Book Lust

Every now and then you come across a book that makes your heart rate increase and sweat form on your palms. What is it about this book that makes you yearn for more? Is it the characters you can not only relate to but feel like they have been formed from a portion of your own soul? Is it the world constructed on the pages that inspires you to reconsider the perception you have of the world in which you reside? Is it the twists and turns of the plot, so elegantly constructed that you are drawn in without pause to consider how you will extricate yourself by the end?

Lately I’ve had a “dry spell” when it comes to books. I churned through several that felt as though I was eating protein shakes and sugar-free chocolate instead of a wholesome three-course meal (with extra dessert). Hoping they would be fulfilling (all the reviews said they would be great, all the reviews promised I’d be satisfied), I was left wistful and suddenly apathetic toward the world of books. I dreaded picking up another only to have it shred my expectations for a good story and decent characters, so it was with careful and somewhat reluctant hands that I picked up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which I’ll review when my literary high comes down to a manageable level).

After several hours and changed positions on and around my bed, I turned the last page and let my mind whirr.

Today, I have serious book lust.

I want to read more, more, more, more, more. I want to consume the unread books that sit in a pile beside my bed (and on my desk and in my cupboard) and let their characters dance through my mind. I want to pull the covers over my head and savour every word that has been printed across the page until I feel some inkling of bookish satisfaction, an indication that my book lust may finally be sated.

The world needs more books that set your heart racing and make your palms sweat.

Relationships with Bastards

A friend of mine has been reading the first two books in The Kingkiller Chronicle and absolutely raving about them. They’ve been on my “to read” list for a while and after hearing him carry on about how amazing the books are and how addicted he is, they’ve been sped up to the “must read” list. Now I am waiting eagerly for their delivery so I can see what all this fuss is about … well, I was eager until a recent exchange with my friend.

So excited about the story, the characters, and the books overall, he has been procrastinating about actually finishing the second book. With 22 pages to go, he is dreading the end. Likening the experience to a breakup, he has been lamenting the pending end to the reading experience.

“But,” I said kindly, “there’s a third book coming!”

“When?”

“Umm … “

And that was when all hope was lost.

As far as I can tell, there is no set release date for book three, The Doors of Stone, and breaking the news to my poor friend eventually led to all kinds of analogies about breakups with books and the aftermath, which includes hanging out in libraries and picking up books, and my promise that there’ll be an intervention when we find him in a dark room sniffing stolen chapters.

The thing is, that’s exactly how it is with books. Like a relationship, you become so involved with the protagonist that you cannot help but feel a sense of loss when that relationship comes to an end, when you turn the final page and realise you’re not going to see this person again – all those memories you have, those experiences you shared, are going to end. Finished. Gone.

No one likes admitting a relationship has to end. So we draw it out. We get to the last 22 pages and maybe we read a page a day, hoping to make it last. The problem is, no matter how much you drag it out, the end is nigh.

Books – like men – mess me up. I do stupid things for the sake of books and men, and that’s probably why I’ve resigned myself to an eternity with the former over the latter. Unlike men, I find books to be much easier to understand. I don’t have to decipher the labyrinth of hints and innuendo, to work out what is casual flirting and what is genuine interest. Books give me everything I want without me having to dance around and figure out what all that winking and nudging is about. And I never have to deal with their mothers.

But maybe that’s the problem … Books get around. They make us beg for them and we love it. Books certainly aren’t interested in my opinion, my wants and needs. My poor friend is being abandoned by the very books he has spent weeks avidly reading, no matter the consequence to his social life or business. Now he has been left in limbo regardless of how he feels about the protagonist, how much he wants to continue being part of the story.

Books don’t care about us.

When I close a book, I’m not the only one who’s been privy to the protagonist’s inner hopes and fears, who has listened to him lament his losses and cheer with him as he celebrates his gains. There are others who have taken him to bed, others who have witnessed him at his worst, others who have seen him at his best … Oh, no.

Books have been cheating on me this whole time. Bastards!

Book Review: ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

Book Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The circus comes at night, appearing without warning and captivating the imaginations of all who attend. It is magical, a feast for the senses and a truly unique display of what the mind can conceive and believe – a tattooed contortionist who fits herself into a glass box, an ice garden, a transforming clock … Unbeknown to the circus patrons, some of these displays are feats of engineering while others are more than mere illusion. Le Cirque des Rêves is forum to an apparently unending battle of magic and intrigue between two young magicians, bound to each other and trained for the very purpose of this battle. Set in a magical Victorian London, The Night Circus follows the story of all who are touched by the Le Cirque des Rêves and the love story between to the magicians at its core.

Favourite Scene: I have two – the first is a description of the clock Herr Thiessen makes for the circus (and all descriptions of his clocks), and the second is when Celia first steps into the ice garden – I envy that it does not exist beyond the pages of the novel.

Favourite Character: Friedrick Herr Thiessen.

