Our Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu: review

Watashitachi no Shiawase na JikanOur Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu (art)
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Adult/Mature Young Adult
Genre: Josei, Seinen, Romance
Release Date: First Pub. 2007
Synopsis: “I have something I don’t want to lose—
So much so that these terrible feelings have grown.”

A pianist who attempted suicide 3 times, Juri, is taken to help her aunt at a prison where murderers who killed indiscriminately are sentenced to death. There, she meets a man named Yuu who took the lives of 3 people. A mother’s antagonism–a brother’s death… Together they embrace the violent rebellion in their hearts caused by the large, deep scars they carry. However, before long, they both embrace an earnest hope in their hearts. “I want to live”…

An adaptation of a novel by South Korea’s most popular female novelist, Gong Ji-Young.

My Thoughts:

Our Happy Hours. I don’t think that there could be any other name more fitting. From the very beginning I knew deep inside how the story was going to end. All I had to hold on to were the fulfilling, happy hours that Juri, a former pianist that has attempted suicide three times, and Yuu, a man on death row who killed three people, spend together. And when it all ended, I was just left remembering the moments they had together.

I do admit that the premise can cause eyebrows to be raised. A story about a depressed woman spending time with a murderer every Thursday is not a story that many people would call sweet, romantic, or, in fact, normal. But in reality, this story is sweet, in its own tender way, and romantic, in its own hopeful way, and, for some odd reason, the story does feel a bit normal when one actually reads it. And to top it all off, there is a very apparent sense of standing in the rain-like sadness and melancholy lingering in the atmosphere of Our Happy Hours that one can not just shake off. It isn’t the in-your-face kind of sadness as you can put up a little umbrella made out of the happy hours…

It’s just that sometimes I don’t like an umbrella being in the way!

Juri and Yuu are both characters that are hard to write and pull off. Juri mainly because of her depression, which is a condition that takes research and understanding to effectively write. Yuu because, well, he had killed people before. And even though he regrets it enough to actually long for death, his actions are still almost impossible to forgive. But even so, Gong Ji-young writes these characters in a masterfully skillful and sensitive way.

Gong Ji-young really shows how fragile and vulnerable these two characters are. I had this extreme wanting to protect Juri and Yuu, though I knew that it was impossible since I am kind of in a different world than them. Their development, growth, and healing are painful and inspiring at the same time. Seriously, the two leads’ characterization is simply breathtaking.

The flow of the story isn’t slow yet it isn’t fast. It takes its time presenting the characters, their emotions, conflicts, and wants before letting everything take off. I actually wish that the pacing was slower so it would have taken less time to get to the ending.

Let me explain. The ending is painfully sad. The kind of sad that might make you cry, your tears streaming down your face and ruining your makeup. I knew all along that it was coming but it still hit me hard and devastating me. I didn’t even have a tissue box available! It was a perfect ending with notes from the piano and love , but still painful.

Christianity does have a role in Our Happy Hours. Juri’s aunt is part of the clergy and Yuu does study to get his Christian name. I don’t think that this caused the manga to be preachy in at all. In fact, the manga shows the flaws of the people in the clergy (without making an offensive portrayal, of course) and there were some underlying messages that a person, Christian or not, could listen to and learn from.

The art, awhile not the most fantastic thing about Our Happy Hours, flawlessly fits into the mood of the story as a whole. The delicate character designs and carefully drawn backgrounds make the art something really pleasant on the eyes to look at.

Our Happy Hours is an absolutely lovely manga that deserves to have its large audience. It is rare to encounter such a beautifully bittersweet story. I will be cherishing Our Happy Hours for years to come.

Note: I have recently learned that Our Happy Hours is an adaption of a novel by Gong Ji-Young, an author who is considered one of the most popular female novelist in South Korea. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book, and am not sure if I ever will be able to, but I believe that the manga is a fantastic manga in its own right.

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I Wrote This For You by Pleasefindthis: review

I Wrote This For YouI Wrote This For You by Pleasefindthis

Stand Alone

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult/Adult

Genre: Contemporary, Poetry

Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing

Release Date: December 20th 2011

Synopsis: I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.

My Thoughts:

I see this book as a lie and also a truth. It tells me that it was written just for me and it is, in a way. I felt touched by it. It even made me tear up. This is what made it a truth. But it was also written for millions of other people that might unexpectedly stumble upon this book like I did. So that also makes it a lie.

But even if it is a little bit of a lie and a little bit of a truth, I loved this book. It is a beautiful, haunting, and human piece of work that made me truly wonder about the people, feelings, and things in my life.

