Rabu, 25 November 2015

Alienated by Melissa Landers [review]

Title: Alienated (Alienated #1)
Author: Melissa Landers
344 pages
First published: 2014
Genre: Sci-fi, romance

"It took surprisingly little to destroy an ecosystem. Thickening plant life would block sunlight and deoxygenize the water, and once the chemical makeup changed, it was only a matter of time before the water became unfit for consumption. Rainfall wouldn't generate enough to support all of Earth's life-forms, and humans would die painfully, battling for whatever drops remained." -- Chapter 18

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term alien (n) means a creature that comes from somewhere other than the planet Earth. Moreover, the term alienate (v) refers to 'to cause (someone) to feel that she or he no longer belongs in a particular group, society, etc'. Thus, the title of the book actually can mean 2 things; a book about alien or a book about someone who is being shunned. Interestingly, it is a book about both.

Alienated is the title of the blog that was written by our main character in this book, Cara Sweeney. She was a readheaded girl with a temper to match her fiery hair, and vibrant blue eyes. She was a very competitive girl and the smartest student of Midtown High School. No wonder she was also the valedictorian and an excellent debater. This was why she was chosen to be an exchange student with.....wait for it....yeah, right, with another student form another planet!

Aelyx, a very intelligent student from Aegis in planet L'eihr (an alien planet that was able to contact planet Earth 2 years ago and the creatures had the same DNA pattern with humans of Earth) came to live with Cara under the same roof, before the girl leaves for L'eihr the following year.

"Supposedly, their planet was way older than Earth, and all races sort of blended together thousands of years ago. Thenbthey started evolving. Or mutating." -- Chapter 3

The first few days of living with the Sweeneys, Aelyx was cold and distant. He couldn't bear Earth's vibrant colors in autumn, he couldn't stomach Earth's food with strong seasonings, he even couldn't stand the music. He despised the whole exchange student thing and planned to sabotage it with his other two friends, Syrine and Eron, who came to Earth in the same program as Aelyx.

Cara, on the other hand, who really needed the scholarships from this exchange program, tried her hardest to be a good host for Aelyx. She even asked her Mom to decorate Aelyx's room in L'eihrian style and tried to recreate weird food from L'eihr. This made Aelyx felt more than grateful towards the girl, a feeling that was very alien to him because for generations, L'eihrs did not portray emotions.

"Our sky isn't blue. It's grey. The shade changes as the days goes on." -- Chapter 5

While Aelyx and Cara's relationships goes from acquaintances to close friends, the girl must suffer broken heart because her boyfriend and bestfriend dumped her and they joined an extreme organization of L'eihr haters. Cara even receives threatening notes in her locker, and being ignored by the whole school population. Things escalated when accidents started to happen to her and her friends and family.

"Our last war ended thousands of years ago. Your wars in the Middle East have barely ceased, and already there's conflict shimmering again. Humans have yet to move beyond the cycle of aggression ." -- Chapter 9

I read this book because the cover is beautiful. I know, I'm a sucker for pretty covers. But come on, the sparkling stars all over it? I just had to read it. And also, because of the synopsis. I mean exchange student with another planet. Hello....this theme has not been written before. It's very unique and original and it sounds bizarrely interesting.

At first, I didn't expect much from this book. Even after I read 50% of it, I was only "okay" with the story because so far, the story is very YA with a lot of teenage stuffs, and high school problems, which for me, are not really interesting. And romance. Big chunks of romance is not really my favorite. But hey, after about 60%, things getting interesting because the problems are getting bigger and bigger, and even the romance is getting hotter, and it was successful in making me laugh out loud because of some funny scenes. I mean, really laugh. Seriously, this book is really funny -- the humour and sarcasm from the writer are golden.

But something really serious happened in the 80% of the book that turned my opinion of the book upside down. I thought this book was about all funny things, teenage things and blah blah blah...but wow! It can get really serious. Like murder serious. Like dead serious. Like war serious. And it just made me like "whaaaaaaaattttt...!!!!???". That was pretty much my reaction. Honest. But I'm not talking about it. You have to read it yourself to get that effect, heheheeh...

Honestly, this book is more about romance than sci-fi, but it's okay because I think it is well-written and unique. Remember romeo and juliet? Two people who fell in love despite their different families? Yeah, this book takes star-crossed-lovers theme to a new extreme! Woohooo...

Another thing that I like about this book, is I think the topic that was brought (either intentionally or not) by the author is about differences. About human nature and that humans are still afraid of something different...afraid of someone different. Remember our histories about war in our beloved planet? Most of them were caused by different ideologies, skin colors, tribes, countries, races, and religions....sadly, until now. The book shows how people are afraid of other species, aliens, and took it to an extreme. The book actually made me realize that, in essence, we are all humans and children of Earth, brothers and sisters despite our differences. Silly things that differenciate us now, such as skin colors or races, who knows, in thousands of years in the future, just like in L'eihr, we will mix with each other, and there will only one race in this world. Thank God we still have differences to make our life colorful, don't you agree? :-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading it eventhough the pace is not fast enough for me in the first half of the book. But I had a lot of fun, anyway, so... 4 out of 5 stars for this book for making me laugh.

See ya in the next review, guys!

Senin, 23 November 2015

Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder [review]

Title: Poison Study (Study #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
First published: 2005
Genre: Fantasy

In Ixia, the Code of Behavior and the rules are absolute: if you kill a person, no matter the reason, even in self-defence, you are executed. The strict Commander Ambrose (highest rank in the country) ensured it that way since the takeover years ago.

Yelena was going to face her execution when the Commander's right-hand man (who also happens to be a trained assassin and a poison master) named Valek offered her a chance to live... sort of. She was offered the position of being the Commander's food taster for poisons.

Her new life of being the food taster was not a picnic. She was given a poison named Butterfly's Dust, and had to be given an antidote every morning to avoid painful death, by Valek. Under Valek's strict training, she became the best food taster in Ixia. But not all people were happy with Yelena's new position.

General Brazell was very determined to have Yelena killed for revenge of his dead son by the girl's hands. He ordered several of his personal guards to hunt the girl, forcing Valek to step up and protect Yelena to an extreme; she was to live in Valek's personal quarters.

On the other hand, General Brazell was not the only one who wants Yelena killed. The poor girl must suffer an abundance of murder attempts by a Southern Magician lady, a torturer from Yelena's past who turned out to be a powerful Magician too (named Mogkan), an opposition underground organization lead by a woman named Star, and a Captain in Commander's guard. Lucky for her, Valek was always there to help her. These things also forced her to learn self-defence with Ari and Janco (two guards who were promoted to captains and acted just like Yelena's older brothers).

Things got more confusing when weird things kept happening to Yelena (like hearing buzzing sounds in her ears in the face of dangers, and seeing the ghost of the man that she had killed everywhere), and the Commander started to act weird. And of course, just like any other stories out there, the main characters to the rescue and save the day blah blah blah will happen in the end.

I actually read this book because of a recommendation by a certain booktuber that I follow on youtube (I follow a lot, so please don't ask me which one). I looked it up on Goodreads an it has four point some stars, so I guess, yeah whatever, I'll try reading it. It's an old book, anyway. But funny thing is, it hasn't been translated into Bahasa Indonesia although it was first released like a decade ago. Huh, so that's why only a few BBI friends read it, then.

Anyway, I actually intended to read it slowly, as a bed time story (like maybe 10% a day before bed, because I read it in ebook version, and it has no pages, only percentage), but after only 20% , I could not stop reading it. I didn't expect it to be that good, like omygod really good I like it so much now I'm rambling...
Okay, focus. Huft...

So why do I like it?

It has a badass heroine. Able to jump literally from tree to tree, able to use bow and knife, able to kill, and literally kick some ass. Pardon my language. She's very determined, and definitely not a damsell in distress although she needs rescuing from time to time. So, check!

It has an assassin, which is, I know he was like 33 years old man in the story, but come on... 30 years something for men is really like golden age. It is the stage where a man is at his most stunning appearance. Take a look at many Hollywood actors. Even Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are still smoking hot in their fifties. Damn. Sorry. Pardon my language again. But you have to understand that Valek is like a dream come true; cold but caring, agile and basically able to do anything! Yum...

It has a fast pace of the story. Like super duper lightningy (is that even a word?) fast like you wouldn't believe. Some people say it's too fast, but for me it's just perfect. I like fast movements *wink*

It's a complete package of fantasy story. Eventhough the title is Poison Study, thank God it's not actually a book full about poison. Otherwise, it would be a Poison Encyclopedia, hehehee... It has magic, ghost, action full of killings and kicking and stabbing and slashing, you name it. It has assassination, murder, intrigue, politics, friendship, romance, mind control, and of course poison! I couldn't ask for more.

Anyway, I gave this book 4,5 stars out of 5.
It is really good if you're into fantasy and fast pace.
Enjoy! :-)

Jumat, 20 November 2015

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton [review]

Judul asli: The Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island
Series number: first
Author: Enid Blyton
Illustrator (original): Eileen Soper
First published in 1942

Tiga kakak beradik Julian, Dick dan Anne batal pergi ke Polseath untuk berlibur musim panas seperti biasanya. Setelah orangtua mereka menghubungi Paman Quentin dan Bibi Fanny, mereka memutuskan untuk menghabiskan musim panas di Pondok Kirrin bersama paman, bibi, serta sepupu mereka Georgina yang belum pernah mereka temui.

Ketiga kakak beradik tersebut sangat bersemangat bertemu sepupu mereka yang sepantaran itu, terutama Anne karena sama-sama anak perempuan. Tak disangka, meskipun pondok di tepi laut itu sangat homey dan bibi Fanny menyambut mereka dengan ramah dan menyuguhi mereka makanan-makanan enak, namun paman Quentin terkesan sangat galak dan Georgina terkesan angkuh.

Anne bahkan lebih kecewa karena Georgina sama sekali tidak seperti anak perempuan kebanyakan yang gemar bermain boneka dan memakai gaun yang cantik. Sepupu mereka lebih suka dipanggil George, berambut pendek, memakai celana dan bertingkah layaknya anak laki-laki. Singkat kata, George adalah anak yang super tomboy. Terlebih lagi George tidak menerima kedatangan sepupu-sepupunya dengan tangan terbuka. Dia adalah anak tunggal yang terbiasa melakukan segalanya sendiri, dan tidak terbiasa berbagi dan bersosialisasi.

Setelah melakukan beberapa hal bersama-sama, seperti mengajak Tim (anjing milik George yang dititipkan ke seorang anak nelayan) berjalan-jalan, melihat shipwreck, dan mengunjungi pulau Kirrin (pulau kecil milik George dan keluarganya, lengkap dengan reruntuhan kastil tua), George bisa menerima keberadaan Julian, Dick dan Anne, dan bahkan berteman dengan mereka.

Petualangan besar mereka terjadi saat mereka mengunjungi pulau Kirrin.  Mereka sempat terjebak badai, dan harus bernaung di reruntuhan kastil di pulau itu sampai badai reda. Namun badai yang mengejutkan adalah badai tersebut berhasil membuat shipwreck milik leluhur George yang tadinya ada di dasar laut, terangkat ke permukaan dan terdampar di antara batu karang. Tentu saja keempat anak dan anjing mereka yang gatal akan petualangan langsung menggeledah shipwreck tersebut.

Singkat cerita, mereka berhasil menemukan sebuah kotak tua milik leluhur George, dan peta harta karun!

Okeeeey, membaca cerita ini lagi itu ibaratnya seperti walking down the memory lane. Pada jaman dahulu kala.....saat bumi tak sepanas saat ini, ada seorang gadis kecil yang masih duduk di bangku sekolah dasar (iya itu maksudnya saya. Puass? Puasss?). Gadis kecil itu, yang saat itu berusia kira-kira sembilan tahun, tidak tertarik dengan game2 seperti nintendo yang saat itu sedang marak di kalangan anak seusianya. Gadis kecil itu meminta buku pada ibunya. Sang ibu yang adalah seorang guru di SMA, tentu saja meminjam buku-buku dari perpustakaan tempat beliau mengajar. Setumpuk buku dibawanya; ada lima sekawan, lupus, trio detektif Alfred Hitchcock juga buku-bukunya Agatha Christie. Nah, kira2 inilah salah satu buku yang sempat dibacanya kala itu.

Umur segitu memang pas banget untuk membaca kisah petualangan di sebuah pulau dan kastil tua. Maksud saya, ayolah, siapa sih yang saat itu tidak mau menjelajahi kastil tua, berburu harta karun dan menemukan batangan emas? Saya kira hampir semua anak melewati pirate stage dech, hehehe.... *tunjuk hidung sendiri* Jadi wajar saja saya menganggap buku ini bagus sekali.

Saking terkesannya dengan buku ini kala itu, saya memutuskan untuk membaca ulang. Kali ini sengaja dengan yang versi bahasa enggres, biar gregetnya lebih terasa dan bisa membandingkan gitu maksudnya.

Jujur, saya kaget banget waktu membaca ulang kisah ini. Kenapa tidak sebagus yang ada di ingatan saya saat itu????
Oh, well, jelas iya laaah...saya sudah dewasa. Pola pikirnya sudah tidak seperti anak umur sembilan tahun, tentu sekarang saya menganggap buku ini agak hambar, padahal dulu sangat wow.

Dalam hal bahasa, novel ini menggunakan bahasa yang saat ini, yah, sudah tidak lazim digunakan. Kata-katanya terlalu formal untuk dipakai di masa sekarang. Tapi asyik sekali lho membayangkan orang-orang jaman dulu benar-benar berbicara layaknya di novel ini, hehehe... well, it's classic, what d'you expect? Duh...

Ada dua kata yang sampai membuat saya bengong, karena baru kali ini melihatnya digunakan dalam konteks seperti ini; gay dan queer.
Mungkin karena saya kurang piknik ya, atau terlalu banyak membaca buku-buku modern jadi kaget melihat ada kata-kata itu tercetak di buku terbitan tahun 1942 (bahkan Indonesia kita tercinta belum merdeka lho). Saya sampai mengecek kamus, ngoahahaaa..

Berikut contohnya dalam kutipan:

"Rose climbed over the front of it, and the garden was gay with flowers." -Chapter 1

"Isn't she queer -- not waiting to welcome us -- and not coming in to supper -- and not even in yet!" - Chapter 2

"She's awfully queer, I think. She says she didn't want us to come because we'll interfere with her." - Chapter 2

"They thought she qas the queerest girl they had ever known." - Chapter 3

"It would be marvellous to visit the queer little island." - Chapter 5

"It felt very queer and mysterious." - Chapter 5

Contoh di atas hanya sebagian karena masih banyak penggunaan kata queer di buku ini. Jaman sekarang kebanyakan orang tidak memakai dua kata yang saya sebut karena pergeseran makna. Sekarang dua kata tersebut merujuk pada kaum homoseksual. Namun dari banyaknya pengulangan kata itu di buku ini, bisa disimpulkan dahulu kata tersebut masih sering digunakan karena artinya belum seambigu sekarang. Sebenarnya hal ini sering sekali terjadi pada semua bahasa yang hidup (istilah untuk sebuah bahasa yang masih digunakan manusia, dan masih terus berubah dan berkembang).

The Characters

Bicara sebuah novel, apalagi yang klasik seperti ini, tentu tidak lengkap jika tidak membahas masalah karakter. Oke, langsung saja:

Julian adalah "leader" dari grup lima sekawan ini karena memang yang paling tua, dan cowok. Cowok beneran, bukan kayak George yang cowok jadi-jadian, hehehee... Dia penyayang dan perhatian terhadap adik-adiknya. Dia juga tipe orang yang berani mengakui kesalahan (berjiwa ksatria) karena mengaku pada paman Quentin bahwa dia yang melempar box tua yang mereka temukan di bangkai kapal.

Dick adalah adik kandung dari Julian, yang mengalami perubahan karakter, karena dia digambarkan sebagai "cry-baby" oleh Anne beberapa tahun lalu, namun dialah sang "pahlawan" di akhir cerita di novel ini.

Anne ini karakter yang saya paling tidak suka. Kenapa? Yaampun dia itu sok imut, sok cantik dan manja abis! Cintphnya, ada adegan dia disuruh menyimpan rahasia, berkali-kali anak ini membocorkannya. Ember banget deh pokoknya, bermulut besar. Gampang panik, dan di keseluruhan cerita seperti tidak bisa diandalkan. Tipe-tipe cewek damsell in distress, dan saya yg penyuka tipe karakter wanita tangguh tentu otomatis tidak suka sama dia, heheee...

George perubahan karakternya bagus, karena dia yang tadinya anti sosial, bisa mempercayai teman-temannya. Ini memang karakter yang sepertinya dibuat paling "unik" oleh si penulis karena merupakan seorang cewek yang sangat "in denial" bahwa dia terlahir cewek, hehehee...

Aunt Fanny digambarkan sebagai bibi yang baik hati, ramah, pintar masak, dan taat kepada suami. Saking taatnya sampai agak plin plan waktu George kecewa bahwa pulau Kirrin akan dijual dan aunt Fanny seperti bingung sendiri, di satu sisi beliau sudah memberikan pulau itu ke George, di sisi lain, dia harus tunduk pada suami. Tapi menurut saya karakter ini kurang dieksplor. Mungkin karena kemunculannya yang tidak banyak di buku pertama ini.

Uncle Quentin adalah orang yang menurut saya "dangkal". Dia ilmuwan yang sibuk, jika ada yang berisik, dia akan mengusirnya. Sedikit-sedikit memberi hukuman, tidak ramah, dan seperti menyombongkan "aku ini si kepala keluarga! Aku yang bikin aturan!" Kesannya seperti tipikal suami jaman duluuu (iyalah settingnya aja tahun 1942 woy!). Jujur ya, saya jadi ingat almarhum Mbah Kakung yang juga strict seperti tokoh paman ini. Hehee... Tapi waktu di akhir cerita paman Quentin ini berubah ramah karena tiba2 punya harta warisan, beuh...kesannya dia mata duitan bangetttt....

Anyway, novel ini ternyata sudah pernah di film kan pada tahun 1957 dan disutradarai oleh Gerard Landau. Iya, saya juga nggak kenal dia siapa. Bahkan pada tahun itu ibu saya belum lahir, ngoahahaa...

Oh, iya, sekilas mengenai penulis, Enid Blyton ini lahir pada tanggal 11 Agustus tahun 1897 di London dan meninggal pada tanggal 28 November 1968 di London juga. Karya2nya luar biasa banyak dan terkenal, dan kebanyakan tentang anak-anak, karena beliau juga seorang guru. Jika mau lihat dramatisasi kisah hidupnya, ada lho filmnya produksi BBC tahun 2009, dan diperankan oleh Helena Bonham Carter (si pemeran Bellatrix Lestrange di Harry Potter) yang judulnya Enid.

Semoga postingan saya bermanfaat bagi teman2 semuanya. Bye... :-)

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