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. :)

Required Reading: May 2013

Wow, where did April go?

April was, in a word, busy. I was out every weekend, and I was on midshift at work, too, so I was always home late and up late, too. Everything was a whirlwind last month, and my personal life was also like that, too. So I think I made the right decision to choose just two books to read for my April reading list, because I only finished…one.

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (4/5) – our book club’s book of the month, which I really liked. I found it slow, but it was the right kind of slowness that made it beautiful. :)

I’m have about less than 200 pages to go for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I think I’ll be able to finish that soon since things are finally picking up. :)

Required Reading: May

May is still a bit busy but not in the book club sense. I have two weddings to attend to this month, and my dad’s going to be home, plus a bunch of birthdays, so…yeah. But it won’t be as busy as April, so I picked a few more books than the usual. There’s no theme this time, except maybe that the books are roughly around the same length. And that I didn’t spend for any of the books on my list. :D

Required Reading for May 2013

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – our book club’s traveling book, which has been passed around since last year. It’s finally my turn, and I’m really excited to read it since everyone seemed to have good reviews for it. It’s pretty thin, so I’m pretty sure I’d be able to finish this in a day. :)
  2. Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan – our book club’s book of the month. I read this one back in college so I’m really just rereading it now to refresh my memory. I won this during our book discussion last Saturday, where our moderator gave away two copies. Also speed reading it now so I can pass my copy to other people in the club. :)
  3. The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder – I got this one from DC, who recommended the book to me last month, and provided a copy so I can read it. This is supposed to be passed around in our book club, too. So whoever wants to line up for this, let me know! This is technically my first Gaarder, since I didn’t really finish Sophie’s World when I tried to read it in college. ^^
  4. Essays In Love by Alain de Botton - Borrowed this from JL. I’ve been wanting to read a book by the author ever since I followed him on Twitter, but I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction or philosophy. But the topic of this book is too irresistible, so I’m glad that I have a friend who reads these kinds of books. I know this is more apt for February, but I figure since I’m attending two weddings this month, I could read it now. :)
  5. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver - Borrowed from Angus just last Saturday when I was able to check out his shelves after our discussion. He had a rave review for this, and again the subject is something I like reading about. Plus, again, weddings this month.
  6. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – spillover from April. Again, I have less than 200 pages left. I should be done with this soon. :)

And so, there. A lot more books than my usual list, but they’re all less than 250 pages (save for the last, but I’m counting the pages I have left to read) so it should not be so hard to finish, yes? I realize how different these books are now, and I don’t even have a YA book here. Looks like I really am expanding my reading horizons, yes? I should blog about that.

So, what are you reading this May? :)

Dead Stars

I thought of writing a review for this short story that we discussed last weekend, but I was honestly a tad lazy to do it just yet. However, I was digging through some college files for some notes to do some work, and I found my work sheet from my English Literature class about Paz Marquez Benitez’s short story. I thought I’d just post that one here, because it’s sort of a review of the story from when I first read (and liked) it. :) Oh, please note that I wrote these answers about 7 years ago, so these thoughts come from a 19-year-old Tina. :D

Oh, and if you’ve never read the story, you can read it online here.

bookmark

Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez

Discuss briefly one internal and one external factor or force that might have contributed to Alfredo’s decision to marry Esperanza despite the apparent mutual attraction between him and Julia. (Spoiler warning!)

Alfredo is supposed to marry Esperanza, but then he meets Julia and falls for her, so he starts to question if Esperanza was actually right for her. But in the end, he ended up marrying Esperanza. One factor that might have influenced this decision is because everyone around him knows about the upcoming marriage. Esperanza’s parents know it, his parents know it, and they have already set a date (or at least, a month) for them to be married. I’m pretty sure invitations are then being made, as well as the program and such. So if he decides to cancel the wedding, it would be a big outrage to everyone, especially to Esperanza’s party. Another factor, which comes from him, is that because even if there is a mutual attraction between him and Julia, he still feels the responsibility of his set wedding to Esperanza. Even if there was apparent mutual attraction between him and Julia, he knew he had this promise to marry the other girl, and being a man, he couldn’t back out from it.

Choose one passage in the story that you particularly like and explain why you like it.

So all these years—since when?—he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens. (par. 223)

I like this passage because it sounds so sad, yet it is full of meaning. Besides the fact that the title of the short story appears in this passage, which I think is really lovely (the title), I think I can relate to this somehow. I think this passage talks about someone seeing something that is long gone, but knowing that it was there – gone, but was there before. It’s when you end up expecting something from someone for a long time. When you finally get to talk to the person about it, it turns out that what you have been expecting before is gone, and yet you can still see that they were there before.

