Tag Archives: Reviews

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

When Savannah Lynn Curtis comes into his life, John Tyree knows he is ready to turn over a new leaf. An angry rebel, he had enlisted in the army after high school, not knowing what else to do. Then, during a furlough, he meets the girl of his dreams. Savannah Lynn Curtis is attending college in North Carolina, working for Habitat for Humanity, and totally unprepared for the passionate attraction she feels for John Tyree.The attraction is mutual and quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah vowing to wait for John while he finishes his tour of duty, and John realizing that he’s ready to settle down with the young woman who has captured his heart.Neither can foresee that 9/11 is about to change the world and will force John to risk every hope and dream that he’s ever had. Like so many proud men and women, John must choose between love and country. And like all those left behind, Savannah must decide to wait or move on. How do we choose wisely? How can we face loss-without giving up on love? Now, when he finally returns to North Carolina, John will discover that loving Savannah will force him to make the hardest decision of his life. An extraordinary, moving story, DEAR JOHN explores the complexities of love-how it survives time and heartbreak, and how it transforms us forever.(taken from Google Books)

I think Nicholas Sparks is an extraordinary storyteller in that he has never failed to make my heart ache every time I watch a movie based on his book. Dear John is no exception, though this time I am reading the book instead.

What I love about him is that he writes to a pretty predictable recipe. To think predictable stories would be boring, it is actually the opposite. When I look at the things I do everyday, I realize that it is pretty predictable as well: wake up, eat, school, work, leisure activities, sleep, and repeat for the next day. What I learned from his stories, though, is that sometimes I overlook the little details in life which makes it more meaningful.

For example, Dear John really made me stop and think about the struggles that other people are facing. When I see my friends’ pictures and statuses on the Internet, it’s really different than when I actually talk to them in person and find out that they, too, are not as happy as what their latest update would seem to suggest.

“When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.”

Everyone is struggling with something. They just hide it from the public, which creates the illusion that everyone else’s life is perfect.

So dear reader, whatever the challenge you are facing, remember that you are not alone. At the same time you are trying to overcome the challenge, we are all trying to do the same thing as well. ^_^

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Unknown, Seamus Heaney (translator)|Battle Royale

Overview: The national bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award. Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero’s triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels in this story to the historical curve of consciousness in the twentieth century, but the poem also transcends such considerations, telling us psychological and spiritual truths that are permanent and liberating. (taken from Barnes & Noble)

Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem written in English. It influenced and inspired many generations of writers. Funny how the best source for finding ideas to write new stuff are from the old stuffs. This is because these ideas are timeless. We’d think that our generation is so much better and different with the technology and all but actually, some things never change.

Beowulf reminds me of many modern literary works. It reminds me of Battle Royale in particular. For those of you that don’t know, Battle Royale is a Japanese novel and the plot is sort of like The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies (also a manga, a movie, and the novel is available in English translation as well. Google it if you want to find out more :D). Yeah, huge difference between a hero who fought monsters, and a class of 42 who had to kill each other on an island, but the cool part about literature is that it’s like a mirror that reflects ourselves. Thus, in essence, they are the same because they both reflect the people in our society today. There are the innocent victims, like the citizens in Beowulf who suffered from Grendel’s attacks, or Mayumi who died before even realizing that Battle Royale had begun. There are the people who does not feel for others, like Grendel who attacked Heorot (King Hrothgar’s mead-hall), or Kiriyama who killed the most people in BR. There are the people that will be perfectly harmless, minding their own business, until you decide to bother them in some way, like Grendel’s mother who sought vengeance for his son, or Chigusa who stabbed a guy to death because he threatened to rape her. There are the people who just simply want to get what they want, no matter how they do it, like the dragon that wanted his cup back, or Mitsuko who killed her classmates because she wants survival. Beowulf is like Shogo. They are the people that help others out even if it puts themselves in danger. These are the people we need the most in our society today, but why is it that there are only a handful of “Beowulfs” around us?

Many people would argue that we don’t need “Beowulfs” in our society today, because he is not modest and he is selfish. But imagine if Beowulf told Hrothgar that, “Maybe I will try to slay Grendel, but I don’t know if I could because I’m not that good.” If he is well aware of his ability, then why shouldn’t he comfort the people by showing his confidence in killing Grendel? As long as your actions are louder than your words, I think that’s fine. As for being selfish, he did pursuit glory and reputation, but I don’t think he did it for himself. We have to remember that everyone at that time is defined by their father and ancestors. If Beowulf was to live and have children, they would have an easier life when they grow up because of Beowulf’s reputation. People would help them out just like how Beowulf helped Hrothgar partly because Hrothgar did a favor for Ecgtheow, Beowulf’s father. Also, last words often reveal what the person cares about the most in his life. Beowulf’s last words were along the lines of, “Wilgar, watch the people’s needs,” meaning that he cares about his people having a rightful ruler after he dies the most. If he was selfish, he’d say, “Tell people about my story.” (Hamlet!) I don’t think that’s wrong, because we all want the best for our family, especially if we were to be obsessed with patriarchal history like them.

