Required Reading: April 2014

You know what? My decision last March not to set any reading lists was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my reading this year. It was actually so nice not to worry about what I will read, or if I will finish anything that I set myself to read. I picked up whatever book I wanted and read at my own pace. That was definitely refreshing.

So here’s what I read last month:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (5/5) – Definitely one of my favorite reads so far. So many gems in this one. :)
  • The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (3/5) – Fun contemporary YA, with theater and musicals and a writer mom.
  • Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins (4/5) – Heee so much fun and swoon! You can never go wrong with a Kristan Higgins.
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver (3/5) – Finally finished this! I wasn’t as in love with this as I was with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, but I really liked the longer version of Bath, entitled “A Small Good Thing”, here.
  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (3/5) – Still magical and still lovely. I want to go and be lost in Lost Lake, too.
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley (5/5) – This is a retreat book, so I started this on February and ended on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Definitely life-changing. To Jesus, through Mary.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (reread) – A reread because I was asked to moderate a book discussion about this. I liked it better the second time around. :)

See, I read a lot last month! (And of course, I wrote zero reviews for them. Haha)

But now it’s April, and it’s sorta back to the reading list reality. Sort of. I have a reading list, which I bet I wouldn’t be able to follow as strictly because I always get distracted by other shiny books nowadays and I am just a slow reader now, so there. :)

Required Reading 2014 - April

Holy Week falls on April, and I’ve always tried to have a Holy Week theme for my books whenever it rolls around because it sets the right mood. I realized that I didn’t have fiction that’s good for Holy Week this time around (I had the last two Narnia books in 2012 and Iscariot in 2013). But now that I seem to be taking a liking to some non-fiction books, and we keep on talking about some of these titles at SFC meetings, so I figured it’s time to actually read things that the Pope wrote. (And Pope Francis is cool.)

rrapril2014

  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – our book club’s book of the month. :)
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis – because like I said, Pope Francis is cool. And it’s about time I read some encyclicals. And The Joy of the Gospel has joy in it, and it’s my word for 2014. :)
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti – This has been on my TBR for years, and it’s kind of suprising because I love Frank Peretti. I should have started reading this ages ago. :)

I also plan to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but I didn’t put it here because I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it this month. :P

Required Reading: February 2014 + January Recap

Hello, and happy February! How was your January? I hope it was filled with joy and lots of good books. :)

Before I go to the books I read in January, and the books I will read for February, let me talk about some things first. You know, for a change, to shake things up. :D

First off: the Bloggy Birthday Giveaway Winner!

I meant to announce this earlier, but life and work got in the way. Eeps, sorry about that! But thank you to everyone who greeted and left recommendations in my blog’s birthday post. You just made my wish list longer! :) Here are the recommendations:

  • From Goldie: I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman, Airport by Arthur Hailey, Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • From Maria: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
  • From Louize: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • From Bennard: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
  • From Monique: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • From Lynai: Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard
  • From Tin: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • From Chris: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • From Kat: The Devil and Miss Prym by Paolo Coelho

Thanks so much for the recommendations! :) I will find a way to read all of sometime (probably not this year, but I will find a way :P). Thank you so much for the well-wishes for the blog, too.

And now the winner, thanks to random.org:

Chris

Yay, congrats, Chris! I will send you an email about this soon (and figure out what will go in the package :D).

Second: First Book Club Discussion for 2014 + Book Club Feature

Our book club had our first discussion for the year last January 18. We talked about The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and we dared each other to read books. It was a fun afternoon, as always, except that my immune system gave in the middle of the discussion, so I started to get sick by the end of it. Massive headache, followed by my voice going away, perhaps as a sign not to speak! ^^;

TFG's F2F25 - Photo c/o Joy

TFG’s F2F25 – Photo c/o Joy

Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to The Appraisery in Cubao X for the venue! :)

Speaking of the book club, we were featured in Wanderrgirl! :)

TFG at Wanderrgirl

TFG at Wanderrgirl (And that photo there is so family-ish)

My friend Isa asked if I could write about the book club for Wanderrgirl last December, so of course I said yes. :) It was an absolute surprise to see it posted yesterday. Click here to read the entire post (and yes, I may have gone a bit sappy there :’) )!

