Required Reading: June 2014…or the lack of it

Look at that, May passed by and I say hello to June, but I can still see my Required Reading post from last month!

Really, you have to believe me. I was really all set to get more reading done, to get more books reviewed up here and all that jazz…but life happened. The short version is I applied and got accepted for a new role at work and my relatively relaxed work life went from zero to haywire as I transitioned into the new role. I’ve only been here for almost two weeks and it feels like a month already. How is that?

Oh, and there was also that Japan trip that was all sorts of lovely, and I will blog about it in my other blog…when I get the time. (Hopefully, soon.)

But I did do some reading, mostly at the start of the month. Here are the books I finished:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (5/5) – I had to put this on hold sometime late April, but I picked it up again and I loved everything that happened in the end. I can’t wait for the next book! Gansey! ♥
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/5) – Finished reading this the night before I left for Japan and I was all: !!!!!!!!!!
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) by Pope Francis (4/5) – Chunkier compared to The Light of Faith, and had a bit more technicalities when it comes to preaching, but it was still lovely and very practical. :)
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (3/5) – I read this in the midst of all the craziness at work, because my brain could only handle something light. This wasn’t as light as I thought it would be, but it was still lovely in so many ways.

I am still currently reading the following:

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – really liking this, and now it makes me wonder why I never read this before. Oh, maybe because it suits me better this time. :))
  • To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I marked this as “on hold” on my Goodreads, but I will read this again. As soon as this craziness settles down.
  • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston – I have this on my nightstand, I started reading it, but got distracted by Fangirl.

See, it wasn’t so bad. Except that I’m still getting my footing for my new role and there’s a lot of stuff to do and learn right now that I have put my reading on the backseat. Like on weekends. Or over breakfast. This happens, right?

Required Reading: June 2014

Which brings me to this month’s Required Reading.

Or the lack of it, really.

I was thinking of what books I will read for the month, but then got distracted by the things I needed to do for work. I realized after a while that I’m not sure how much time I will have to read this month because we have major events to focus on at work…so I have decided (and it’s sort of an easy decision, too) to do what I did last March and have no reading list this month.

There. I can’t promise to post updates this month but I will try. Really, I will. Maybe I’ll surprise you guys and myself. But if I don’t…well, don’t worry, I’m just here. :) Here’s to a crazy busy happy June. :)

Les Misérables

Les Misérables Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Publisher: Signet Classics
Number of pages: 1463 (!!!)
My copy: paperback, gift from Angus

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean – the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread – Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart. This Signet Classic edition is a new version translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, based on the classic nineteenth-century Charles E. Wilbour translation.

* * *

Just so you know, I never had any intention of reading Les Misérables. I have a friend who talked about rereading this book last year for research before NaNoWriMo season came around, and I remember vaguely wondering how can one reread such a thick book. I had no intention of reading this, thinking that my life can remain untouched by this tome, until some friends from the book club started a reading support group for the unabridged book. I still didn’t join them, but I applauded them for their efforts. Until…one day, I wandered around the thread, and saw their discussion. And then the briefest of brief thoughts came into my mind: Maybe it won’t be so bad reading such a thick book if you have friends reading with you.

And then, Maybe it’s not so bad. You’ve read A Game of Thrones and The Historian and what’s a few hundred pages more?

Then my friends started inviting me to join them, and I felt like giving in. It could be an interesting challenge, right?

So finally, by end of 2012, I said yes. Angus gave me a copy of the unabridged version and I started reading it by January 1. If you’re like me who has no idea what Les Misérables by Victor Hugo was (I know, I know — I was living under a rock all my life), this is the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who was shown mercy when he least expect it, but is chased by his past even if he tries to change his present. There’s a lot more to the story than that, of course, but that was the main story arc. I never watched any of the musicals, or the first movie with Liam Neeson. I have zero expectations and I knew very little in the story — only fragments of a discussion in a college Theology class, and the knowledge of the song On My Own, because who doesn’t know that song?

The goal was to read as much as I can in the book until we had watch the movie. I wasn’t dreaming of finishing the book before the movie because that gave me about 16 days to just read, but I wanted to reach at least halfway. I didn’t. I watched the movie, got spoiled and tried to read again. My reading progress was slower, because I knew what was going to happen (and this is going to be another post in itself!), but I was in too far into the book to drop it. A half-read book is a half-finished love affair, right?

Until finally, exactly 45 days since I started reading Les Misérables, I finished it.