Review: I was a bit hesitant when I picked up this book and felt I had to buy it because I decided I needed something different to the pile of YA books already in my arms. I was not disappointed – I rapidly became addicted to the vivid imagery and the charming descriptions of Le Cirque des Rêves and its plethora of tents and performers. A spell was cast over me from the moment I read the first page. It takes place over multiple time frames, a patchwork of then and now and all the parts in between. At first I found this confusing but then I was so drawn into the novel that the patchwork-time simply was.

Every character was unique and served a purpose in the novel, something I greatly appreciated. Reading about a character was never about filling in space or creating an unnecessary back story because every character had a role and those who did not were kept rightfully confined to the margins. I loved the interspersed second-person chapters that meant I, as someone attending the circus, was also a significant character in the novel. I couldn’t help but wish – page after page – that a place like Le Cirque des Rêves could be real.

This book shoots straight up into my Top Ten books of all time. Yes, you heard me.

Return to Sender

I used to sit down every day during the school holidays and churn off scores of letters. During school term, letters were often scribbled inside my notebooks during classes – most of these never got around to being sent, but when they were mailed, the recipients would comment on how much time I seemed to spend writing letters compared to actually doing school work.

There is beauty in addressing your thoughts and feelings to another, and I wonder sometimes if that is lost through the instant and constant communication available to us these days. I actually miss the thrill of checking the mailbox to find – I hope! – a letter addressed to me. On occasion, my grandma sends me a letter and I’ve received some lovely postcards from my family, and these are all tucked neatly into a folder. I treasure the written word, especially when it’s addressed to me.

Earlier this year I wrote a letter that not only won a competition but also introduced me to a wonderful community of writers in Singapore shortly after I arrived. They have been a source of inspiration and have kept me sane by keeping me focused on my writing. It was in writing this letter that I was reminded how much I miss writing letters. I send the odd one to my grandparents and I send a barrage of postcards whenever I visit somewhere wonderful, but it’s not the same. They are not the pure expression of thoughts and feelings that I associate with letters.

I missed writing letters, so I started writing them again. None of them are read by the addressee. None of them are sent. Letters have become my therapy.

I write letters to everyone.

I tell them why I worry about them, what I hope for them, and share every other thought and feeling I have that I feel they need to know. When I am frustrated with someone, I write them a letter. When I am seeking inspiration, I write a letter. When I am upset, I write a letter. When someone has made me happy, I write them a letter. I write letters to my family, to my friends, to people I still speak to and to people I don’t. Letters get written to myself when I feel I need a wake-up call. Other times when I am hurting or aching, or when I am bubbling with enthusiasm, I write a letter to the person who has contributed to this feeling or, if no one is the cause, I write a letter to someone who will appreciate knowing this is happening to me, or who might – through the movements of my pen – help me better understand things.

These are letters from my heart. They are letters that are addressed to someone else but are, in truth, letters for me. No one will ever read them.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.

– Phyllis Theroux

Maybe we don’t send letters any more, but I still write them. By not sending my letters, I keep my heart close.

It’s possible I’ve even written a letter for you. But you’ll never know because these are my letters, my soul on a page with your name at the top.

Book Review: ‘The Owl Keeper’ by Christine Brodien-Jones

Book Title: The Owl Keeper

Author: Christine Brodien-Jones

Genre: Children’s Literature / Fantasy

Summary: In a dystopian future ruled by the High Echelon, Max Unger struggles to make sense of a world in which he may no longer have a place – allergic to sun particles, the promise of constant sunlight in the Domes gives him little cause for celebration. On top of that, Max has a secret. Silver Owls are deemed evil and supposed to be extinct, yet Max knows this to be untrue. Urged by the memories of the stories his Gran had told him before she died, Max waits for the Owl Keeper to arrive and rise up against the Dark Brigade, restoring balance in the world.

Favourite Scene: The description of Rose when Max first meets her. You can read an extract here.

Favourite Character: Rose for her strength and imagination.

Review: This is a sweet book that I can imagine my younger cousins reading and enjoying. Set in a dystopian future in which the Great Destruction of 2066 managed to wipe out a large portion of the natural world and change the balance of the seasons, the novel possesses vast elements of fantasy that had something of an Obernewtyn-esque feel (though to compare the two further would be terribly unfair – like comparing Anne Rice to Stephenie Meyer). The story is slow at first while it sets out the groundwork for its post-apocalyptic setting but when it gets moving, it moves so quickly that it feels like quite a rush – almost too much after the slow start. At the end, I felt like there was room for a sequel yet I have no interest in reading any more stories set in this world with these characters – they were fun, but not especially well-developed. It was predictable and relied on a poorly written prophecy for the plot to progress, though I’m trying to be forgiving and keep in mind the novel is aimed at 10 year olds (or thereabouts). If you have a young avid reader in your midst who likes fantasy/dystopian stories, then this would be an easy novel for them to read as there are not too many subplots or twists to make it hard to follow (in fact, it’s rather linear and not too surprising).