Third: January Required Reading Recap

I did say that I read more in January, and true enough, I finished 8 books. 10, if you count the rereads. Of course, two of them were pretty short, but still. :) I was quite surprised that I finished two nonfiction books, too. And wrote a bit more reviews than I did in the past months. :D

  • History in English Words by Owen Barfield (3/5) – My first Barfield was an interesting reading experience. I promised I’d write a review, so I’ll save all other thoughts for that. :)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (5/5) – just as lovely as the first time.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (4/5) – So, so powerful. This made me laugh, nod, and cry at so many parts.
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (4/5) – I really missed reading contemporary YA, and I’m so glad I had Sara Zarr to fall back on. Really liked this one. :)
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (3/5) – A fun romp back into Kate Daniels’ world. :)

I’ve managed to get ahead with my quantity reading goal, so I can sort of rest easy for a while. I think. :D

Fourth: February Required Reading

February 2014 Required Reading

And now we go to my February reading list! I used to always go for the love theme for February, but this year I sort of decided not to go too much into it. Oh, there’s still love in some of the books I will read, but I won’t go all sappy and read too many romance novels this time around. Like I said, just to shake things up a little. :)

feb2014books

  • The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson – I’ve tried to read this before in previous challenges but I never picked it up because I lagged behind from the other books. Oops. :D
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver – Our book club is reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love this month, but since I’ve already read that, I thought of picking up this book instead.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – And there’s my “love” book for February. I’ve heard rave reviews about this book from book club friends, so I’m pretty sure I will be in for a treat.

And there you go. This is quite a long post! I hope you all have a delightful, love-filled February. :)

2013 Mid-Year Report

I saw some of my friends do a post similar to this, and I was checking my archives and as it turned out, I haven’t really made a list like this in my past years of book blogging. Since this book blog has been feeling a little bit lonely lately, So I figure I’d write something like this. And yeah, maybe do a check on my goals, too, to see if I am still sort of on track. :)

Image from we heart it

Image from we heart it

Best Books of 2013 (So Far):

In no particular order:

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel: “The ending left me…reeling. A friend told me about the twist in the story, but I wanted to be surprised and boy was I surprised. I couldn’t wrap my head around it for a while, and I had my first case of a book hangover for the year, which was extended right after watching the movie.”
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: “One last thing: I hope that when Death comes for me, he’ll find my soul sitting up.
  • Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee: “Would there have been redemption for Judas, if he had just waited? Could he have become someone like Peter, who denied Jesus but accepted mercy which led him to become the great church leader that he is? If he had just waited until Sunday, would he have believed that Jesus was indeed the person he had been waiting for his entire life?”
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff: “If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver: “Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don’t think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.”
  • Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra: “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.”

Honorable Mentions:

2013 Goals Checkpoint:

  1. 52 Books – upped to 75, when I realized that I will probably reach 52 a bit earlier. Then I got into a reading slump. Heh. But I am at 38 books now, and Goodreads tells me I am 1 book ahead. So yay.
  2. 5 Classics – 1 out of 5. Eep. I have to catch up.
  3. 4 Chunksters – 2 out of 4. Reading my third this month!
  4. 20 Filipino Books – 10 out of 20. Good job, self. *pats*
  5. Required Reading – I am surprisingly managing this well. There were some books that I postponed reading (for the future (hello, May books), but other than that, I think I hit my monthly goals quite well.
  6. The Reread Factor – I’ve reread several books but I didn’t get to review them. Oops. Maybe next time. :)

I don’t review all the books I read now because sometimes I get too lazy to review and by the time I realized that I should review it, it’s been too long and I can’t remember what to write anymore. So…there. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere. :D I’m just a little busy with other life things. :)

Happy reading for the rest of 2013!

Required Reading: June 2013

May felt like a long month, don’t you think? Well, there were 31 days in the month, so I guess it was long, but it felt like I was out for so many things, and I did so many things…but also wasn’t able to.

So a few things I did in May, which I hope will explain a bit of my absence here:

  • I attended two weddings – one for my brother’s best friend and another for my college roommate. I love weddings. :)
  • Book discussion, as always, and several movies. It was a chill month for the book club, partly because April was so darn busy, but overall, it was a good time to be relaxed.
  • I started (and finished) watching Firefly. And why did I wait this long to watch this series?!
  • I busied myself with writing my novel for Mina V. Esguerra’s romance writing class (aka #romanceclass). I wrote about writing middles and how I kind of hate it, but I reached THE END the other day, and I’m all squee. <3

The reason I wasn’t able to finish all my books for May even if they were mostly thin books is because of the last item in my list — I got so consumed with writing that my mind refused to accept anything that isn’t contemporary romance. So, there. But I did finish most of them!

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (5/5) – Lovely, lovely book about people who became friends over books. :)
  2. Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan (4/5) – A reread, and I liked it as much as when I read it the first time. :) The discussion was really fun, too. :)
  3. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (5/5) – Love, love, love. <3 I want to read more Carver after this.
  4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (4/5) – My second chunkster! I liked how this ended. :)

Four out of six. Not bad.

And now let’s go to June.Required Reading: June

June feels like that kind of month. I don’t know, but I just don’t feel like reading. I feel like it’s a spillover from the last month, and my brain still needs a rest from all the writing. I intended to read two books this month — thick ones, too! — but I decided to push the other one to the next month and just concentrate on our book club’s book of the month:

junerr

So for June, I am only requiring myself to read one book. (If I finish more, then yay)

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

My good friend Tricia is moderating this discussion for the book club this month, so I am pretty excited. Now if I can only start reading this…

Check out my friends’ reading lists for June, too!

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond CarverWhat We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Publisher: Vintage
Number of pages: 159
My copy: paperback borrowed from Angus

This powerful collection of stories, set in the mid-West among the lonely men and women who drink, fish and play cards to ease the passing of time, was the first by Raymond Carver to be published in the UK. With its spare, colloquial narration and razor-sharp sense of how people really communicate, the collection was to become one of the most influential literary works of the 1980s.

* * *

I attended the wedding of my brother’s best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a wedding videographer. But I really, really like attending weddings, because it’s such a happy, happy day. Plus, I really like hearing wedding vows.

Anyway, my wedding weekend read is Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which I borrowed from Angus when I got the chance to check out his bookshelf. This is my first Carver, and the first time I have heard about him also because of Angus’ rave review. This is a collection of short stories about people who talk about, well, love. I figure it may be a fitting book to bring since it’s a wedding and all. What do people talk about when they talk about love in weddings?

Before I go to the proper review, let me tell you what people talk about when they talk about love in a wedding. Weddings are happy, happy days, not only for the couple but also for everyone who came to celebrate with them. It’s funny, though, how people often look forward to the wedding and see it as a “happily ever after”, when it is really just the start of something new. The priest gave this lovely homily during my brother’s best friend’s wedding that had all of us laughing and me thinking really hard. He talked about good memories and bad memories, and how ten, twenty years down the road, the couple will lose a lot of things: their youth, their health, their money. And when people lose these things, when life gets difficult, sometimes it’s harder to hold on and remember your commitment. And then he reminds them that they’re not the boss of each other, and getting married in the church – in front of God and in front of the people – is their promise of giving up the right to give up on each other, no matter how hard life gets. Then they said their vows, and…it was so real and so beautiful.

Then, I spent time with my parents over the weekend, and I took the time to observe how they treat and interact with each other. My parents have been married for 30+ years, and sometimes I think I take that for granted. That weekend, I saw how they act around each other, and I realized how their love is that quiet, enduring love that I also want for myself. There are some things that my mom would say or do that, if I were my dad, would rub me the wrong way and I would say something back in defiance…but my dad does nothing. Instead, he smiles, and just takes it and does something. My dad would do something, or say something that, if I were my mom, would feel like it lacks emotion or affection, but I see that my mom doesn’t see that. I see how they’re around each other and how they support each other and how they love us so much, and my heart just swells because I see a glimpse of what the priest said, and I see what kind of love I want, and the one that I wish I would be able to give, too. Imperfect, yet strong and enduring.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love isn’t too romantic — in fact, sometimes I think it’s not romantic at all. It’s not like the romance books I usually read, with fluff and cheese and swoon and kilig that makes them so fun to read. No, Carver’s collection of short stories about love is about love in many forms, but it dealt with love after all the kilig and swoon and cheese and fluff are gone. Most of the stories are melancholic in its nature, and for a moment, it didn’t seem like the right thing to read on a wedding weekend. But it seems perfect, too, because this book somehow set my thoughts straight — or at least, gave me a different perspective, after the reception is over and the wedding fuzzies have started to fade.

Most of the stories in this collection are stories of lonely people, or people seeing lonely people, or people talking about old experiences of loneliness that is related to love. The realness in these stories is what got to me: this is what could happen, days, months or years after the wedding day. These stories can happen, but it doesn’t mean that it is the only ending. Love doesn’t mean mistakes won’t happen, or your loved ones will always be healthy or you will never fight. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. The stories were short and the writing was simple, and sometimes I get surprised when a story is over and I wasn’t exactly sure what it was supposed to tell me. But as I read on, I realize that these stories are fragments of love in its everyday form, during the hard parts, and also, in some of the happy parts, too.

I liked most of the stories, but three stories stood out: After the Denim (“He’d tell them what to expect! He’d set those floozies straight! He’d tell them what was waiting for you after the denim and the earrings, after touching each other and cheating at games.“), Everything Stuck to Him (“Things change. I don’t know how they do. But they do without realizing it or wanting them to […] he stays by the window, remembering. They had laughed. They had leaned on each other and laughed until the tears had come, while everything else – the cold, and where he’d go in it – was outside, for a while anyway.“) and the title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (“I’m telling you, the man’s heart was breaking because he couldn’t turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife.“). When I was done, I found myself rereading parts of some of my favorite stories (especially the last one), and then sitting down at home and thinking about love.

Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don’t think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.

Let’s have a toast. I want to propose a toast. A toast to love. To true love. (p.141)

This is my first Carver, and I don’t think this will be my last. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: May

Other reviews:
Book Rhapsody