Les Misérables is long. And sometimes tiresome. And sometimes I wonder what Hugo’s point was in several chapters/books. But besides those things, I must admit: Les Misérables is a beautiful book. There’s so many layers and complexities in this book that’s kind of hard to remember when you’re deep into some of its very boring and tedious chapters, but when you step back and think about what you’ve read with the other parts that that boring part came with, you see that the boring parts sets the stage so the interesting parts become colorful and detailed. For example: I probably could’ve lived without knowing about Paris’ sewer system back then, but I wouldn’t have appreciated Valjean’s attempts to get out of it, just how dire his situation was when he was there. Hugo is talkative, but it ties well together — you just need to have a little more perseverance and slog through the slightly boring parts. (Y’know, just like life. Heh. :P)

If you think watching the movie is enough for you to know what Les Misérables is all about…well, no. There’s so much in the book that wasn’t in the movie and it makes several characters stand out on their own a bit more. For example: Marius in the movie was shown as a revolutionary, but in the book, he wasn’t. Not as much as Enjolras was, anyway. Marius just wanted to show his grandfather that he can make it on his own, and then he falls in love. Which is also another thing — in the movie, Marius and Cosette just made eyes at each other, but in the book, there was a longer and slightly more interesting “courtship” between the two of them. And there were the other characters that we hardly got to know, as well as Jean Valjean’s whole thought process throughout the novel. The book gives the characters and the story so much more depth, making the sad scenes a bit more heartbreaking and the victorious scenes mean so much more.

Les Misérables is long, and arduous at times, but I am so glad I powered through it. It’s totally worth all the lugging around and the times I spent trying to stay focused on the story. It’s a story of forgiveness, mercy and love in all forms – and I personally think we need more stories like this. :)

This is officially the thickest book I’ve read in my life time, and now I feel like I can read any door-stopper now without getting intimidated…

…but maybe not anytime soon. ^^;

Rating:

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Other reviews:
Code Name: Blue

Required Reading 2013: February

As always, I owe this blog a couple of reviews, but it’s not that big of a backlog just yet so I will get to that before I traipse to another country next week. But look, it’s a brand new month, and suddenly it’s February! How can January go by so fast again?

I don’t mind. I find that I am actually starting to like February. When I was younger, I kind of didn’t like it because I swallow a bitter pill every February with all the love in the air. But then I realized I should stop being like that and you know, just bask in the love.

But that’s for a post on the personal blog. A new month means another time for Required Reading! Before I go with my February list, though, here’s a recap of January:

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel (5/5) – I really, really liked this, and I really liked the movie, too. It was a great book to start the year, and I have collected a sizable amount of quotes from this book. Plus, Richard Parker is just …rawr. :3
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (3.5/5) – I normally don’t give half stars, but I’m sort of conflicted between a 3 to 4 for this book, so I will settle for a 3.5 for now. I liked the book a lot, but I realize I may not be totally amazed with it. We had a very great discussion about this, though, and it was a great start to our book club’s year. :)

I’m still reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (p. 1110 out of 1463 — almost done!!!), and Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, so I’m bumping them to February as spillovers. I would’ve just read them in another month but I already started, so let’s just continue reading.

Required reading - February

Now for February, I’ll be moderating our book club’s discussion for the month. It was our first moderator’s pick, and I realize that February will be quite a busy month, so I didn’t want to pick something thick or too challenging. So I went for the easiest pick (for me anyway): romance. Okay fine, it’s not like I’m expert with that genre, but I didn’t want anything too heavy so let’s go for those quick contemporary romance novellas, right? Interestingly, a short story won in the polls, so this month, we’re discussing Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez.

Since it’s just a short story, I wanted to add a bit more challenge in the group, so I came up with a mini challenge — and of course, the theme is still romance. I was kind of surprised with how enthusiastic everyone was and now everyone’s recommending books and movies and TV shows to one another. Oh so much love in the air in our book club!

And so, if it’s not obvious yet, my theme for this month’s Required Reading is love. <3

Required Reading February books

  1. Fourteen Love Stories edited by Jose Dalisay Jr. and Angelo R. Lacuesta – I’ve been eying this book since I saw it on my friend’s shelves, and because it had Dead Stars in it. I wanted this to be our book for discussion, but I had a hard time looking for print copies, so I decided to just go for an ebook copy. It’s been a while since I read an anthology and this seems fitting this month. :)
  2. Every Day by David Levithan – I’ve heard so many good things about this one, so I’m excited about this. I haven’t read all of Levithan’s work, but I really liked The Lover’s Dictionary. We’re buddy-reading this in the club, and I’m really liking a lot of lines in this book.
  3. Boundless by Cynthia Hand – my good friend Kai lent me the ARC because she knows how much I’ve been waiting for this. Liked Unearthly, loved Hallowed, and I am really, really hoping that this book won’t break my heart too much.
  4. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund – I kind of doubt that I’d have time to read this, but I figure I’d throw it in in case I find some time. This is a retelling of my favorite Jane Austen, Persuasion. :)

And again, there are the spillovers – LesMis and Ghostwritten. I have no idea how much I’ll finish this month, but I will try! :) Love, love, and more love, yes? :)

I hope you find lots of love in the books you read this month, too! If you’re participating in this challenge, leave a comment below so I can link you. :)

My friends put up reading lists, too!

Required Reading 2013: January

Aaaaand we’re back! It’s that time of the month were we pick books that we want to read for the rest of the days until the next month comes in. :) With that, I bring back my personal reading challenge, Required Reading. Yay!

