[BOOK] Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel

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Around a month ago, I was contacted by Mira Tudor, the author of “Poets, Artists, Lovers,” to ask if I was willing to read her book and write my thoughts about it. At first, I was surprised since it was an unexpected request. When I was sent the synopsis of the book, I became excited finding out that it would be about Literature, Arts & Music – topics that are generally interesting in my opinion.

As described by Mira Tudor herself, here’s the description of the book:

‘Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel’ is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel riding waves of romanticism, drama, and wit in a manner reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day)—and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.

The title truly was on point. The book was full of poets, artists and lovers. In fact, the book was full of such talents that it makes you wonder how all these people found each other and how their lives became entangled. I guess, people with similar interests really do find their way towards each other.

At first, the sheer number of characters caught me off guard and threw me off a bit, causing me to step back a few pages every time I forgot who’s who and who’s in a relationship with whom. Once I got a hold on the basic relationships, I was able to follow the plot easily. The storyline moves between the past and the present as it introduces new characters and intertwining of relationships. Keeping up with the years can be a bit tricky if you don’t take note what year a chapter takes place.

The novel referenced a number of works of art and music pieces that I am sad to say, I am not familiar with. I truly wish I was knowledgeable enough in such areas to truly understand and appreciate the reason why they were mentioned in the first place. I’m sure it would’ve made more sense to me had I known whether the music one couple danced to was an upbeat or a mellow or a sad song. The author clearly had a vast understanding and grasp on these subjects, unfortunately, I don’t. I sincerely wanted to know what the author wanted to convey with the choice of music and art in specific scenes as I wanted to fully grasp the emotion associated with those choices.

I like how the story was actually quite realistic in the sense that things don’t always work out the way we want it to. Life isn’t always peaches and cream; as if your life was a movie. I just wish the novel had focused more on just a few characters with an in depth backstory for each so there’s room for more character development and that the readers can relate more to what they’re going through at any given moment.

Are men normally as patient and understanding as Haralambie and George, though? I was quite surprised or even, skeptical that such men would exist in this world. If they do exist, um, where are they and why have I not met them yet? As for Pamfil, sorry to say, I am not a fan. A guy who seems to attract the eye of every woman he meets and does not shy away from flirting with anyone who shows an interest in him – sounds like bad news to me.

You know what would make the experience complete? If this had been a movie. The novel talks about sculptures, art, music, food and the romantic setting of Romania. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could experience all those visually with the appropriate music playing in the background? It would be a complete sensory orgasm. Gives me chills just thinking about it. Match it with the complicated relationships and dramas, this would make good television. I truly do wish this could make its way to the screen. I think it would translate well. Please make it happen. ;p

If you want to check out the book, it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited or you may purchase it on Amazon.

NinthMelody Rating: 6/10

 

 

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[BOOK][MOVIE] Veronika Decides To Die.

After reading Paulo Coelho’s “Veronika Decides To Die,” I found out that it was adapted into a film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The movie was released in either 2009, 2012 or 2015. It’s unclear to me as different sources state different release dates. Anyway, let me talk about the book first.

THE BOOK (Goodreads synopsis)

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Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.

Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn’t kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.

The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life’s final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.

In Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho takes the reader on a distinctly modern quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho’s own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Poignant and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

Being a book based on Paulo Coelho’s own experiences with being admitted to a mental facility, the readers are catered with various characters whose lives and circumstances vary yet they find themselves in one place – Villete, a mental facility in Slovenia. The book is able to establish that people experiencing different kinds of issues psychologically/mentally are not necessarily “crazy,” it’s just that they have a different perception of what the world deems is the norm.

Having read the book opened my mind to the possibility of us believing something because that is “normal” when in reality, we might be mistaken. Just because the majority of the population regards one thing as normal, it does not mean it’s true. We, as people, tend to conform to the status quo that sometimes we neglect to think critically for ourselves in fear of being ostracized for having a different opinion. I understand completely why Veronika felt free and liberated to show her true feelings inside Villete, no matter how insane or irrational it may be. Inside Villete, no one would judge you for doing something out of the ordinary. Inside, nothing is ordinary.

The main take away from the book is to find one’s purpose and to appreciate the miracle, that is life, everyday. It’s such a waste to throw your life away, no matter how difficult and pointless it may all seem.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10


THE MOVIE

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I wasn’t even expecting for the book to have a film version so imagine my surprise to find out that it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. The movie steps away from the Slovenian setting and the original background story of Veronika but other than that, the events appear to be pretty similar.

What I didn’t like about the movie is how the internal monologues of the characters (in the book) didn’t translate well on film. The other characters in the book had a solid background story which makes readers empathize with them more rather than just random people inside a mental hospital like how they seemed in the movie. Just because it was mentioned in passing that this character’s occupation was this before she  was admitted to Villete, it doesn’t mean that we already get her life story. There’s more to it than that. Okay, maybe because they wanted to focus the story on Veronika. However, even Veronika’s life didn’t seem very concrete to me. Alright, she was an Accounts Executive, she was a frustrated piano prodigy, then what? If one watched the movie without reading the book, it would have felt very superficial.

The point of the book in creating awareness about different mental issues and dispelling the taboo surrounding it, is lost in the movie. It simply became a love story when it is more than just that. As a standalone movie, it’s not worth much but as a companion to the book, it may hold more value. At least you can put a face on the characters in your head.

NinthMelody rating: 6/10

[BOOK] The Last Anniversary.

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Another Liane Moriarty book, “The Last Anniversary” is one of her older ones (her second book). I can’t even say I’m surprised that I like this one. Her love of mysteries, suspenseful reveals and (at-first) confusing array of interesting characters make this a typical Liane Moriarty work. I’ve always had a difficult time remembering the characters at the beginning but slowly, sure enough you get used to their presence and their existence eventually solidify after every page.

Here’s the synopsis from LianeMoriarty.com.au:

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one who got away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was going to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since.

Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island—home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery. Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family, where it seems everyone has a secret.

Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions. As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around—and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.

Ugh, I love revelations of secrets, plot twists and all those mysteries so this was truly an enjoyable read. I can’t even talk about anything in fear of spoiling the whole thing. The best part about enjoying this book is watching things unfold before you so even a small hint might ruin the entire experience. I suggest just reading it and just try to endure the first few chapters because it could get a bit overwhelming at first but I promise, things get better.

The book is narrated from a third person POV but the language, the style, the voice all change depending on which character is being focused on at any given time. It’s refreshing how these changes make the characters more realistic and that the narration becomes more alive and exudes personality rather than just a generic description of the character’s emotions and thoughts. 

The book touches on a number of topics including post-partum depression, being a single woman in her 40s, homosexuality, body insecurities and more. The characters feel like real people (as always in Liane Moriarty’s books) that I feel like travelling to Scribbly Gum Island, hoping they’d adopt me so I can have their freshly-baked cake everyday. Unfortunately, the island does not exist in real life. Bummer. According to Moriarty though, she was inspired to create this fictional island after visiting the Dangar Island. So I guess that’s the closest we can get to visiting Scrubbly Gum Island.

“The next best thing is to take a ferry from Brooklyn and visit Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney.”

“I was visiting Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River and I thought: What a wonderful setting for a novel…” – Liane Moriarty

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NinthMelody rating: 8.5/10

[MOVIE] Back To The Future.

I know I’m late to the party but I just watched Back to the Future (1-3) for the first time. I’ve always known of its existence especially since it’s basically a classic and it’s been used as a reference in a number of movies. Also, since it was a major influence in a Busted song called “Year 3000.” If you haven’t heard of it, you’re missing out. It was also remade by the Jonas Brothers but meh.

Also, the band, McFly, got their name from Marty McFly…

Anyway, this post is not about that. It’s about the movie.

It was released in 1985, way before I was born but it’s amazing to think that it has withstood time, has become a classic and a widely referenced pop culture icon. It must’ve been such a mind-blowing concept in ’85 (or so I think) considering the futuristic concepts and devices shown in the movie. Actually, even now in 2017, a lot of the gadgets and devices are still mere concepts (hoverboards & TIME MACHINE, or is it?). Being a Doctor Who fan, I can’t shake off the feeling that it’s very much like Doctor Who – Doc Brown as the Doctor (duh!) and Marty McFly as the companion.

I can’t pick a favorite among the 3 parts as they’re basically one big movie cut into parts. If I were to pick one I would watch again, I would watch the second one simply because I feel like I didn’t pay much attention the first time I watched it. I was distracted, basically. Maybe only then will I be able to really pick among the 3 for a favorite.

