Required Reading 2013: September (and then some)

Hello folks, look at that – it’s September! In the Philippines, Christmas preparations start as early as today so I will go ahead and say: Merry Christmas! :P

On another note, August has come and gone, and I read a lot of books this month (compared to last month, anyway) because there were several long weekends in the month. :) I wasn’t able to finish all August books, though, because I got distracted by other shiny little books along the way. Still, no regrets. :D

  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (4/5) – the reread was as charming as the first time. We had our discussion yesterday and it was filled with warmth, especially with all the sibling stories we shared. :)
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July (3/5) – I didn’t like some of the stories, but there were others that were really good ones. Here’s to trying to find time to blog about it soon.

I didn’t touch Jasper Fforde’s book at all, or even made really good progress with A Clash of Kings. Well. But I’m not hurrying anything, so…let’s go to September. :D

Required Reading: September

No particular theme this month, except for that spillover from July. I’ve tried to balance out the serious and lighter books but I don’t even know if I will be able to read them all. Heh. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to try. :D

September 2013 books

  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – our book club’s book of the month. I hope I’m ready for this. XD
  2. A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin – it is my hope to finish this soon, except that I’m still at page 250ish. Not that it’s boring — it’s not. I’m just not in the mood for it for some reason. Oh well, I must soldier on!
  3. The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson – something light to offset the first two. :)
  4. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente – just because the main character’s name is September. :)

Now we go to the “and then some” part of the post. I haven’t really been blogging, obviously, and I think I found out why: I’m not too interested in it anymore. This doesn’t mean I will stop blogging, though — I think maybe I just need a little change. I think I may have outgrown the “One More Page” aspect of this blog.

SO…I am going to apologize in advance if I don’t really blog yet anytime soon, but trust me, I’ve got something going on for this blog. It may include a blog facelift of sorts and even a name change, something to reflect my new reading habits, among other things. :) This won’t take too long, I hope! (Maybe by mid September? :D)

Have a happy reading month, you guys. :)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 181
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

* * *

I wish I could say I’m a huge, huge Gaiman fan like my other friends are, but really, the only Gaiman book I’ve read in my life is Stardust. I read it twice and loved it, and I always associate good memories with that book. I meant to read more Gaiman, but the only other book I have at home is The Graveyard Book, which has been in two of our book club’s polls but kept on losing to other books so I had no reason to pick it up anytime soon. I knew he was one of those really awesome authors (plus he has the most awesome New Year’s messages), and I know I had to read more of his works but it just doesn’t really come up in the priority list. So when my friends started raving about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I was only mildly curious.

Until I saw the book, touched it and realized how pretty the physical copy was. Needless to say, after a few moments of touching the cover, I went ahead and bought the book. Yes, I am easily swayed like that.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a short book, about an unnamed narrator who visits his childhood home and goes to the end of the road, where he remembers his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. It started with a man who lived with them who committed suicide, and then all sorts of weird things happened after that, trapping him in a bizarre world that has enchanted his family. It’s too much for a little boy to deal with on his own, except that he wasn’t really alone because his new friend Lettie promised to protect him at all costs.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane held me captive from the first page. It had a lovely sort of storytelling that was comforting and creepy at the same time — you know it’s not real, but there’s that fear of the things that our hero is getting himself into. I liked how honest and quiet the narration is, how the hero as a boy tried to make sense of things and be brave, even if things are getting creepier and creepier. You can feel all the doubt and worry and fear in him, and I wanted so much for him to prevail, for him to find a way out of things and save his family. It felt a little bit like a fairy tale, with how everything was set up, but also not so much, because there were really some frightening instances. Not scary in the sense of ghosts, or how horror movies were scary, but more of I’m so scared for you type of terror.

I think my favorite part of the entire story is the hero’s friendship with Lettie. It’s easy to nitpick on the Hempstocks and their abilities, but I won’t because other reviewers have done that already. I’d like to focus more on how Gaiman wrote the friendship — it was my most favorite part of the book. I liked how Lettie stood by him and protected him up to the end. It made the ending a lot more bittersweet, and full of heart. Yes, heart. That’s the right word to use — especially with what I one of the Hempstocks said to the hero near the end of the book:

I think you’re doing better than you were the last time we saw you. You’re growing a new heart, for a start.

Suffice to say that after reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I will start working on reading more Gaiman. If all his books has the same kind of lovely storytelling, then I certainly don’t want to miss out. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
marginalia
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories

Required Reading 2013: August

Well July was interesting, and long. Don’t you think so?

And of course, I rarely blogged again, except I wrote one more extra entry in July than I did in June, so that’s something. It’s not like I have a lot of books to review, anyway, because I haven’t been a fast reader recently.

So here’s what I finished for July from my Required Reading list:

  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (4/5) – I really liked this – all that I expected of Dessen, which was very comforting because it felt like I was coming home (or at least, going to a very familiar summer vacation place).
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (3/5) – I was a buzzer beater in finishing this for our discussion. It was good — I loved the writing, but I’m not exactly a huge fan of the story. Still a good start for GGM for me. Not entirely convinced I’d read all his other books, but I’m open to it in the future.

I totally slacked off on A Clash of Kings, and I feel really bad because my buddies are pretty much on track while I’m still on the fourth chapter. Ooops. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood yet? I’ll keep on reading, though — don’t worry about me, buddies! :)Required Reading: August 2013

But anyway, August. I call August a blank slate month, because it feels like I’m starting anew with so many things. This month’s book selections are a bit of a mix, and I honestly just grabbed some books off my shelf without thinking too much about it. :D

August 2013 books!

  • Reread: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – TFG’s book of the month. I read this in 2010, and I’m looking forward to reading this heartwarming story again. :)
  • Spillover: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin – I’m not giving up on this! I hope to finish this by mid-August. :)
  • Borrowed: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July – borrowed this from Bennard, after I saw him give this 4 stars. I love the title, and the simple cover, and this one passage from the first story, The Shared Patio:

    Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it’s worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.

    Sigh.

  • Beloved: The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde – I think it’s about time I read the latest Thursday Next novel. :)

I have a feeling GRRM will take up most of my time and I will probably not finish one of these books on time, but I can always hope. :) Just keep reading, just keep reading!

Oh and because it’s also Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) in the Philippines for August, I will be throwing in local stuff in the mix, at least, the light ones that will help me cleanse the palate every now and then. :) I will also hold some giveaways for new books released by my classmates in #romanceclass, so wait for those posts! (Promise, I’ll post about them :D)

I hope you have a fine reading August, friends. :)

Icon of the Indecisive

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. EsguerraIcon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra
Interim Goddess of Love # 1
Publisher: Bright Girl Books
My copy: review copy from the author

College student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

* * *

So at the end Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra, I was pretty much sad for Hannah, and I was wondering what will happen next. I won’t explain why I was sad, but if you’ve read a lot of trilogies like I do, second books usually end on a sad/cliffhanger note, so it was kind of expected. I was very, very glad to hear that Mina planned to release Hannah’s third and last book, Icon of the Indecisive, early, because I need to know what will happen next!

Slight spoilers for the first two books starts here! The story opens on Valentine’s Day, the day when Hannah as the Interim Goddess of Love, will become most busy. Hannah is a little bit tired of handling other people’s love problems, and she wants to focus on her own this time around. But since Quin is supposed to fall in love with an extraordinary human girl, Hannah figures may it’s time to give Robbie the Cute Human a chance. But Quin’s acting just a little strange lately. Not to mention there’s Vida, who still hasn’t explained what she did to Hannah, and Diego, who asks strange things of Hannah. How will Hannah ever focus on her own life now? Spoiler warning ends here.

Let’s just say this book had me…er, squeeing more than half the time. Hee. There were many, many things I wanted to ask at the end of the second book, but I’m very glad to report that this third book delivers. Questions were answered here, and loose ends were tied up nicely, with a lot more explanations to what the gods and goddesses can do. I liked that Hannah can do more goddess-y stuff here, and that we get to see her grow more here with her own decisions in life. I like that there’s more Robbie the Cute Human here (because he is a cute human :D), and there’s just a lot more swoon here.

As far as the ending goes…I got the ending I wanted. But it’s not just that, and I liked the message about how these characters will get to that ending. I won’t say anything more, but if we’ve talked about these books lately, then you’ll know why I was very happy with how this ended. Very happy. <3

Okay, I was partially squeeing there, did you notice? I actually got to read the book waaay earlier than the release because Mina asked me to be a part of the Interim Goddess of Love audio commentary (with Chachic, Chris and Meann) that you can download here. Not only do you get to hear us talk, but you also get to hear some juicy trivia about the series. But listen to it after you’re done with the series, because you don’t really want to be spoiled. :)

If you want something cute, light with so many #feels, or if you just want an easy introduction to Filipino fiction with a bit of Filipino folklore, make sure you pick up the Interim Goddess of Love series. And lucky you who won’t have to wait long to see how Hannah’s story ends. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories
Chachic’s Book Nook

Reviews of other Interim Goddess of Love books:
#1 Interim Goddess of Love
#2 Queen of the Clueless

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Number of pages: 846
My copy: paperback, Christmas gift from Aaron

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

* * *

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is one of those books that passed by my radar, and I briefly considered reading it because I knew some people liked it…until I saw its length. Then I walked away, thinking that this is probably one of those books that I will not read anytime soon, and I would be quite content not to read it within my lifetime since it’s too thick, and I’m not exactly a huge fantasy reader anyway.

But you know what’s the most effective way for me to read a book that I never thought I’d be reading ever? Peer pressure. Or, give it to me as a gift. That is exactly what my friend Aaron did last Christmas, and I always make it a point to read the books gifted to me. The good thing is, he also gave a copy of this book to other friends in the book club, so we formed a little reading group for this last April to get us through this chunkster together.

It’s not that I was really intimidated by it. After all, I finished the tome that is Les Misérables. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is like, 700 pages less than Victor Hugo’s book. This should be easy.

It’s the 19th century, and magic has been long dead in England. Or so people thought, until an English gentleman named Gilbert Norrell showed everyone that magic is not dead. He becomes the only magician in England for a moment, helping the English government win in the Napoleonic wars, and maybe raising a certain dead woman on the side, too. Then another magician comes – young Jonathan Strange, who becomes Mr. Norrell’s apprentice. But the two of them are as different as night and day: while Norrell relies on books and follows magic to the letter, Strange likes to play with it, try new things and maybe even find a way to summon the Raven King just to learn more about magic. Clashing personalities, fairies, prophecies, war and a ton of footnotes follow these two magicians,

I finished reading this book in 34 days, 4 days late than the supposed reading schedule. I figure I would have finished this earlier if my April wasn’t so busy, because Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is quite engaging. The old English language wasn’t so hard to understand, and we get treated to interesting characters and situations from the start. I honestly had no idea what the book was about when I started reading it except that it was about these two people on the title, and for a moment I thought Strange was Mr. Norrell’s biographer. Heh. The book isn’t just about magic, though, or just the two gentlemen. If it was, then it would’ve been far shorter, yes? This is part historical (or alternate history, rather), so I found myself in a lot of war scenes in the book that were far more interesting than the ones I read in Les Misérables. Case in point: I slogged through the Waterloo part of Les Mis but breezed through the one here, because of Jonathan Strange. It is true: magic makes things more interesting. ;)

Another thing that I can’t not mention about this book is the footnotes, and the sheer amount of them. I don’t mind footnotes — in fact, I find them quite fun when I encounter them in books. Granted, they were distracting, especially when they span pages and pages in the book, just like how it was in this book. Theyr’e not really important, but as some of my buddies said, it provided a richer reading experience of Strange and Norrell’s story.

I enjoyed reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I really did. Perhaps my only gripe in this book is how it really dragged at some point. It wasn’t exactly boring — not as boring as say, that chapter on Parisian slang in Les Mis, or the part about the sewer — but man did they drag. The second volume was interesting, but it took a really long time before some things really started happening. I suppose, like Les Mis, it adds more texture to the story, but it can get pretty tiresome after some time. Let’s get moving, please.

I have to hand it to the author, though, because when things started happening, they really started happening. Then I find that I can hardly put it down. While I wouldn’t exactly describe the last part unputdownable, the action made me want to just keep reading because I need to know how it ends. I liked how the ending wrapped up a lot of the loose ends in the first parts, but not without leaving a few more to leave the readers longing a little. Getting to the end was slightly bittersweet because I spent a lot of time in their world, and also just because of that ending.

So while there were some dragging parts, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was quite enjoyable, even for someone who was peer pressured to read it. ;) It’s a happy kind of peer pressure, though! And yeah, add me to the list of people who’s excited to see its BBC adaptation. I’m quite excited to see how they’d show the magic on the screen…and that man with thistle-down hair. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
marginalia