Required Reading is a reading challenge that is really about getting some books off the Mt. TBR. Just as the name of the challenge meant, Required Reading is about choosing some books that must be read within the month. It doesn’t have to be the only books you read in a month, but they should be read (or at least, started) before the said month ends.

I had some rules on this last year that really applied to me, but in case other people want to join me, here are the rules:

  • Books chosen for the challenge should be in the current TBR pile as of the month of the Required Reading post. So if you decided to join at March, the books you choose for the month should be in your TBR pile as of February.
  • Galleys and ARCs can be included.
  • Posting reviews aren’t necessary (but don’t you want that out of the way, too?).
  • I’ll be posting a theme every month but you don’t have to follow that. You can choose a theme for yourself if you want to — what’s important is the books that you put there are books that you want to get to reading.
  • Lastly: have fun. If you don’t finish a book, it’s okay! If you finish it, then…feel free to reward yourself with something. Like a new book. :D

Feel free to join anytime, or skip months if you may. This is just a fun challenge, and nothing to be pressured about. Okay? Okay. :)

Required Reading: January

I feel like January is the best time to set reading goals and pick books to read, and I honestly had to resist the urge to pick the 52 books that I plan to read for the rest of the year and go do other things, like check the best selection of custom lapel pins. I felt like choosing them in advance since 52 feels like an easy number compared to say, 100, and I kind of like being OC about it. But since I also like winging it, I had to stop, and had to be content with choosing books for the first month.

I wasn’t so much in touch with the blogging world at the last part of the 2012, but I was in tune with what my friends in the book club are reading. So for January, I’ve decided to go for a Recommended Books from several friends for my list. I trust their tastes, so I’m hoping I would like these books too.

rrjanuary

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – Recommended by my book club. This is our group’s book of the month. It’s going to be fiery discussion, yes?
  2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – recommended by several friends in the club who liked it. Also reading this now to prepare for the movie. I’ve been wanting to read this one since college but I never got myself a copy. I’m honestly looking forward to getting to know the tiger.
  3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – You know, I wouldn’t have decided to read this if our book club did not put up a Support Group for this chunkster. I was checking the threads one day and I saw bits of their discussion, and I felt inclined to join. Angus gave me a copy, so there is no turning back. I’m pretty sure this will spillover to February. Also, yes, I am reading this for the movie, but like I said, I don’t think I’ll finish it on time. :D
  4. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell – Recommended by the Mitchell Mafia in the book club. :D I really enjoyed Cloud Atlas last year, and I’m really looking forward to reading more Mitchell this year.

I wanted to add a fifth one, but I realize that Les Miserables will probably take up most of my time, so I will take it easy. :) I’m reading three at the same time, and I hope I don’t get lost! :D

Share your reading list for January (or posts to your January reading list) in the comments! :)

Say hi to the Required Reading Gang! :D

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in WonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Publisher: Public Domain

Number of pages:  96
My copy: free ebook from Kindle store

I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up with Alice in Wonderland. In fact, I remember being pretty scared of the entire story. I never watched the cartoons or read the book. I felt like it was composed of too much oddities that my mind cannot really handle, and its weirdness borders on fright. I guess I just couldn’t see the “wonder” that this piece of literature has. Maybe I’m the weird one?

But anyway, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic, and a short one at that, so I decided to finally read it just so I can add it to my classics reading challenge this year. I figure it may not be as weird and scary as I thought it was when I was younger, and the ebook is free so there’s no reason for me not to read it.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a novel written in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pen name Lewis Caroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who was bored one afternoon and follows a White Rabbit with a watch down a rabbit hole. She falls into a fantasy land filled with strange, talking creatures such as a talking mouse, lizard, a blue caterpillar who smokes, the sleepy dormouse, and of course, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts who keeps on ordering to remove the heads of random people.

According to the Wikipedia article, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is considered as the best example in the literary nonsense genre. Truth be told, I have no idea what was happening half the time, and what the point of all of it was. I was expecting some kind of plot to unfold, but there really wasn’t. There was just…lots of absurdity. I guess all my fantasy reading was used to a main character having a specific big goal to work on for the rest of the novel with things happening to push the hero/heroine towards that goal. Alice is different. Not really bad different, or even scary different as I thought when I was younger. Just…well, a little bit odder than what I usually read.

I think the format I read it in had an effect with what I read. Since my copy was an ebook, it was devoid of illustrations, and I think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is better read as an illustrated book than just a plain all-words ebook. I think I would have appreciated reading it more if my copy had illustrations like these (photos from Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland site):

I liked it, but I’m still not sure if I really got it. Should I think about what it means or just accept it for what it was? Should I read it again to get it? Or maybe I should watch the cartoon movie? Ah I don’t know. But again, it’s not that it’s bad. Maybe it’s just not for someone who over thinks things, like me. Oh, but the good thing with reading this though, is I don’t think I’m scared of it anymore. :P Our book club moderator says the sequel, Through the Looking Glass is better than this one, so I may also look out for that. :)

Rating: