Required Reading: July 2015

These are the books that I read last month (and some that spilled over this month):

1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd –  (3.5/5) An enjoyable and easy to read coming-of-age story that also tackles issues on discrimination towards black people. Feminism and information about bees also caught my attention.

2. number9dream by David Mitchell – (5/5) Again, I was greatly entertained by David Mitchell. Beautiful writing and I love his different narrative styles in each chapter.

3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – (3/5) Maybe this  genre, crime noir, is not my cup of tea. Or maybe because I really don’t like Brigid? Haha! Still, this novel is worth reading and I think it’s amusing to have met Sam Spade.

4. The Quiet American by Graham Greene – (4/5) Our book club’s book for July. I enjoyed reading the history, the politics, America’s role in the French war in Vietnam plus the rivalry between the narrator and “The Quiet American”. I hope I could catch up with our book club’s online discussion. 🙂

5. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini – (4/5) A young adult book that will make the reader be more aware of suicide and depression. Funny and entertaining yet it teaches essential points regarding mental issues. I feel sad about the death of the author though.

And for the remaining days of July, these are the books that I intend to read:

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – A winner of the Man Booker Prize for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge voted by you thru this poll.

2. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card – I have to read about Ender Wiggin again. This is recommended by two of my dearest friends. 😀

3. Paper Towns by John Green – Because the movie will be released this month!

I’ve been busy lately so this post is kinda late, again. Hehe! But at least, I can still set aside time for reading. 🙂

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Book Thoughts: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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“Even later, on the thirteen nights that followed this one, instinctively they stuck to the Small Things. The Big Things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to the small things.”

The God of Small Things is the first and only novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy. This novel is a story about the childhood experiences of the twins Rahel and Estha whose lives are destroyed by the “Love Laws” that lay down “who should be loved, and how. And how much.” I’ve been planning to read this for a long time since this is a favorite of my friend whose opinion and taste in books I respect. Then it became our book club’s book last March so I finally had a chance to read it. And love it.

The structure of the plot is complex and very unconventional. It started with the coming home of Rahel then shifted to their childhood when their cousin died. The setting then kept on shifting back and forth, shifting of past and present, stories interlacing and blending. I’ll admit, this narrative is not easy to follow. Sometimes it’s confusing. In the beginning, we know bad things will happen but we don’t know how and why they happened. Within the shifting, there were flashbacks of memories with signs. I think there is beauty in this mystery that held my attention, kept me looking for signs until everything was revealed near the end. Understanding dawns on us as we read.  I think the non-linear storytelling improves the reader’s understanding as knowledge of the future provides more meaning to what happened in the past. After sometime, I enjoyed the jumping of the story-line at random points in the characters’ lives and figured out the story from there.

There are a lot of characters in this novel but I felt that I know them all well. The narrative is told in a way that we learn about each of the members of their family. And also of Velutha and his father, who are workers in their factory and even of Kochu Maria, a family servant. Even though we mostly see the novel from Rahel’s perspective, we get a decent view of each character’s motives and back-stories.

The connection of the twins is also interesting. How when they were children, they’re close and understand each other, as if they’re just one person.  I like how the story was told in the children’s point of view in the past with their innocence and imagination. How they created their own language, linking words, reading them backwards, and using odd capitalization. These words acquired deeper meaning. It’s as if the twins are telling us that they’re important so we should remember them. How they both endured the sufferings in their childhood. And how they were separated until they were reunited again in the present. The guilt they must have felt but with the realization that “You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against.”

There’s a lot of symbolism used in this story. The pickles, Papachi’s moth, The History House, Rahel’s watch, Small Things, Big Things, etc. I will not try to analyze them here but they are good hints to the story line. Through this novel, I also became more aware, or let’s say, I was reminded again of the injustice and hypocrisy in our society. Communism and Marxism, the caste system, different sexual freedom of men and women, and colonialism. This is a drama about love, pain, lies, misunderstanding, discrimination and family reputation. All these things echoed through the years; what happened during childhood have haunted the twins through time.

I read this more than three months ago but while writing this, it still evokes a lot of feelings. Tortured Velutha, Sophie Mol’s death, the effect to the twins and what they did in the end. This novel is heartbreaking, tragic and cruel. But with the unique narrative and those jumping timelines, I applaud the author’s choice of the ending. Affirmation of true love, setting aside other people’s judgments. Sticking to the “Small Things”. Waiting for each “Tomorrow.” Brilliant!

(5/5 stars)

Required Reading: June 2015

For last month’s reading:

1. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – (4/5) I love the stories in this collection about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between their inherited culture and their new home. My favorite is A Temporary Matter. I also like Interpreter if Maladies, Sexy and The Third and Final Continent.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – (5/5) I finally finished this tome of English magic. I enjoyed the alternative history around the Napoleonic wars and the footnotes  too.

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – (3.5) The minimalist prose is charming. I think this style is analogous to the simplicity of the story.

While for this month:

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1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – This is our book club’s book of the month under the crime fiction genre. I’m currently listening to an audiobook because June is Audiobook Month!

2. number9dream by David Mitchell – I will be reading this with my David Mitchell buddies. This is our 3rd Mitchell novel.

3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Louize‘s Worst Book last year that I have to read for the I Dare You to Read 2015 challenge hosted by our book club.

These are my books for this month. I hope you’ll have fun with yours!

Book Poll: What Should I Read?

I joined the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. Please help me decide what to read for  “A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade”.

These are my three choices:

1. The Sea by John Banville

2. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I plan to read the winning book in July. Thank you in advance. Hehe! 😛

Books & Places: Balai Tinay in Legazpi City

My conversations with a friend this week have been strewn with a lot of talk about Legazpi so I remembered this post that has been in the drafts for months now.

I went to Naga and Pili in Camarines Sur, and Legazpi in Albay last January. I had a friend in Pili so I wasn’t alone most of the time in CamSur but during the end of my vacation, I have to be alone in Albay. My friend was very nice to drop me at Balai Tinay, the place where I stayed.

Upon arriving, we were awed by the great ambiance of the place and saw this frame of quotes about travel at the reception area of the house.

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Here are some of the quotes from familiar authors:

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Lewis Carroll

It is not down in any map; true places never are.

Herman Melville

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

Henry Miller

Not all who wander are lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien

But this is not a travel blog. Hahaha! So why am I writing this post? My friend and I both love books so imagine how happy we are when we saw these:

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There are a lot of magazines and books scattered in the different parts of the house. We readily look into the collection and found famous titles like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Twisted V by Jessica Zafra and more. There are also a lot of non-fiction books, different editions of the Bible and some Filipiniana literature. I opened some books and turned their pages and I found out that most of the books were owned by a woman named Ging (I’m not sure, I forgot, will edit when I remember. Hehe!). I believe she is a daughter of the owner of the house

I didn’t read any but it was really fun looking at those books and holding them. So even if my friend already left me here alone, I felt comfortable and happy just being surrounded by books. LOL. I brought my own book which I read in peace in the following locations: 😀

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I had a chance to speak to the owner in the morning while having coffee and pandesal (free!) for breakfast. He and the other staff are friendly and will readily assist you in your needs. This place is perfect for a traveller who is looking for a peaceful and relaxing stay. Plus the books! So, need I say more?

Required Reading: May 2015

These are the books that I read last month (and this first week of May):

1. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – (4/5) A graphic novel where the protagonists are angry and bitchy adolescents. Nevertheless, what they are and their friendship felt real.

2. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson – (5/5) A retelling of Peter Pan for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge that made my heart ache for Tiger Lily. Tinker Bell as the narrator is effective.

3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – (5/5) This is my first book from Atwood. I love her writing and her words. I was amazed by the plot and her style of story-telling.

4. The Mythology Class: A Graphic Novel by Arnold Arre – (5/5) A Filipino graphic novel about a group of students on a quest that will make us remember our own folklore and mythology. Kudos to Arnold Arre for this contribution in our local comics industry.

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – (4/5) Our book club’s book for April. This is about family, friendship, love and acceptance. I adore the two boys in this novel and I’m crazy about their parents. 😀

6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – (3/5)  I like that the narration is told in different POVs with jumping timelines and the chapters are divided by morning and night, usually at the same time with the train schedule. I was just not captivated with the storyline in about the last third of the book. A book published this year for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

7. Angelfall by Susan Ee – (3/5) A post-apocalyptic fantasy novel featuring angels.  Angels and their politics are interesting and intriguing but I’m just not into dystopia lately. A book published by an indie press for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

These are the books that I plan to read in the remaining days of this month:

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1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This is in my required reading last month but because of other books I read with some of my friends and required readings for our book club activities, I just read a third of this book. It’s my goal to finish it this month.

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – A buddy read with some of my friends from the book club. I’ve been hearing good things about this short story collection so I think it’s about time to know why.

This is sort of a late post ’cause I’ve  been busy with reading. Maybe next time I should learn to say “no”? Haha! 😛

Book Thoughts: Angelfall by Susan Ee

“The thought of superhuman beings with human temptations
and flaws sends a chill through me.”
 

angelfall

 

Angelfall, the first book in the Penryn & the End of Days series by Susan Ee, is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel featuring angels who attacked our world. Lately, I’ve been holding back in reading dystopian novels because I think I’ve had enough last year but this one is recommended by our book club moderator this month, and I don’t regret reading it.

This is my first time to read a book about angels and I enjoyed reading about them. How they are portrayed in the book is stunning. My favorite scene is in the beginning, the first time Penryn, our narrator, saw angels. Men with wings in different colors. Supernatural beings with their muscled forms. I love that fight scene between the “snowy angel” and the other five, with Penryn and her family watching. This is the event that resulted to Penryn and “snowy angel” Raffe to be together and help each other solve each of their problems.

I like the first chapters, thrilling and interesting enough. The middle part is just okay, not that exciting for me. But the fast-paced action in the ending chapters gripped me and had me turning the pages faster. There are some gruesome scenes that I wish I didn’t read while eating. Yet those disturbing scenes are also the heartbreaking ones. Also, I’m not sold in the romance parts. I think my Romance Grinch friend infected me in some way. LOL!

The ending wants us to believe that the angels are superhuman yet they are flawed. While the frail and struggling humans are still worth to be proud of. I don’t know; I am not that affected. Maybe I’m getting tired of this genre. Even so, angel politics and some concepts about God, the Messenger, archangels and stuff are intriguing enough that I’m still willing to read the next book in the series.

(3/5 stars)