Because Beowulf is so old, most of us can only enjoy it in translations. I read Seamus Heaney’s version of Beowulf. Although this is the only version of Beowulf I’ve read, I thought that this version is easy to understand and at the same time, it preserves the beauty of the old English poem style by using the same techniques the Anglo-Saxon used.

What to Do when You Can’t Get into a Book|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

As much as you wish this is not true, you can’t make yourself like every single book you read. In fact, if you do, then we have a little problem; You are probably not going out of your comfort zone, which is how you become a better reader. I think this is impossible though, because even when you try to avoid reading different kinds of materials, you will still stumble upon one or two book that you can’t get into no matter what.

I’d like to share a fable that I came across recently (by the way don’t let this stop you from reading it because just like all books there are also people who are madly in love with it). It is called The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne. No clue about the plot is revealed on the book jacket except that the nine-year-old protagonist will arrive at a fence which you would never want to encounter. All I am going to say is that this fable takes place in the midst of a historical event :). It said that knowing about the plot before reading this would spoil it, although by the 30th page or so you can already figure out what the historical event is. You know more than the characters. Oftentimes, you will find yourself knowing what happens next already, but here’s the catch: It is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old, which provides a unique and innocent view on this subject. However, the thing that made me want to give up on this book is the way the author tries to portray a child’s innocence. Being innocent does not mean being unobservant. If he was of a younger age then it’s understandable, but I really don’t think a nine-year-old would have no idea whatsoever about what’s going on around him. When I compare him with the children in other books, it really made me wonder if Boyne is trying to make children look like…well, idiots.

But I finished the book anyways. I told myself I must keep reading till the last page, and when you find yourself reading a book you don’t like, I suggest you to do the same too. Here’s why:

You might like the book later on. When I got to the end, I actually thought the book was quite alright. The author left a lot of things unsaid at the end which made me think for a while, and I always appreciate books that make me think. Just because a book has a terrible beginning does not mean it doesn’t have a great end. Sometimes, it indeed doesn’t have both, but maybe when you think about it afterwards, you might start to change your mind.

Other people can’t say your opinions are biased because you’ve only read the beginning. Read the book and figure out why it’s bad, so that either you will prove your view right, or they’ll convince you that the book is really a good book actually :D.

Learn to make lemonades. Treat it as an experience for you to learn what makes a book not work. A lot of times you will be forced to read a book you don’t like, so practice finding something you like in every book (yes this is something you can get better at by practicing). If you keep on thinking the book is bad, then it’s going to be bad.

Before We Get Started by Bret Lott

Overview: This marvelous guide begins where other books on writing and the writing life leave off. Delving deep into the creative process, Bret Lott reveals truths we scarcely realized we needed to know but without which we as writers will soon lose our way. In ten intimate essays based on his own experiences and on the seasoned wisdom of writers including Eudora Welty, E. B. White, Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, and John Gardner, Lott explores such topics as

• why write? why keep writing?
• the importance of simple words
• the finer points of character detail
• narrative and the passage of time
• the pitfalls of technique
• making a plan–and letting it go
• risking failure–and reaping the benefits
• Accepting rejection

Writers travel alone, but Bret Lott’s book makes the journey less lonely and infinitely more rewarding. Before We Get Started will help you make your work as good as it can be: “Pay attention recklessly. Strain to see through the window of your own artistic consciousness in the exhilarating knowledge that there is no path to the waterfall, and there are a million paths to the waterfall, and there is, too, only one path: yours.” (taken from the back of the book)

Since I am currently preparing for an important exam, I thought this is a good chance for me to read those 200 page-ish books that has been sitting in my room for a while now. This memoir, Before We Get Started, happened to be beside that book that I wanted to check out in the library. Do you know that feeling you get when you go to the shopping mall and see this one bag telling you to pick her up? (Okay, maybe you don’t…but I swear…those bags…they speak to you!) I think this book was speaking to me 😛 I don’t know anything about Bret Lott nor his works before I read this. Perhaps it’s the fact that I haven’t read a memoir in I-don’t-even-know-how-many years that got me reading this. I don’t know.

I hoped that Bret Lott will know something since I don’t, at least something about writing because this is a memoir about a writer. However, he straight-up tells us that he doesn’t know how to write. In fact, the day when you think you know how to write will be the day when you stop discovering the limits and possibilities of words. Do not think that he will teach you how to write either, because writing can only be self-taught. No one can find meaning and the feeling for your writing except for you.

He suggested that many people are more interested in becoming a writer than the art of writing itself. That made me think of writing classes. Should we really take so many of them instead of just start writing? At one point he said that, “We learn techniques, I believe, because we fear the future.” We fear the future. We fear how other people will respond to our writing. In the process of that, we lose the joy of writing itself, because we are putting the wrong kind of attention on the wrong kind of things.

So just start writing! Attitude affects how a person writes immensely. You can look at this post, for example, and treat it as an opportunity to gain new ideas for your next post, or you can just simply say, “I don’t have time,” or, “I am having a writer’s block.” Do you see the difference? Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. Don’t try to find excuses for the delay of creating new contents.

This book also gives an encouraging view on getting rejected by the publishers, as well as good points on paying close attention to all the fine details of writing, because even those simple words can make a huge difference. I think that some points are being elaborated on too much, but I am just being a nitpick now. If you are a writer, consider picking up this book. ^_^