The Thing About Jellyfish

Author: Ali Benjamin

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The Thing About Jellyfish book cover

Date Started: 14-May-17

Date Finished: 27-May-17

Pages: 344

Type: Fiction; Children’s Book

Book Blurb:

“Suzy Swanson has always known things that other kids don’t. She can explain the sleep patterns of ants. She knows there are 150 million jellyfish stings on the planet every year. She knows that the average middle school kid contains about 20 billion of Shakespeare’s atoms. But she can’t understand how Franny Jackson’s lifetime could be cut so short…before Suzy could make up for the worst thing she’d ever done to her best friend. When Suzy formulates a bold plan to travel across the globe– alone– to learn the truth about how her fiend died, she discovers that the answers she most needs could be right in her own backyard.”

Main Characters:

Suzy “Zu” Swanson

Other Characters:

Franny – Suzy’s bestfriend who died while swimming

Mrs. Turton – Suzy’s Science teacher

Justin Maloney – Suzy’s classmate

Dr. Legs – Suzy’s psychologist

Mr. and Mrs. Swanson – Suzy’s parents

Aaron and Rocco – Suzy’s brother and his boyfriend

Setting: New England

Thoughts on the book:

I saw this book while looking for a good book to give my goddaughter, Venice. I got curious of the title and bought one for me. It was only when I was a few chapters into the book when I realized that this is a children’s book. Checked the book covers and indeed, it’s a children’s book! At first I didn’t know if I should continue reading this or just give it to Venice together with the book I bought for her.

I gave it a chance, I continued reading until I found myself actually enjoying reading The Thing About Jellyfish!

It isn’t a heavy fiction- no heavy drama. It didn’t bore me. It’s a good story about school friendships, how friendships at school started, and how it slowly drifted apart. It’s a story about how friendships are born and die, literally and figuratively.

Like:

The Thing About Jellyfish reminds me of my time in school. I can relate to Suzy. How she and Franny became the best of friends, how they made a promise to be always be there for each other, how eventually they became distant and drifted apart. I feel for Suzy– the way she tries her best to make Franny stay as her bestfriend, the way she holds on to Franny, the way she feels possessive of Franny.

I see myself in Suzy. I can actually see each character–Franny, Mrs. Turton, Justin, in my friends 16 years ago. I can relate to how Suzy’s friendships with people have turned out. At some parts in this story, I found myself close to tears, where it reminded me of how me and my own “Franny” have drifted apart through the years.

I was thankful that Suzy later on found a new friend in Mrs. Turton, and Justin just like the way I found new friends in my former Computer Subject Teacher, and guy bestfriend (a classmate) who was like Suzy’s Justin to me. So you must imagine how I can really relate to Suzy. 🙂

Dislike:

I hated Franny when she chose Aubrey and Molly over Suzy. She was Suzy’s only friend and she left her. It broke my heart during the time when she let Suzy eat alone on their table, when she lied about not being home and only inviting Aubrey and Molly over which Suzy found out.

About the Ending:

Suzy failed on her attempt to go to Australia to get to Jamie, an expert about Jellyfish. She thought Jamie could help her answer her questions on Franny’s death. The failure seem to get her the closure she needed about Franny’s death. She realized that whether or not she have the answers will not matter anymore, because it will never bring Franny and their friendship back. To finally being able to talk about her plans to get answers helped her to be understood by her family. It somehow helped her accept what has already happened and move on.

She may have lost Franny, but in the end, opening up made her gain new friends– in Mrs. Turton, Justin, and Sarah Johnston.

Favorite Quote:

“Maybe everybody’s end isn’t the day they actually die, but the last time anyone speaks of them. Maybe when you die you don’t really disappear, but you fade into a shadow, dark and featureless, only your outlines visible. Over time, as people forget you, your silhouette gradually fades into darkness until the final time anyone says your name on this planet. That’s when your very last feature –freckled tip of your nose, or heart-top bubble of your lips–fades for good.

If that is true, it is a good reason to hold off saying someone’s name after they die. Because you never know. You never know which time you say it might be the last time. And they will disappear for good.” ~pg. 279

There’s No Place Like Here

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There’s No Place Like Here book cover

Author: Cecelia Ahern
Date Started: 11-July-16
Date Finished: 19-July-16

Book Blurb:
“Since Sandy Shortt’s childhood classmate disappeared twenty years ago, Sandy has been obsessed with missing things. Finding what is lost becomes her single-minded goal –whether it’s the sock that vanished in the washing machine, the car keys she misplaced, or the graver issue of finding people who vanished from their loved ones. Sandy dedicates her work to finding these missing people, offering devastated families a flicker of hope.”

Main Character:
Sandy Shortt

Other Characters:
Jack Ruttle – Sandy’s client whose brother Donal suddenly vanished.
Helena Dickens – a missing person from years ago together with her group of friends. She took Sandy in to her house when Sandy got to their world.
Jenny-May Butler – same age as Sandy. She went missing when they were 10.

Setting: Ireland

Thoughts on the book:
I am amazed. There have been instances that I tend to forgot where I placed my things, and wonder why and when they appear in the same places where I first looked for them. It has always been a mystery why there are airplanes that mysteriously disappear. I cannot remember who told me or where did I read that the story about the Bermuda Triangle could be true and I have believed that.

When I started to read the book and reached the chapter to the place “here”, I find it amazing that someone finally had written about the mysterious place where all the things that we lost could have been lying around all these time. Who would have thought to write a story about where things or persons that mysteriously disappear could be found? No one ever had except Cecelia Ahern.

Setting aside the fact that this story is indeed a fiction, but what if there really is this place like “here”?

In 2012, I bought a ring set and gave the one with the most stones to my beloved grandmother. When she passed away 2 years after, they let me have the ring back. One day I put it somewhere because I had to do something and was afraid it would slip my finger. After then, I could not anymore find that ring. It made me sad, and until now I regret taking it off my finger because I never found the ring until now.

What if there is really this place called “here” which is nothing like any other place? What if those persons who mysteriously just disappear without anybody knowing, and thought to be dead, are still well and alive in another dimension, together with all the things all of us lost – a favorite pen, an old photograph, a watch, my ring, somebody else’s favorite cup, etc.

What if someday those lost people suddenly want to go back to “now”. But what if they do not want to anymore just like Jenny-May Butler?

Like:
I love the story. I can read it again and again.And once again, like most of Ahern’s books, it makes me think. It makes me wonder what if. What if my ring is not really lost but was found in the world of the lost by some lost girl, too? It makes me think if only. If only I could go there not to stay but just to get my lost things..

Dislike:
I cannot think of anything that I dislike about the book. But somewhere in the story I felt sad. When I read about the time when those you left behind in the “now” will come to totally forget about you and you will know it when you can no longer hear your own voice.

About the ending:
Unlike Jenny-May Butler, Sandy Shortt decided to go back to “now” with her years-long question finally answered. In the end, she was able to bring light to Jenny-May’s disappearance and finding out what happened to Jenny-May also helped her in finding herself.

Favorite Quotes:
“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. sometimes we see the way out but wander farther and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger, or the sadness perventing us from returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering; sometimes it’s easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always we are found.” ~pg.416-417.

 

Kafka on the Shore

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Kafka on the Shore book cover

Author: Haruki Murakami
Date Started: 16-Jan
Date Finished: 07-Feb
Pages: 489
Type: Fiction

Book Blurb:
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.”

Main Characters:
Kafka Tamura
Nakata
Other Characters:
The boy named Crow
Sakura – the girl Kafka met on the bus on his way to Shikoku
Oshima – the Librarian in the Komura Library
Miss Saeki – the head librarian
Hoshino – the man who went with and help Nakata on his way to Shikoku
Colonel Sanders – not really a person per se, but he helped Hoshino help Nakata 🙂
Sada – Oshima’s brother
Setting: Japan
Thoughts on the book:
It’s like the story of Oedipus Rex but with so much twist. Kafka’s story has similarities with that of Oedipus Rex’s. Just like Oedipus’ fate, no matter how far Kafka ran away from home (Oedipus was sent away as a newborn) to avoid fulfilling his destiny, he still, ended up meeting his fate. Lesson is that the more we try to run away from our fate, the closer we get to meeting it. We may keep on running away to avoid things but some things will find its way to us no matter how hard we try.
Like:
I liked that the book mentioned about Oedipus Rex. It’s my favorite story in Greek Mythology so it was actually only then that I came to understand Kafka’s father’s prophecy.
I was touched about how Chapter 48 ended. Hoshino, though he’s not one of the main characters, I think would be my favorite. I was always judgmental on his character. I would always think he’d fool Nakata along the way – that he’d leave him somewhere some day or take advantage of the simpleton that Nakata is, but no. He had grown to love the company of old man Nakata and chose to help him finish the mission (of opening and closing the entrance stone) over going back to his job. He became attached to Nakata that he thought he may not be able to forget the old man even if he wanted to. I liked how Nakata has become a part of Hoshino- that even if Nakata’s gone, he will still live in some way in Hoshino.
I also like Nakata’s character. The story teaches us that sometimes, it is with people like Nakata that we can learn so much from. That it’s not always about what you have achieved in life, or how smart you are, that will make you an inspiration. Between Hoshino and Nakata, Hoshino was more educated than Nakata, but just like what Hoshino said, he has learned so much with Nakata. Hoshino teaches us to be humble and patient with other people. For Hoshino, we are all equal. *oh, I’m getting teary-eyed on this part* Sometimes we may think that we are lesser than other people because there are things that many can do but we can’t, but Hoshino reminds us to look deeper and realize that there are also things only we can do.
Dislike:
The story did not explain why Nakata was the chosen one to open and close the entrance stone. Why among the students during his era, he was the only one that was significantly affected by the 1945 incident on the Rice Bowl Hill. Or even how come Kafka’s father had a prophecy about Kafka’s future. Who is Kafka’s father really – a sculptor or a cat killer? I still need to know the connection between Nakata and Kafka. I just could not connect their lives even after I have finished reading the book.
About the Ending:
The truth is, while in the middle of reading this book, I am confused about whether or not I like it. But when I finished reading, I finally appreciated the story and thought that it’s actually a good one. Maybe not the best, but it’s a good story- so much to learn from. That said, if you haven’t read the book, I hope I was able to help you decide whether or not you’d want to try it.
And another thing, right after I closed the book, I suddenly sang,
Oh my life is changing every day.
In every possible way..  (by The Cranberries)
Anyway, I think the story is not meant to be understood. You just have to pick up the lessons in each character’s life.
Favorite Quote:
“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” ~pg.485