What irks me in time-travel shows is the fact that they seem to forget what a time machine does. It travels through TIME. If you miss something the first time, go back in time so that you don’t miss it. I mean, on Back to the Future II, when Marty and Doc see that the police found Jennifer’s unconscious body and they decide to take her to her “home” (her future self’s home), instead of attempting to beat them to it, Marty and Doc could’ve just gone back in time to prevent it from happening. RIGHT? Or am I missing something? The excuse saying that “the story would’ve been much shorter had it not happened” is just that. An excuse. It’s a plot hole. It’s not exclusive to Back to the Future. In fact, most time travel shows are guilty of this. Use the time machine as a freaking time machine, please.

Anyway, the movies were fun to watch and were actually pretty effective in making scenes suspenseful. That was impressive. There are movies that fail miserably at this where some scenes are meant to be full of suspense. You expect it. You know you’re supposed to feel it. But you don’t. In Back to the Future, you expect it, you know it’s stupid to feel nervous because it’s just a movie and let’s face it, you know what’s gonna happen, and yet you still feel nervous. Now, that’s a good movie.

All in all, Back to the Future will always remain a classic and I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it. Thank you, Netflix for giving me the chance to watch this movie. Seriously, I wouldn’t have even thought of watching it had it not been suggested to me.

NinthMelody rating: 8.5/10

[BOOK] I Am The Messenger.

I Am The Messenger - coverI must admit. It took me longer than expected to finish this one. Not because it was boring but because the first time I tried to read it, it didn’t really grab my consciousness as much as “The Book Thief” did which was written by the same author, Markus Zusak.

Also, the cover. I’m not a fan. Let’s be real. We all look at the cover. We’re judgmental like that.

Anyway, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

According to my Goodreads profile, I started reading this book on August 15, 2016. Yes, that’s right. 2016! I didn’t even realize that I started it almost exactly a year ago. I guess it has that “August” feel to it. Anyway, I had to start reading it from the very beginning the second time around since I already forgot the details.

As what was written in the synopsis, it circles around a cabdriver named Ed Kennedy who helps stop a bank robbery and becomes an instant celebrity for a short while since his name and photos are all over the front pages for the next few days. He then receives an Ace of Diamonds in the mail with 3 addresses written on it. It’s mysterious since the sender is unknown and even more so, the purpose. Imagine getting the same type of card in the mail. What would you do? Would you check out the addresses or just brush it off and throw the card away?

Ed Kennedy decides to check out the addresses just to figure out what he’s supposed to do with them or at least find out who sent the card in the first place. In the first house he visits, he sees a family whose head of the household is a big drunkard who forces himself on his wife every night as their daughter listens in at the front porch, crying. It’s a heavy picture especially for an ordinary stranger like Ed Kennedy. Seeing a scene like that, there are only two options: Help or Ignore. After visiting the first house, Ed realizes that the addresses on the cards are missions for him to solve. Why him? And who is behind all this? Those are the questions that will play through your mind throughout the book.

Expect the unexpected for the ending. Did not see that one coming, to be honest. If you know me, I like me some twists in my books. *thumbs up*

So if you’re wondering whether to read this book or not, I suggest just go pick it up and start reading. It’s nothing like The Book Thief so don’t even compare it. But if you’re interested to know how they differ, I Am The Messenger is more easy-going and straightforward. Ed Kennedy is the main character and he’s also the narrator – first person POV. Simple. The plot is also light and it actually evokes a warm, fuzzy feeling especially once the problems are resolved. Not only that, it also hopes to inspire readers to dream, to do something and to BE.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10

[BOOK] Daughters of the Dragon.

20925858.jpg“Daughters of the Dragon” was on sale on Amazon Books so I did the only reasonable thing: I purchased it. I actually didn’t really know what the book was about before even purchasing it. The title seemed interesting and that was it. The part where it says “A COMFORT WOMAN’S STORY” did not even stand out to me since it’s really hard to see such details on a Kindle Paperwhite.

This book surprised me because it tells the story of a comfort woman named Jae-Hee who was only 14 years old when the Japanese ordered her and her sister to be sent to a camp where young Korean girls would serve as comfort women for the Japanese soldiers during World War II. It’s disgusting to think that these Japanese soldiers abused these young women and forced them to “serve” for the sake of Japan. I was actually ignorant of the history and the events that transpired in Korea during World War II.

My country, being a former Japanese colony as well, was also a victim of the evil acts of the Japanese soldiers and government back in the day. In fact, my maternal grandmother bore a deep scar on her chest where she was struck by a harpoon-like gun when they were captured by the Japanese. It was also during that time where my grandmother’s brother was killed by the Japanese. To be honest, I’ve forgotten about these facts and I was only reminded about them when I read “Daughters of the Dragon.” Even though the stories were completely different from what my ancestors went through, the story of Jae-Hee as a comfort woman, as a lost Korean in her own land, as a single mother; similar stories are abundant throughout history but they have been forgotten, ignored. This book is a great reminder that such cruelty happened to these people and it’s hopefully a lesson that we learn from; that we don’t repeat the same mistakes and we don’t let it happen again.

 

This book was purely fictional according to the author, William Andrews, but was based on historical facts. That fact makes it all the more terrible as it is stated that the existence of the comfort women is being denied by the Japanese government which all the more makes it harder for the survivors to seek the deserved justice. What this book does is it creates awareness that hopefully someday these victims receive the justice they have been looking for.

NinthMelody rating: 8/10

[TV] 13 Reasons Why.

13-Reasons-WhyOk, done!

After reading the 13 Reasons Why, I definitely had to watch it. It’s a Netflix Original Series and all 13 episodes can be watched on NETFLIX right now.

I’m gonna say it now at the very beginning. I actually liked this better than the book. It’s quite rare for me to prefer a movie/tv adaptation over the book because normally the adaptations lose important details that are present on the books. In this series, however, they’ve actually added details that were missing on the book and it made everything more interesting and more alive.

In the book, the readers only read about Hannah’s and Clay’s perspectives. We only hear their versions of the truth. I’m not saying that Hannah was lying, only that her perception of the events is different from how another person might see it. It’s interesting to also see the reactions and consequences of Hannah’s tapes on the lives of the other people mentioned on the tapes and not just Clay’s. Also, each character mentioned by Hannah on her tape was given a backstory in the series. We get a glimpse of their lives and it helps us understand why they are the way they are. In a way, the series was able to humanize the characters and create a sense of empathy for them; no matter how bad they might have been to Hannah, their actions do not define who they are.

There are definitely changes in the story so it’s not a complete adaptation from the book.

  1. In the book, Clay was able to listen to the tapes in a day. In the series, however, Clay finishes listening to the tapes in several days. This is actually the mildest difference I noticed.
  2. There were additional characters in the series like Jeff Atkins (Clay’s friend whom he tutors), the parents (played a more active role in the series), and Sheri (originally Jenny in the book).
  3. A large part of the series also focuses on Hannah Baker’s parents who are also looking for answers. In the book, they were hardly mentioned but in the series, they played a much bigger role which makes a lot of sense since what kind of parents would not want to seek justice for their child’s death especially since they believe that Hannah was bullied or treated badly in school which pushed her to her decision.
  4. The sequence of the tapes are different. Clay was 11th in the series. In the book, he was 9th.
  5. Hannah’s suicide was more gory in the series where she decided to slit her wrists whilst in the bathtub. The book was more mild with Hannah overdosing on pills (which actually makes more sense since her parents own a pharmacy store).

There are other changes I’m sure but I wasn’t able to note them all down.

For entertainment value, 13 Reasons Why is a very good show. It shows the harsh reality  of life. It puts into spotlight the effects of suicide, bullying, spreading of rumors, sexual assault, emotional assault and many other topics that are difficult to discuss. The show, however, requires strict parental guidance as it does portray such topics that may be misconstrued or misunderstood by troubled audiences as a glamorization of suicide. I’m sure that is not the intent of the series but rather the opposite however, to the sensitive minds of audiences who may be playing with the idea of suicide, I worry that there might be a misinterpretation of the idea which is why STRONG PARENTAL GUIDANCE is advised. 

All in all, a good series and I wouldn’t mind getting a Season 2. It would be nice to have a definite closure for every puzzle piece. It sure did leave us hanging even more so than the book did.

NinthMelody rating: 9/10