]

The Catastrophic History of You and MeAuthor:Jess Rothenberg
Year: 2012
Publisher: Speak

About (goodreads):
Brie is the “biggest, cheesiest, sappiest romantic” who believes that everyone will find their perfect someone, so when Jacob, the love of Brie’s life, tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, the news breaks her heart, literally, and she dies. But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie revisits the living world to discover that her family has begun to unravel and her best friend has been keeping an intimate secret about her boyfriend. Somehow, Brie must handle all of this while navigating through the five steps of grief with the help of Patrick, her mysterious bomber-jacketed guide to the afterlife. But how is she supposed to face the Ever After with a broken heart and no one to call her own?

I Say…

Majority, if not all must’ve experienced a heartbreak. But Brie Eagan here of The Catastrophic History of You and Me suffered from a literal heartbreak and lost everything to that severe attack: her first love, her family, her life. Pretty interesting plot, right?  It pretty much covered the aftermath of Brie’s heartbreak, as she wanders as a lost soul who just kept on finding out secrets that used to surround her. And ooh there’s just so many things to learn. Do we really have to die to know everything we need to know? I hope that stays as fantasy.

And you have to know Patrick’s real purpose… why he always hung around even when Brie kept pushing her away. And watch out for even more shocking twists toward the last few chapters. A lot of characters are hateful and annoying, on Brie’s point of view. That includes Larkin, her former best friend.  I haven’t read a love story like this in a long time. This book’s bound to tighten your chest a lot, I think it can be categorized suspense too.

Review: The Last Empress [2006]

The Last EmpressAuthor: Anchee Min
Year: 2006 [1st]
Publisher: Mariner Books

About (goodreads):
The last decades of the nineteenth century were a violent period in China’s history, marked by humiliating foreign incursions and domestic rebellions and ending in the demise of the Ch’ing Dynasty. The only constant during this tumultuous time was the power wielded by one woman, the resilient, ever-resourceful Tsu Hsi — or Empress Orchid, as readers came to know her in Anchee Min’s critically acclaimed, best-selling novel covering her rise to power.

The Last Empress is the story of Orchid’s dramatic transition from a strong-willed, instinctive young woman to a wise and politically savvy leader who ruled China for more than four decades. In this concluding volume Min gives us a compelling, very human leader who assumed power reluctantly and sacrificed all to protect those she loved and an empire that was doomed to die.

I Say…

If you are a mother, sister, wife or daughter, you can’t resist loving the ruthless Tzu-hsi, because of Anchee Min’s take on her life as one of history’s toughest woman ever.

Although this book was written based on China’s historical account, I want to think the dialogue and drama really took place during the Qing dynasty. It simply carried me away. Empress Orchid, now Tzu-hsi, had more to bear compared to her agony of just longing to be the apple of the Emperor’s eye. In this final installment The Last Empress, she suffered, loss after loss while maintaining her composure… no matter how painful each decision may seem. She was misunderstood and ridiculed during her reign, when she should’ve gained empathy from the people who live outside the Forbidden City. After all, she is just a woman, with a family to bind together in one piece. This being her weakness, she tends to make the worst decisions. And these decisions lead to recurring history as she witness her husband, son and adopted son’s failure as worthy sons of heaven.

It’s like you’re holding a history book, while reading. The Last Empress tackled more of China’s issues and how it became part of the rich Asian history. A lot of names might ring a bell, if you remember your Asian History well enough.

Fact or fiction, I think a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.

Review: The Piano Teacher [2009]

Author: Janice Y.K.Lee
Year: 2009
Publisher: Penguin Books

About (goodreads):
The Piano TeacherIn the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, Janice Y.K. Lee’s debut novel is a tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong. In 1942, Englishman Will Truesdale falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese as World War II overwhelms their part of the world. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong to work as a piano teacher and also begins a fateful affair. As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine, impossible choices emerge-between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and above all, the past.

I Say…

This book got my head spinning. It has too many characters, all are interconnected and linked past to the present. Trudy motivated me to finish the book, because I want to find out what became of her.  I’ve grown to love every ounce of Trudy. Her bravery, her passion for life, her spontaneity… bearing a bad girl image is not always bad. If a survey is made, Trudy Liang will emerge as its favorite character. Claire is her exact opposite, timid and always wanting to escape. Her happiness was undefined from the beginning to end. The missing piece to complete the love triangle is Will Truesdale. He is my least favorite character. I don’t know why, but he could’ve done so much. He was scared all his life… depending on both Trudy and Claire to save him. It’s as if he’s doomed to live in misery.

The Piano Teacher doesn’t have a good sequence, and it drags the reader back and forth. One page you’re with Claire, the next page you’ll be back with Trudy. But as secrets started to unfold, they never ceased. Every paged turned is another secret unlocked. All the excitement got bottled up in the last quarter of the book. There was a point when I wanted to stop reading, not because I find the story getting way out of hand, but out of pity for people who are agonized by the war. War made humans heartless and selfish, but every ounce brave to survive.

Lastly, I’d like to comment on the grammar. I’m not very good in English as people think but the errors were quite easy to spot. I learned a lot, though.

Review: February Flowers [2007]

February FloweraAuthor: Fan Wu
Year: 2007
Publisher: Washington Square Press

About (goodreads):
Set in modern China, February Flowers tells the stories of two young women’s journeys to self-discovery and reconciliation with the past.
Seventeen-year-old Ming and twenty-four-year-old Yan have very little in common other than studying at the same college. Ming, idealistic and preoccupied, lives in her own world of books, music, and imagination. Yan, by contrast, is sexy but cynical, beautiful but wild, with no sense of home. When the two meet and become friends, Ming’s world is forever changed. But their differences in upbringing and ideology ultimately drive them apart, leaving each to face her dark secret alone.

Insightful, sophisticated, and rich with complex characters, February Flowers captures a society torn between tradition and modernity, dogma and freedom. It is a meditation on friendship, family, love, loss, and redemption and how a background shapes a life.

I say…

It is a book with complex characters. Miao Yan and Chen Ming are extremely opposite individuals. Miao Yan knew a lot, even though it was Chen Ming who is more intelligent. Even though friends, they are estranged beings. Yan is like the flame, and Ming a moth attracted to it. 

February Flowers is indeed a book about self discovery. It’s not only about one’s sex preference, but self discovery in general. We are all curious of what we don’t know. We learn a lot from people we meet, more than we learn from the people who are actually responsible for teaching us. But who exactly are these people responsible of doing that? Is it someone from your family, your teachers, your friends? Maybe it depends on what you might want to know.

The book became an insight [for me] to China’s early 90’s. As if they were torn between keeping the tradition and embracing the modern lifestyle. One of the funny parts from the book was Ming, Ping Ping and Donghua’s discussion about first kisses, sex and relationships. Their display of naivety simply amused me, as they reveal their thoughts and eventually misconceptions about sex and getting into a relationship. That part almost made me think Ming is ready to accept that she is homosexual. But the author left her reader to choose Ming’s sex preference. In my opinion, she didn’t make it clear when the book ended. Although Ming’s thoughts were all about Yan, I don’t think that makes her a lesbian.

I didn’t like the ending since it didn’t reveal that much. I suddenly felt like I was reading one of those “make your own ending” type of books. But at least Chen Ming didn’t stop, at a time in her life others might consider “the end”. She just kept moving forward.

Review: Empress Orchid [2004]


Empress OrchidAuthor: Anchee Min
Year: 2004
Publisher: Bloomsbury

About (goodreads):

The setting is China’s Forbidden City in the last days of its imperial glory, a vast complex of palaces and gardens run by thousands of eunuchs and encircled by a wall in the center of Peking. In this highly ordered place – tradition-bound, ruled by strict etiquette, rife with political and erotic tension – the Emperor, The Son of Heaven, performs two duties: he must rule the court and conceive an heir. To achieve the latter, tradition provides a stupendous hierarchy of hundreds of wives and concubines.

It is as a minor concubine that the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid as a girl, enters the Forbidden City at the age of seventeen.

It is not a good time to enter the city. The Ch’ing Dynasty in 1852 has lost its vitality, and the court has become an insular, xenophobic place. A few short decades earlier, China lost the Opium Wars, and it has done little since to strengthen its defenses or improve diplomatic ties. Instead, the inner circle has turned further inward, naively confident that its troubles are past and the glory of China will keep the “barbarians” – the outsiders – at bay.

Within the walls of the Forbidden City the consequences of a misstep are deadly. As one of hundreds of women vying for the attention of the Emperor, Orchid soon discovers that she must take matters into her own hands. After training herself in the art of pleasing a man, she bribes her way into the royal bedchamber and seduces the monarch. A grand love affair ensues; the Emperor is a troubled man, but their love is passionate and genuine. Orchid has the great good fortune to bear him a son. Elevated to the rank of Empress, she still must struggle to maintain her position and the right to raise her own child. With the death of the Emperor comes a palace coup that ultimately thrusts Orchid into power, although only as regent until her son’s maturity. Now she must rule China as its walls tumble around her, and she alone seems capable of holding the country together.

I Say…

Orchid’s journey to success is too overwhelming, she has indeed proven herself worthy to be called an Empress. Her wit and unconditional love became her strength to thwart China from falling apart that easy. The primary wife, Empress Nuharoo is also an admirable woman although you might hate her. She gave Empress Orchid enough challenge that broke her and made her as well. Another favorite character of mine is the faithful eunuch An-te-hai. He is such a wise man. Orchid will never be Empress Orchid without him.

I don’t know if the efforts to finish the book as soon as I can contributed to my confusion, or is it just my lack of knowledge about China’s history. Or was my imagination too limited? Somewhere in the later chapters, was Empress Yehonala feverish, or was she making love to someone else other than the Emperor? See.. the book is too poetic and it’s quite unavoidable for me to lose some sense. But each detail is carefully defined and described for one’s imagination to digest… every scent, shape and color detailed to perfection. The almost perfect union of fact and fiction made it hard to tell which is which. Again, a woman in love unconditionally is more powerful than a man who calls himself the “Son of Heaven”.

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle [1986]


howls-moving-castleAuthor: Diana Wynne Jones
Year: 1986
Publisher: HarperCollins

From GoodReads:

In which a witch bewitched the hatter’s daughter – and then some….

Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did – especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for….

I Say…

Truly magical… page after page I turned made my imagination widen and envisioned everything in full color. I found some similarities with Harry Potter and Howl’s Moving Castle. Somehow J.K.Rowling must’ve loved Diana Wynne Jones’ creations. The mere mention of invisibility cloaks and magic spells instantly gave me a hint that Ms. Rowling was influenced a great lot by the great fantasy writer.

I am almost in a hurry to finish the book, wanting to get to the part where Howl will eventually fall in love with Sophie. But when I got to the end it seems that Howl was already in love with Sophie since the day he saw her. Now that is what the book is about, you flip thorough those pages until you find answers as to how one character gets revealed to the other and how each character will end up… like a thrilling ride to the land of magic and adventure. A whole lot better than Studio Ghibli’s version, but the Howl I have seen in the movie is more loveable than the one I’ve read from the book. You can spot a number of differences between the book and the movie, and I’d say it’s best to read everything first.

After this I think I might be reading more Diana Wynne Jones’ books…