* * *

In a nutshell: I liked the story then, and I still like the story now. While the language may be a bit deep and possibly dated, I thought it had just the right amount of angst and bitterness of a “love” that is lost. It’s the kind of story that makes me sigh, shake my fist at Alfredo, and wish that things could be different, even if I’m not sure who needs that different ending the most. True, the characters could have been fleshed out more, but I think the story gives us just enough of the overall conflict that it left me melancholic and wistful at the end.

Sigh.

Rating:

Other reviews:
marginalia
Book Rhapsody
It’s A Wonderful Book World

Minis: Alternate Endings, Award Winners and Love Stories

I feel this counts as cheating, but sometimes, I read some short stories and books just to up the number of books I read. Is that bad? They can’t really be books since they’re super short sometimes, but they count as one because they’re stories. Right? Or I’m just making excuses?

But anyway, I am still reading every-so-slowly and I really don’t know what’s up, but I will stop worrying about that. And I will “cheat” anytime I want to, so there. :P Besides, cheating means more Mini-Reviews posts, right? :D

Fed by Mira Grant Fed by Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 53
My copy: ebook

An alternate ending to the first novel in the Newsflesh trilogy, Feed.

* * *

So I actually wrote a review on this on Goodreads as soon as I finished reading it because I was so overwhelmed. Here’s the short review in verbatim, and right now I still stand by this. Mira Grant, you are an evil genius.

If you haven’t read Feed yet, don’t even try opening this. Read it first, digest it, and then come back for this when you’re ready enough to do so.

Well if you think having your heart broken from Feed wasn’t enough, try this alternate ending. I never thought it could happen this way, but when you think about it, this seemed like the way it could and would happen.

Of course, if you’ve read Deadline, questions will pop up about how this ending happened. But that doesn’t make this less heart breaking.

Mira Grant, I am in awe.

Rating:

The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Publisher: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Number of pages: 15
My copy: ebook

A gentle fantasy. Love, paper tigers, mail order bride, culture clash.

* * *

I wouldn’t have heard of this short story if it wasn’t for my Goodreads friends who started reviewing it on their profiles.The Paper Menagerie is a short story about a boy whose mom was a mail-order bride from China who can barely speak English and can make magical paper origami. The boy had a collection of moving paper animals from his mother as a kid, and it was their odd but sweet means of communication. However, as the boy grew up, he had to deal with his friends who don’t understand their family set-up and eventually, he started drifting apart from his mother.

This short story reminded me of all those stories that I used to read as a kid, the ones that make me feel guilty and inspired at the same time — guilty because I know that I can be like the kid who push away her parents because I am starting to have my own life, but also inspired because it makes me not want to have the same fate as the kids in the story. The fantasy elements in The Paper Menagerie were indeed gentle, and at first I wasn’t sure if I read it right. It made me wonder for a moment if origami paper animals were really supposed to move and I’ve been doing the things I used to do wrong.

This is short and sweet, and it would take little time to read it. It left me with a feeling that…well, I don’t want to end up being like the boy in the end. It’s not the kind of regret that anyone wants to have, for sure. You can read The Paper Menagerie here, or listen to the story here.

Rating:

Comic Stories About Love & Heartbreak Comic Stories About Love and Heartache by Various Authors, edited by Elbert Or
PSICOM

Comic Stories About Love and Heartache by Various Authors, edited by Elbert Or
Publisher: Psicom
My copy: gift from KD

The long-awaited anthology contains eleven stories exploring characters who have loved and been loved, have broken hearts and had their hearts broken and still love (or long to be loved).

* * *

Here’s my theory about love stories, or at least, anything romantic: my appreciation level in the story is directly related to the state of my heart while I was reading it. Wow, look at that, me using that phrase state of my heart. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s easier to appreciate happy love stories when you’re happy, and heartache stories resonate more when you more or less share the same state, or have been in that state before and you can relate.

So how exactly did I find this comic book? Well, if the state of my heart was any indication (and I am probably digging a grave for myself by writing this), I liked it. Maybe I’m just really a romantic at heart, or I’m just a generally happy person, or there’s something else, but I thought this book is pretty sweet, despite it being “stories of love and heartache”. I’m no expert at art, but I appreciated the comics, especially the cute stories in between each major story.

I guess this is one of those books that show different facets of love, and how things can work out or how things may not work out. It’s a very quick read, and I finished it in one sitting, but I didn’t feel as if I wanted more. Perhaps the reading was enough to satisfy the state of my heart then.

My favorite part in the entire anthology is the last story, Red String, about a man who has been looking for his soul mate by looking for whoever was tied to the other end of the red string on his finger. I don’t know about you, but I found the last part quite…hopeful.

The Red String

Okay, maybe I am just a happy person. :)

Rating: