- Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales, each tale from a different author like Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, among others, et al
- Faith Stories, with contributions from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, Yukio Mishima, et al.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Purchased: August 25, 2000
from National Bookstore
Read: November 20, 2010 (in time for the FFP book discussion, but in reality, I finished the last few pages the next day.)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Purchased: August 7, 2010
from National Bookstore Greenbelt
Read: October 26, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I really should be transferring my book reviews from a previous multi-themed blog to here. But my blogging life is a series of I should haves, wishful sighs, and Catholic girl guilt.
It is a fun book. The back cover blurbs use adjectives like funny, extravagant, madcap, uproarious. All descriptions accurate.
The story revolves around Varguitas, a young law student and aspiring author who is paying his dues by writing slash plagiarizing news for radio. Set in the 50s, the story happens at a time when TV is not yet the ubiquitous medium it is now. Radio rules as the channel for entertaining and informing the masses.
Two Bolivians come to town.
One is Pedro Camacho, a talented but twisted writer who writes scripts and directs radio drama. His radio shows hook listeners and soon he becomes the buzz of Lima.
When Varguitas, peculiar in that society because he prefers books over the radio, asks his grandma why she likes radio serials so much, she says 'It's more lifelike, hearing the characters talk, it's more real. And what's more, when you're my age, your hearing is better than your eyesight." His other relatives explains their addiction by saying, "because they set a person to dreaming, to living things that are impossible in real life, because there are truths to be learned from them, or because every woman remains more or less or a romantic at heart." And that explains why Camacho's following grows. As his popularity rises to mythic proportions, his manic madness worsens, and soon he's out of control.
The stories that Camacho writes are central to the story. They are narrated in chapters alternating with the main plot chapters. So the reader actually reads many little stories within one book. Stories that entertain, shock, and end the chapters in cliffhangers and intriguing questions the way serials are wont to do. To me, this is interesting because the book uses similar devices to a book I read recently, Ricky Lee's Para Kay B. But Llosa's book ties the stories more cohesively to the main plot.
The other visitor from Bolivia is Aunt Julia, related to Varguitos only by law, recently divorced, and out to find a husband. She did not count on having a romance with a relative 14 years her junior. What ensues is mayhem as irate relatives, well-meaning friends, queer mayors, and a violent father get involved in this comedy that twists, convolutes, and climaxes (ooops, spoiler alert) in the most exciting and tiring wedding I've ever read about.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
It's done. My read-a-thon hymen has been broken. I would have been back here sooner to report on the experience, but I was sore. Just kidding. It was my internet connection that's to blame; every time I tried to log in and blog, it would die. And after a number of attempts, I had to attend to other priorities. And then, inertia set in.
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
At a little after 6AM (11th Hour ), I felt I could still continue if I pushed it, but I would not have done justice to the reading. I would have missed out on the excitement and the details of the story, so I decided to nap for an hour. The alarm went off, but my upper eyelids refused to let go of my lower eyelids, so I remained asleep until 9AM. By the time, I awoke, I already had to get ready to leave for a family lunch.
But the toughest hours were when I found myself at a funeral service, listening to the longest eulogies I've ever heard in my lifetime. I was struggling not to pull out my book and read, which would have been rude. And then I also struggled not to lie down on the pews and start my personal sleep-a-thon, which would have been beyond rude.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
My strategy was to read 1 looooong door stopper of a book. I don't think there's anything wrong with that strategy at all -- it's a good way to read your bucket reading list epics in one sitting, especially those books written by authors born in the regions of the world where vodka was rumored to have been invented. The strategy would have worked better if I had holed myself up in a room with very few distractions; I probably would have finished the book.
So maybe next time, I should tackle War and Peace? *grimace*
But for next year, I'll probably take Blooey's advice and go for a variety of highly visual, easy-to-read books.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I find it unfair that the Northern American readers start reading at dawn with a full bar of energy while we start 4 hours before midnight. BUT, I realize that's just how things are, so I really just have to prepare better next time by sleeping in the hours immediately preceding the event.
Other improvements would be to have an online forum where people can chat and update each other of progress.
I am definitely pushing my book club to do this together in one place next year.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
That there are many read-a-thoners all over the world just made it such an exciting experience -- the thought that all these people are reading and are engaged in the challenge made it a novel experience and gave it a sense of community, of global bonding among reading enthusiasts. Priceless.
5. How many books did you read?
6. What were the names of the books you read?
Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth
8. Which did you enjoy least?
Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I appreciated all the cheers, but I liked the customized ones better than those which were generic for all readers. Like when the cheerers mentioned the book I read, I felt good that they actually read my post.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I will surely participate again and get my book club more actively engaged. I want a full production number -- get us all in one big, brightly lit place with a fabulous coffee and cookie spread, hold hourly gimmicks and quick physical games, announce challenges, and give out prizes. I need as many lazy boys and a couple of vibrating massage chairs. Tattoo booths. Roving massage therapist. Plus a lot of noisy musical instruments.