I Wrote This For You is a compilation of notes, written to you, and photos that match the essence of what the notes are saying. These notes and photos are a bit tricky to talk about since everyone will read them in a different way.

The person writing the notes is a very flawed ‘person’. Yes, the things he says are poetic. Yes, the things he says will mean a lot to people. But there is a certain vibe I got from him. I felt that sometimes he bordered on being obsessive and even stalker-ish. And maybe even superior.

Which is why whenever I am deeply touched when he says something like this…

“And you asked why people always expected you to smile in photographs. And I told you it was because they hoped that in the future, there would be something to smile about.”

Or like this…

“I hold you like I do, tightly because I know that one day, I’ll die.

And I am determined to do it with a smile on my face.”

I feel very disturbed… Here I am, feeling very touched and saddened by a line said by a person who gives me the creeps. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, of course. The very fact that this book touches and disturbed proves that I Wrote This For You is a fantastic book.

I Wrote This For You is a book that is hard to review, to say the least. Because, like I said before, this book will be read in a different way by everyone. It depends on your experiences in life. For me, this book was about how hard it was to stay you and how hard it is to know if you truly love someone. For you, this might mean something else entirely.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow WallpaperThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Stand Alone

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult/Adult

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Classic

Release Date: First pub. 1890

Synopsis: First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

My Thoughts:

Such a deliciously creepy story this book is! The Yellow Wallpaper is an unnerving story, to say the least. The short story sent shivers down my spine quite frequently. But this is also a short story that made me  feel a quiet sadness that I didn’t know I was feeling until I finished the last sentence.

With only a few more than ten pages, The Yellow Wallpaper packs quite a punch–much like Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. It always surprises me when I read stories that are able to show so much in such a small amount of pages.

The Yellow Wallpaper is written as a journal by a woman who has been given a country rest cure. Confined in a room with barred windows, nailed-down furniture, a gated door, and ugly yellow wallpaper whose design has no pattern, the woman is denied any meaningful things to do, no stimulation for her mind. This clashes with her already mildly unstable mind and causes her to grow more obsessive and insane.

Gilman writes the story in such a way that it is actually hard to see when the woman’s sanity starts to crumble. The reader will be probably so enraptured that they will only notice the signs. It is only when you get to end that you really realize that the woman has been driven completely insane by the confinement, but by then it is already way to late… Her mind is already screaming.

The yellow wallpaper that the story is centered mostly upon is quite the mystery. There are many ways one can interpret the ‘meaning’ behind it. One could say that it represents how the woman has been imprisoned by her unstable state of mind. One could also say that the wallpaper represents how women in that time have been limited as people and mostly put under the rule of men (this seems to be the most shared interpretation). Again, there are many ways to interpret the story.

The writing is surprisingly light compared to many other classics. The prose is clean and pretty, but not heavy and wordy. And I loved it that way. It was easy to follow and compelling… It was the very definition of ‘readable’. Even with my tired, frazzled mind I was able to follow it.

And I must talk about the ending! I don’t want to spoil it by saying exactly what happened, but I do want to tell you all that it is as shocking as it is haunting. Never have I been so frightened (that seems like the best word) by an ending…

This is a breathtaking story that obviously had a lot of thought put into it. I did some research on the author and found some interesting facts about her reasons behind writing this beast (and beauty) of a short story. You can read it here.

The Pope’s Stone by Marc Kuhn: review

The Pope's StoneThe Pope’s Stone by Marc Kuhn

LinksAmazon KindleAmazon PaperbackBarnes and Noble

Stand Alone

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Adult/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: October 9, 2012

Synopsis: THE POPE’S STONE is a fascinating historical novel that follows the lives of Nathaniel and Nicholas, descendants of the Barrington family of Virginia. Each young man keeps life-long journals which eventually reveal their parallel lives; lives that are mirrored by similar events and experiences, similar relationships and consequences. The two, however, lived a century apart. The only connections between them are their family heritage, their journals…and the Pope’s Stone.

The Pope’s Stone was a slab of engraved marble given to America in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. It was to be embedded within the walls of the Washington Monument, then under construction in the nation’s capital. John Henry Barrington, a stonemason working at the Monument site, was persuaded to assist a small party of anti-Catholic activists in stealing the Pope’s Stone, smashing it to pieces and tossing them into the Potomac River. The Pope’s Stone was never to be seen again, except for a fragment that John Henry secretly kept for himself. This small piece of the stone passes down through generations of Barringtons, leaving a path of hardship and unexpected tragedy for those who possess it. Coincidence? Bad karma, as Cousin Sarah calls it? Or is it more than that? And, what role does the stone play in the lives of Nathaniel and Nicholas? These are some of the questions you’ll be asking…discover the answers in THE POPE’S STONE.

My Thoughts:

Reading The Pope’s Stone was a big step out of my comfort zone. I rarely read historical fiction. There is no reason why I don’t read historical fiction much. It is just not my type of prefered reading. But when Monica who is one of my bloggy friends recommended this book to me with much ethusiasm I decided that I should just dive head-first into The Pope’s Stone‘s fascinating story.

I don’t regret doing so at all.

With an introduction that starts with a crime that involves a stone it is not at all hard to get interested in the story of The Pope’s Stone. And then there are the two following chapters; one chapter introducing Nathaniel Henry Barrington and the other introducing Nicholas Henry Barrington. The reader soon starts to notice that even though Nathaniel and Nicholas’ lives are separated by a century, their lives are very similar. Every good event, every bad event, and every tragic these two boys both experience. The reader must follow the story and find out what is happening.

As you can see this novel has a great story. Not only was it a great story it was executed well. And it was thought-provoking. I found myself recording all the clues in my head. I wanted to find the clues, piece them together, and solve the mystery. I was flipping the pages with excitement. And to be able to be excited by a story is all one can really ask for when reading a book. The pacing is a bit slow but I thought that it worked really well. In fact, the slowness made me want to read faster.

Kuhn’s prose is nothing short of excellent. It is clear, easy to read and never becomes flowery. The delivering of information was done with finesse and helped me understand the story better. The only problem I had with the writing was the constant switching of POVs. It made my head down at first, however, I did get used to it later on.

Both the main characters and the minor characters were easy to get attached to. Nicholas and Nathaniel were such friendly and polite people. They were also very tragic characters. I just wanted to jump in the story and whisper a hint to them and then discreetly pop back into the real world. I just wanted the two boys to be safe. We don’t always get what we want though. Kuhn puts his characters through a lot. *sniffles*

I am not by any means a knowledgeable person but the information that Kuhn presented in his novel seemed accurate and real. He is also able to insert the information in the story in such a way that I was able to quickly understand. Fun fact: the Pope’s Stone is real–well, in the past anyways. Still an interesting piece of information to know.

The ending broke my heart and made me tear up a bit. It was haunting because of its promise that nothing was over and that things will still continue. It was an open ending and that might be why I didn’t feel satisfied with it. Even thought the ending was heartbreaking it was stilled flawed. There is a lot questions that go unanswered and it kind if irked me.

The Pope’s Stone does have its flaws but overall it is a compelling mystery that will make a person think. The slow pacing might not be for everyone but I would definitely recommend this book to history and mystery lovers. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I am grateful that I got the chance to read it.

*A complimentary copy of this book was provided in return for a honest review.

Giveaway

Win a paperback copy of The Pope's Stone and your own journal!

Win a paperback copy of The Pope’s Stone and your own journal!

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The Pope’s Stone Tour Schedule (March 8-19)

March 8 – Impressions of a Princess

March 10 – YA Big BOOKworm

March 11- Book Adoration <—Me!

March 12 – For the Love of Books

March 13 – Nazninazeez

March 14 – Amidst Books

March 15 – Lollipops and Rainbows

March 16 – Emma Snow

March 17 – Prisailurophile Blog

March 18 – Pretty Little Dreamer

March 19 – Edge of Jade

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra: review

Fairy Tale FailFairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

Standalone

My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Adult/Young Adult

Genre: Chick Lit, Romance, Contemporary

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: September 5th 2010(first published April 17th 2010)

Synopsis: Of all the twenty-something women who are hopeless romantics, Ellie Manuel is more “hopeless” than “romantic.” Even after her Prince Charming broke up with her, she just won’t give up … because fairy tale heroines don’t live “happily ever after” right away, silly, they’re tested first! Determined to pass the test, she spends the next year restoring herself to the girl Prince Charming had fallen in love with in the first place. Until she discovers that life without him might not be so bad after all: her career is taking off, her confidence is back, and the cute guy at work is no longer a stranger. So when is it okay to quit on a fairy tale?

My thoughts: This book was the perfect February read. Fairy Tale Fail was cute, funny, and romantic. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. And since that this book is only about one hundred pages I was able to finish it quickly. Every ten pages this book raises its one out of ten scale up by one point. Remember: there are 110 pages.

Ellie Manuel has a theory: life is like a fairy tale. She thinks that her “happily ever after” might be near when she starts dating Don, her “prince charming.” But they break up. Even then Ellie thinks that she is, like every fairy tale hero is, being tested. Ellie spends a year becoming the “free girl” she used to be before dating Don so she can win him back. Until she starts to find herself enjoying life without Don. She is doing well in her career, she is restoring her confidence, and her “office crush” is becoming more than an office crush. Will Ellie decide to prove her theory wrong?

Ellie is a character that will have you rooting for her instantly. She is smart and tries her best. She tries to make the people around her proud. And her character grows a lot throughout the story. I could see a huge difference in her. Ellie is a girl that I would want as a best friend. She is a girl that I would want to be in the same barkada with.

And then there is Lucas. He isn’t what one would picture as a prince charming. He smokes(well, used to), has tattoos, and allegedly *cough-hint hint-cough* broke up with his girlfriend after getting her pregnant. But the reader later finds out that although he isn’t prince charming he is a really nice guy. I wish to find my own Lucas later in life.

The reader also gets a glimpse of the Filipino culture awhile reading this book. I loved learning about barkada‘s and such. There are a lot of Filipino words sprinkled throughout the book. I was easily able to learn what the word meant because of the context.

Esguerra’s prose is easy to read through which made reading Fairy Tale Fail a breeze.

Fairy Tale Fail is a gem. I really can’t recommend this book enough! I demand that anyone who wants a cute, quick story to read this book. You will thank me later. This was my first Esguerra book but it will certainly not be my last!

Soulless by Gail Carriger: review

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Soulless by Gail Carriger

PaperbackHardback

Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Steampunk, Romance

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: October 1st 2009

Synopsis: Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

My thoughts: Soulless is an absolute delight to read. The book is terribly fun and made me squee a great number of times. It made me grin, laugh, and stay up ’till midnight. I should also mention that there is tea.

image

Soulless was an amazing snowy-day read that features a charming and colorful group of characters. Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural-a being that is able to remove all supernatural powers as long as she is touching the person. I can not express how much I adore Alexia. She is the very definition of a great main character. She is intelligent, well read, strong, and independent. As Alexia is a spinster, she has relinquished herself to staying in the background of social gatherings and thus her life has been quiet. This all changes when she is very, very rudely attacked by a vampire.

Quirky, loveable, charming, colorful, and unique. All these words describe the characters in Soulless perfectly. I found myself loving the rest of the characters as much as I love Alexia. They are all so very wonderful. I just wanted to invite them all to a tea-party. If I could host such a tea-part I would arrange the place cards so that Lord Akeldama must sit next to me. I found him to be absolutely ridiculous but in a strangely good way. It would be very fun to have a conversation with him. I would also have Ivy sit next to me. I absolutely loved her terrible hats!

What I loved most about Soulless is how Carriger masterfully weaves together the genres of romance, paranormal, and a bit of steampunk. The steampunk Victorian world she created had the charm that I always find in steampunk and still stayed true to Victorian views and rules. Carriger works in details about the role females had during the Victorian era and shows it subtly through Alexia’s narration and the events that unfold in the story. I felt very sorry for Alexia in some parts and it is all thanks to those little details that Carriger wrote. The romance and paranormal was balanced out so that one genre did not take over the other. The supernatural creatures were written in a good-humoured way. They are fun to read about but I was still able to take them seriously.

The writing is another big reason why I loved this book. Carriger’s writing flows well, and is filled with humour and wit. It was incredibly engaging. I just wanted the book to go on forever so I could read more of the writing.

Despite that I love this novel dearly there is one thing that I didn’t like in the book: the scenes where Lord Maccon and Alexia canoodle. I found it to be a bit awkward and got in the way of the story. This is my only qualm.

Written with fast pacing, brilliant characters, a mix of genres, and greatness Soulless is a great book to read. I find it to be a very girly book but it is girly in a smart way. I highly recommend it.

Bossypants by Tina Fey: review

Bossypants Bossypants by Tina Fey

Standalone

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir, Humour

Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

Synopsis: Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

My Thoughts: This book was hilarious! Not every sentence was laugh at loud but there were many parts where I laughed myself out of my chair. I really loved learning more about Tina Fey. She is a very intelligent and respectful person and she works very hard. She is also super caring. I loved the section of the book that she dedicated to just telling about her daughter and the prayer to God she wrote down that ask to keep her safe. It was really heart-warming and funny.

She is awesome at telling you things that are normally not funny in a funny way. She is a genius at that. In this book she talks about her childhood, school-life, SNL, Weekend Update, 30 Rock, Sarah Palin, and being a mother. She delivers this to you in a big package of hilarity and awesomeness. She is very honest about how she felt about things and she never sugar coats anything. Also she showed us a cover of a feminist magazine that she believes photshopped her best. Here it is:

That picture is very awesome isn’t it? Also Tina reads books! Can she get even more awesome? I think not.