Required Reading 2013: October

I knew it. I knew that my blogging would improve after I did the facelift. I wrote 8 posts in September, which isn’t really a lot compared to the Septembers in the past three years that this blog has been in existence, but it’s a little bit more regular than the past months. Yay. I still have a backlog to work through, but I’ll get to that soon! :)

September was busy in terms of my personal life, with lots of work and trips and tutoring weekends and all that. I was still a very slow reader, though, but it was okay, because…well, I can’t do much about that when life is taking over. :P With that, I finished just one book from my September list:

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (4/5) – This was surprising in the sense that I didn’t think I would like it. Then I got to the end and I was all, “Huh.” In a good way. I can’t say it’s the best book I ever read, and it still has an icky topic…but I think I understand why people say that this is one of those books that you should read in your life time. Trust me. If you think the first parts are too much, just read through it and get to the end and then see what you think about it. :)

I totally gave up on A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin because I just wasn’t in the mood. I’m sorry, reading buddies. I barely moved from page 250. :/ I’m still reading Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland #2, and I didn’t even oven Lili Wilkinson’s The Zigzag Effect. I’m actually best friends with Hannah the Kindle now, because I find that I read more when I use it. I am starting to miss paper books, though!

Required Reading 2013

October is usually the month I decide to pick scary books and all that, and I almost thought of that now…until I realized that our book club’s book for this month is a little thick. So I backtracked and chose other books instead.

October Books

  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – our book club’s book of the month. This discussion will be moderated by two of my minions favorite TFG boys, Aaron and JL. I’ve heard good things about the book, but you know I’m not such a high fantasy girl, so I started on this a little early. I like what I’ve read so far, and I hope I like this as much as my minions favorite boys do. ;)
  • Trese: Stories from the Diabolical by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo – I missed paper books, but I don’t feel like picking up the regular volumes (by regular, I mean 300+ pages) because I feel like I won’t be able to read it anyway. So I decided to go back to my favorite Filipino graphic novel and read this sort-of spin-off. Stories from the Diabolical are side stories in the Trese series. I’ve scanned it earlier and there were some creepy illustrations. Hee. This should be quick and fun.

Like I said, I’m still reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, but I wasn’t able to put it in the picture. It’s still slow reading, but I really liked how Valente weaves her words, so I’m excited to continue with that. :)

October will be another busy month with life and stuff, plus Filipino ReaderCon 2013 preparations, and another trip (yay!), but I will try to keep blogging. :) Try is the operative word, so. :P Happy October, friends!

 

No One Belongs Here More Than You

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda JulyNo One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Publisher: Scribner
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, borrowed from Bennard

Award-winning filmmaker and performing artist Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. In these stories, July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly — they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals their idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives. “No One Belongs Here More Than You” is a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice.

* * *

I spotted this book on another blog, really, and didn’t really think of it until my friend posted about it on his blog. I was curious, only because of the first post I saw, and when I had a chance to borrow it from my friend, I jumped on the chance. I like short story collections, and ever since I read my first Carver, I felt like it was the kind of book I can manage back then. I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of books, so maybe something like this would shock me out of the slump. Or at least, the bright yellow cover would, somehow.

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of stories from Miranda July, who…I really have no idea who she is. I don’t even know what the stories were about, so I really, really just took a chance on this book. This book contains stories of women, mostly, stories of ordinary things. People who do things, who are in search for things, who lost things. These are stories of the seemingly ordinary things that become extraordinary with the way the words were woven and how these simple things came about in each story.

I liked this well enough. I liked the ordinariness of it all — the quiet and the commonplace things in the stories, and how they all translate into something that made me think and wonder if the story was real, or perhaps just the imagination of the character. I guess a little mistake I made when I first started to read this was to compare it to Carver. They’re very different — Carver’s stories (from the one collection I read, anyway) left my heart in a bit of disquiet, like there are questions you want to ask but are kind of afraid of asking. July’s stories, while some of them have the same effect as Carver, are different in the way she tackled things and left me thinking about how her stories just end, and there are no questions that I don’t want to ask.

Here’s the thing: everyone seemed to be so sad in this story. Not the heartbreaking sadness, but just a tinge of it, like these characters need a little hug or something. Sometimes, I feel like I need a hug after I read some of the stories, because I wished I could say something to the characters to ease them of things.

Did the title of the collection mean something? I guess so. It is what it is, I think: No one belongs here more than you. I may be over thinking it, but maybe these stories are really just about belonging, and how we long for that. I don’t think all the characters in the stories found a place to belong, but as a reader, I hoped that they would still somehow find it, or that it would somehow found them, in their own fictional worlds.

Okay, I’m rambling. There were several stories that I wasn’t fond of, but the interesting thing was the first and the last few were the ones I really liked. I started this on a high, then the excitement lulled, and just as when I was already resisting the urge to skim, I got to the last stories and found that I really, really liked them. My favorite, of all, is Birthmark, a story about a woman who had her port-wine stain removed from her face and her husband who didn’t know anything about it, and how this birthmark affected them. It left me with very fond thoughts with the book after.

Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You is a good read, especially for people who are fond of short story collections. It’s not exactly my favorite, but I would read another July book again, given the chance. Plus that yellow cover and simple text is just something I would want to have printed and framed to remind myself that yes, no one belongs here more than you.

Total number of dog-eared pages: None, because the copy isn’t mine. But I did keep a lot of notes on my Goodreads review page for the book. :D

Favorite “dog-eared” quotes: (Would have been dog-eared if the copy was mine :D)

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. (p.11)

To fall for a million years like a flute falls, musically, played by the air it is passing through. And to land with no mind, but with a heart that was breaking. (p.112)

I was actually writhing in heartache, as if I were a single muscle whose purpose is to mourn. (p.128)

It was a delicate, new strangeness, and I held onto it like a candle, hoping it would lead me to an even newer, stranger strangeness. (p.151)

He was waiting for her on his knees. He was worried she would not let him love her with the [port-wine] stain. He had already decided long ago, twenty or thirty minutes ago, that the stain was fine. He had only seen it for a moment, but he was already used to it. It was good. It somehow allowed them to have more. (p.176)

Rating: 

Required Reading: August 2013

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Publisher: Picador
Number of pages:  636
My copy: paperback, bought from Avalon.ph

Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men.

* * *

I have a feeling I will be a part of the unpopular opinion for this book. We picked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon for our book discussion last June, and I was  looking forward to it because it seemed like it had an interesting premise. But wait, let me be honest. The only thing I knew about this book before then was that it was a book about comic books. I don’t collect comic books but I read them every now and then, so I figure this should be something I would really enjoy, right?

Joe Kavalier is a young Jewish artist who was given a chance to go to the United States and escape his Nazi-invaded hometown. But because things were always unpredictable back then, Joe couldn’t get to the US in the conventional way. He sought help from a friend, who taught him the art of escaping ala-Houdini, and Joe makes it to his cousin, Sammy Clay’s place in Brooklyn safely. Sammy is a guy looking for a partner he can create stories with — heroes and stories, in the form of a comic book, which was a novelty thing in America in that time. Sammy teams up with Joe and creates a band of superheroes, where they put their dreams and fears, with Joe maybe having more at stake in the stories than his cousin has.

So this book was an utter challenge to read. Perhaps the book came at a particularly slump-y month in reading, and it was 600+ pages thick…but really. Talk about really slogging through the book. It was the first time I actually went to a discussion without finishing the book. (I finished it the following day, though :D) I was curious enough with the story to keep on reading, but the writing made it a little difficult to just keep on reading. The writing reminded me a little of that one Biology class in college where if I lose just a few seconds of focus from what our professor is saying, I lose everything completely. There’s a word in one of the reviews of this books in Goodreads that’s pretty much the right word to describe it: bloated. There’s so much being said about so many things, but it doesn’t really add anything to the reading experience as far as I’m concerned. The only thing that really kept me from skimming parts of the book is the thought that maybe there’s something in this part that I will need to know in the later parts. I had the same mindset in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, too, but I remember being a little more satisfied when things started to come together for JS&MN.

Then again, I probably shouldn’t compare a fantasy novel to a historical novel.

There were some parts that I really liked, though, and I felt somewhat invested in the characters (I really liked Luna Moth :D). My heart went out for Joe especially, after that thing happened to him that made him almost lose it. And there was that scene with the dogs, too! (Oh those dogs!) I liked how the story stressed a lot on just how it is to be in a “free” country while war is happening in other parts of the world. There were good points in the novel, and I really appreciate it, but I’m afraid some of it may have gotten lost in all the layers of text that I had to wade through.

That being said, even if I didn’t really like this book so much, I can still see why it’s an award-winning novel. Joe and Sam’s story is a story of love at its core, all wrapped in the complications of life, war and comic books. The comic book angle is one of the brilliant parts of it, IMO. Like I said, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is still a pretty good book, really…but perhaps it’s just one of those books that’s not really for me.

Rating:

Required Reading: June

Other reviews:
marginalia
Book Rhapsody
In Lesbians with Books

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. :)

The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  416
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Emaline is spending her last summer before college in her home beach town of Colby. Everything is familiar – from working for her bossy sister Margo at the family rental company to Emaline’s gorgeous (and regularly shirtless) childhood sweetheart, Luke.

But when an out-of-town brash New York filmmaker, and her young assistant Theo, come to stay at one of the beach houses, everything Emaline thought she knew about herself changes.

But can her heart let go of a life she’s loved for so long?

* * *

Finally a new Sarah Dessen. It’s been a while since I last read one because I’ve already gone through all of them, and I was really glad when I heard that her latest book, The Moon and More is out this year. Even if I didn’t exactly love What Happened to Goodbye, I am always looking forward to Dessen’s books because her books are automatic comfort reads.

It’s summer in Colby and Emaline is spending her last summer before college working in their family business. She’s used to everything in Colby — her stepsisters, her mom, her (usually shirtless) boyfriend Luke — and she’s really just waiting for summer to be over before she heads over to the university. Then Emaline’s father comes to town and stays there for the summer, reminding her of everything that did not happen between them in the past year. As if that’s not enough, a filmmaker and her assistant, Theo, from New York comes and stays for the summer and Emaline somehow gets roped into their project. She thought she knew everything and she wasn’t expecting her summer to suddenly change, but now everything is changing…is she ready for them all? Does she even want to change?

The Moon and More latest has all the usual elements of a Dessen novel — summer, an ordinary girl on the verge of a big change, best friends, family and a cute guy. Or, make it two cute guys. This is the first time I’ve read a real love triangle in Dessen’s books, one where I don’t really know who to root for because they are both good and charming and full of faults all at the same time. I liked that it wasn’t an annoying love triangle, and I felt Emaline’s confusion and pain and happiness and her attempt at adjusting with the changes coming her way. But I think what I liked about this set up is how I ended up rooting for Emaline in the end, hoping that she’d make the right decision for herself and nobody else. I think that’s one of the things that made this novel really good for me.

As always, I loved the secondary characters that surrounded Emaline here. I love her family and I saw how their home was always wacky (with people who won’t get out of her room) but supportive, and her half-brother is one of the most adorable siblings I’ve ever read in Dessen’s books. I also love Emaline’s best friends, Daisy and Morris, and their quirky relationship is really begging for a spin-off. There were the usual easter eggs from Dessen’s previous novels (specifically Along for the Ride and Keeping the Moon), although I needed to refresh my memory about them because it’s been a while since I read those books.

I’m glad that that I really liked The Moon and More. After the previous Dessen book, I was kind of afraid that her magic is getting lost on me, but this book proved that it was just a fluke. It was a pleasure getting lost in Colby for hours, and I can almost feel the sand between my toes and hear the waves crashing on the shore as I read this. The Moon and More is a good summer book — it’s just too bad I didn’t really read it during summertime in the Philippines. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: July

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
Stay Bookish