Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

When Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook introduced me to another great work of Shannon Hale, I immediately added this book to my reading list and started looking for a copy at one of our local bookstores. Who knew this book would turn out to be another fantastic retelling?

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

Book of a Thousand Days coverWhen Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison.

Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive – one welcome, the other less so – and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outside. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.

To be locked up in a tower for seven years is an unimaginable thing to experience. Lady Saren and Dashti are not able to escape this punishment due to Lady Saren’s refusal to marry Lord Khasar. After finding out that the father is the one who executes the punishment somehow angers me. The father’s act alone proves his cowardice and inferiority toward Lord Khasar. On the other hand, as I slowly learn Lady Saren’s fear toward Lord Khasar as well, I couldn’t help but be intrigued about what Lord Khasar possesses that is being feared by many.

Book of a Thousand Days sets itself apart from the other retellings I’ve read in terms of the setting. Evident from the book cover, the story is set in Asia. Surprisingly, there are illustrations included in the book which describes some characters and some of the occurrences happened that will make readers conclude the setting, too. Shannon Hale strategically designed the story in the format of a journal. Dashti, the protagonist, owns the book and recounts her experiences as Lady Saren’s maid. The number of days indicates the length of time they spend in the tower and the days after they escape.

Reading into the thoughts and feelings of Dashti easily makes me sympathize with her. It’s like a friendship has been formed between us that as I read her entries, I want to comfort her and make her feel she’s not alone. I admire her bravery by being selfless and loyal to Lady Saren. I don’t think I would’ve done the things she did. While she is ordered to pretend to be Lady Saren, her striking personality still outshines her pretentions. She is able to incorporate her own self while being Lady Saren. She has the most dynamic characterization of all characters and readers can witness how she changes and slowly matures.

Lady Saren impresses me the same towards the end, but during the first part, I want to get some sense out of her. Just like Dashti’s thoughts, I couldn’t understand her emotional breakdowns. While the story evidently centers on Dashti, I do kind of hoped that the characterizations of the others are explored in depth as well.

I wouldn’t have known the story of Maid Maleen if it weren’t for this book. In fact, I haven’t heard of nor read the original tale until now. Shannon Hale certainly did an amazing job retelling the story. The concept and the foundation of the original tale are still there, but Shannon Hale took the liberty to create her own story, adding more locations, characters, and unexpected twists that will keep you guessing. It’s strikingly awesome to see that the cultural background of the story becomes significant in the flow and outcome of the story. Shannon Hale, without a doubt, succeeds in narrating the story descriptively and beautifully. Overall, this is another wonderful read. I definitely enjoyed it from beginning until end. Book of a Thousand Days is a one of a kind retelling I’ve read so far.


Left Drowning by Jessica Park

When Jessica Park mentioned on her Twitter that she’ll be sending eBook ARC copies of Left Drowning to non-US/Canadian bloggers who will message her for a request via email, I immediately grabbed the opportunity to be one of the privileged bloggers to have received an ARC. To be honest, this is my very first time to get an ARC and I was undeniably super duper excited to read it. (Thank you, Ms. Jessica Park!)

Left Drowning US Cover Left Drowning Int'l Cover

Left – US/Canada cover; Right – International cover

Here’s the plot description from Goodreads:

What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

*This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.

Note: due to mature content recommended for Ages 17+

A lot of things have crossed my mind after reading Left Drowning. I have so many things to say, but I’m not sure if my written words will justify the overall feelings I have towards this book. Oh well, here goes.

At the beginning of the story, readers are already introduced to Blythe’s devastation over something that’s beyond her strength. Her process of coping with it seems unacceptable in my terms, but as I dig deeper into her past as elaborated in the story, I begin to understand her actions. And then comes Chris who drives her hormones and who also seems to have a dark past, as well as Chris’ siblings who become part of her family. Who would’ve thought that their lives would be intertwined in an unexpected way?

Jessica Park designs her characters distinctively from the ones I’ve read about in all the other books. One thing I’ve noticed in her characterization is the characters’ level of maturity. Their reactions to certain situations and the way they speak have me forget their age. I would think that they’re adults already when in fact, our age gap isn’t that far, if my calculations are correct. I just adore the bond the McGuires and Shepherd siblings share with one another. As much as the Shepherds influence Blythe to become a better person, Blythe has also influenced the Shepherds. All throughout the story, I keep rooting for each of them, hoping that all they’ve been through will eventually come to an end.

Moreover, I love how the book isn’t just about romance and Blythe and Chris’ intense sexual drives that they have with one another. Jessica Park also succeeds in focusing the story on friendship and family as well, despite the imperfections and evident faults of the characters. She is able to balance all these elements and crafts a unique story that revolves around seven nearly-adult characters, while tackling serious issues that also exist in real life. As I am reading the book, I slowly come to empathize with the characters. When they are drowned by their past, it seems like I drown with them, too. And just as they slowly start to breathe once again, a sigh of relief comes out from me as well.

I am truly impressed with Jessica Park’s writing style. It is so inviting that I am easily drawn into the story. I love how she uses metaphors and symbolism to imply deeper meanings behind the surface that can serve as life-learning lessons. Left Drowning has surely gotten me into a roller coaster ride full of strong emotions. At the end of the day, the book gives me the opportunity to feel sadness, happiness, humor, disappointment, anger, grief, hope, and love altogether. This will not let you down.

Left Drowning will be available starting tomorrow, July 16!

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

One of the things why I love joining blog activities/challenges is the book recommendations I get from reading other bloggers’ book reviews. This is exactly what happened when I joined Alison @ The Cheap Reader’s Project: Fairy Tale. Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook chose East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a fairy tale I was not familiar with before, and after checking out her reviews of the original tale as well as its retellings, I saw that she liked Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow best as compared to the other retellings of her chosen fairy tale. Her review of the book sparked my interest; thus, I decided right then and there to add the book to my list.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow coverWhen a great white bear offers a woodcutter’s daughter untold riches in return for her company, she accepts, believing she has made a wise decision. Even though the lass is offered every luxury at the bear’s castle, she begins to feel like a prisoner. Then, when servants start to disappear, the lass realizes the bear may know more than he will say. Determined to learn the truth, the lass sets out on a windswept journey east of the sun and west of the moon to fight for the man she has only just discovered is her one true love.

I’ve read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow after reading the gist of the original tale to be able to at least determine the differences between the two. If you’ve been following my blog, you might notice my growing enthusiasm towards retellings that are written closely to the original tale like Beauty by Robin McKinley and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. And I must say, this book has the same effect on me as well.

The beginning of the story already catches my attention as it immediately offers a very intriguing setting and characters. The story centers on one family, particularly the life of the youngest child unnamed by the mother, living in a place where snow seems to fall endlessly. Being unnamed as she is, the protagonist is mainly called the lass or pika. As I am reading through it, I slowly come to have ill feelings toward the mother due to her hatred for having another female child. Gender inequality is very much practiced by the mother wherein she believes her sons will only be the ones to successfully provide for the family financially. Her daughters, as she puts it, are just nuisances. She just fails to see how her daughters have done so much for the family. On the other hand, I cannot help but reflect that this may have been the way of life during the early periods of time. I’m just glad things today are not what they were used to before, well, as far as I know.

Moving on, I like how the lass’s family is characterized with varied personalities. It shows how dynamic they are and readers will learn to sympathize with them. While some members of the family portray disliking behaviors, some show otherwise. The characterization of the lass attracts me the most. I love her bravery and patience toward her mother. Despite being thought less by her mother, she is treated well and fair by her father and other siblings. As the story progresses, her sudden, unique ability to communicate with animals becomes her strength, something that I wish I could acquire as well. Moreover, her persistence to learn drives her to help those she loves and through that knowledge, she begins to use that to her advantage in order to defeat her enemies. Aside from this, I also come to admire her growing friendship with Rollo. Their bond is so deep and Rollo’s loyalty to her is undeniably amazing. It makes me envious in wanting to understand my dogs’ feelings as well.

Jessica Day George narrates her story in a very descriptive manner that it becomes crucial in bringing out the magical element of the story. The mystery feeling it evokes is evident in the way the author describes the setting – from the hometown of the lass, the magical creatures, to the ice palace and trolls. One thing I notice as I am reading through the book where the relationship between the isbjorn and the lass slowly grows, their stay at the ice palace has a bit of resemblance to Beauty and the Beast. But the story takes its own course and builds up its own twist. Jessica Day George surely impresses me with the way she retells the story while staying faithful to the core of the original tale. Other characters, such as Hans Peter, have also played a significant role in the story that it doesn’t just focus on the lass and the isbjorn.

Overall, this is an interesting read and a good retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The story will have you reeled to the seat and mesmerized with the dark magic behind the façade. Things are definitely not what they seem. It will keep you guessing as you turn more pages of the book. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is another retelling worth-reading. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Two Worlds… One Family

Last June 23, my best friend and I booked the day to watch Disney’s Tarzan: The Stage Musical show at the Meralco Theater. Here’s the show’s description taken from the program booklet:

Tarzan_June_14-29Based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan of the Apes and the smash-hit 1999 Disney animated film, TARZAN tells the story of an infant boy orphaned on the shores of West Africa. Taken in and raised by a tribe of gorillas, the young boy strives for acceptance by his ape father while grappling with his uniqueness. When a human expedition enters their territory, Tarzan – now a man – encounters strangers like himself for the first time.

TARZAN features music and lyrics by pop icon Phil Collins, including the Grammy and Oscar winning song, “You’ll Be in My Heart”, and book by Tony Award-winning playwright, David Henry Hwang.

I truly enjoy watching theatrical plays. I’ve actually seen quite a number of shows already. While a few disappoint me, there are some that impress me a lot and Disney’s Tarzan falls on the latter. True, I’ve watched the Disney version movie several times and most of you might have as well, but what make the show worth-watching are the live singing and acting.

My familiarity of the story in the movie does not stop me from watching the musical version. I am honestly intrigued to find out how the production team will impress their audiences especially since the show’s cast mostly consists of animal characters. And most of all, I’m dying to know who they will appoint for the lead role of Tarzan. I must say, the chosen cast should come in a whole package: not just good looks, but the talent should be there as well.

Who would’ve thought that Dan Domenech, an international celebrity, would portray the character of Tarzan? And Rachelle Ann Go as Jane? These two just convince me more to anticipate the show and raise my standard on this musical even higher. I just hope it’ll live up to my expectations.

Upon entering the theater, the stage is already breathtaking. Even though it’s just the outline prop being shown, it still evokes a Tarzan-liness feeling to the audience. And the rest of the props simply blow our minds away. The trees, vines, rocks… everything is done with intricate designs. It’s like the audience is being transported to the jungle world and get a glimpse of the life of gorillas as well as Tarzan’s.

I could say the same for the costumes. The costumes of gorillas are weaved creatively and colorful up to the very detail. They’re not the usual costumes you could see anywhere. The single strips sewn together and worn on the arms, legs, and shoulders allow some room for mobility as they follow the movement of the body. Furthermore, Jane’s costumes indicate sophistication and class, far from the jungle life, as what is really intended by the show. And lastly, the picturesque costumes of the different plant species Jane comes across are strikingly stunning. In fact, I am still at awe just thinking about the costumes.

Tarzan casts

Of course, everything wouldn’t be the same without the cast. Each one of them is fit for his and/or her role and that’s impressive enough to see them perform live. All cast members are able to deliver their lines well. Even the young Terk and Tarzan amaze me with their God-given talents. Dan Domenech also perfectly portrays how to act like an ape man, with the body posture and movement. The same goes for those who played the gorillas, especially Ima Castro, Calvin Millado, and Jeffrey Hidalgo. And most of all, I’m very much surprised to see how well Rachelle Ann Go performed. I’ve known her to be a good singer, but I haven’t witnessed her skills when it comes to acting (I wasn’t able to watch her debut role in The Little Mermaid). During the show, it is evident that she even flawlessly captures the British accent of Jane.

All in all, hands down to the cast and crew behind this successful show. Just as I fell in love with their performance, I also fell in love with the songs. Through the famous song, You’ll Be in My Heart, I could undeniably feel the love of a mother to her child. The way they sing the songs has certainly reached my heart unexpectedly. All of them sing well and naturally and that’s what makes the show more entertaining to watch. I could watch the show again for the second time if I were given a chance.

Disney’s Tarzan is not just a romantic story about two persons falling in love, but it tackles about the importance of family as well. I’m definitely looking forward to more shows like this in the future. I truly enjoyed this show and it has definitely lived up to my expectations. Directed by Chari Arespacochaga, Disney’s Tarzan: The Stage Musical has surely won my heart.