So there. Read-a-thon virgin no more.
Thank you to all those who cheered me on!! I enjoyed my first read-a-thon.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
- set aside time
- bow out from other engagements, and
- do a lot of those little pesky must-do's before the read-a-thon starts.
- I am 43, look 33 (or so I say), feel 53, have the attention span of somebody who's 3 and the memory of somebody who's 83.
- My personal library's book count is inching towards 2,000. Even if I don't ever buy any other book, I will still not be able to read all those books in this lifetime.
- My dream is to have my own island where all i need to do is read in a hammock sipping from a straw connected to a tub of iced tea. And I will eat a lot of seafood during breaks.
Finally. I get the chance to join Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The truth is - given a choice between blogging or reading, I chose reading.
The ugly and embarrassing truth is that given the choice between reading and playing with my Facebook games, I chose the one with the least cerebral exertion. Facebook is the quicksand of my waking hours. Yes, I’m proud to say I now occupy the number one slot in Mall World; I’ve closed the gap between my sister and me in Farmville; and there are weeks when I come close to toppling the Family Feud King Czar. To achieve such progress, something‘s got to give, and that’s why my blogging life is in shambles. My other blogs are still covered with a dense layer of cobwebs. And I’m behind in my 70-book challenge.
It’s not that I never thought of this blog. So many times, I found myself blogging in my head. If only one can upload one’s thoughts into blogspot through the process of staring at the computer.
Though not as diligent as I want to be with my book activities, I remain a booeek (book geek -- I just made that up.) immersing myself in bookish matters. Flipping pages. Falling more in love with books.
Last night, we had our unofficial discussion of the Hunger Games trilogy. Though the discussion was declared unofficial, our moderator Jan Ruiz took her role like a career tribute (kinareer) and prepared the most stimulating discussion questions presented fabulously through Keynote. Stylish transitions that would make Plutarch and his propos gang proud. And we even received bookmarks depicting District 13; thanks Peter and Rhett! 3 designs to choose from! Woohoo.
And then there was the Filipino Book Bloggers’ meet-up. I arrived late and left early, so I have nothing much to report. It’s a good thing Michelle presented an excellent reportage of the event. This group promises to be another way for Pinoy book readers to have a voice to reach out to book suppliers (publishers, retailers, etc.)
Oh yes, I have to mention here the Future of the Book Publishing Conference. Again, I wasn’t there for the whole event. So you’re better off reading the update from someone who was. Honey did a splendid job of summarizing the event highlights. I was one of the speakers, sharing my experience with online social networks for the bookish. Of course, I was more than a little nervous and intimidated having to speak in front of academics and people who are part of the publishing industry. Smart, scarily serious people. And I was presenting what can be construed as fluff since not one philosopher or theoretical framework was cited. But I immensely enjoyed the experience because I was talking about something close to my heart -- Flips Flipping Pages, the community that has made my reading life so much richer.
I'm still not used to blogging again. Do you hear the sound of my rusty joints?
So there. I’m back, book blog.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Purchased March 2008
from National Bookstore
Read: March 24, 2010
I am Gege, and I'm addicted to books. So books are my drugs. And if I may stretch that metaphor a little bit more, there are books that are uppers, and there are those which are downers.
Anne Enright's The Gathering is most definitely a downer. It's the kind of book that a teacher would impose on attention-challenged students to get back at them for sleeping in class. It's the kind of book you read when there's just too much excitement in your life and you need to slow down, relax to a stupor. Yes, I mean it's some kind of boring.
Which is not to say that Enright is not a good writer. She is. And she seems to know it and show it.
Enright writes with a self-indulgent consciousness of being a good word weaver. I sense her saying, "Watch me write; I'm good at it." She writes in a dreamy, lyrical tone; her narration of events hazy, lazy. Her characterization written in broad strokes, as if fogged by faulty memory, interrupted occasionally with surprising minutiae. Stream of consciousness narration blurs the novel's facts and the character's reflections; I can't tell when she's being literal or metaphorical. When she says in Chapter 4 that she walks through the dimness of their childhood rooms, touching nothing, she is actually walking through their physical home, but you know she's also referring to deeper meanings.
She writes here as the character of Veronica, who gives you glimpses of all the other characters, mostly her family, from two generations past up to present. Veronica is the 8th child of 12 in an Irish family, born by a mother made invisible, nebulous, lost, and insignificant by the identity that defines her -- the bearer of children. Nothing else but.
Veronica is the one who loved Liam most. Liam is the brother who died. And Veronica walks through the events in their lives that might explain why he lived a troubled life and died a baffling, tragic death.
Once in a while, I remember the TV show Brothers and Sisters, and the cast stands in as my visual peg for the book's characters as they gather, hence the title, to send Liam off. The novel is a heavy dose of family dysfunctions, sex, alcohol, and melancholia. In spots, beautiful, shocking, troubling. In spots, slow, languorous, lulling me to sleep.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I Flipped Through the Pages of Roald Dahl's (inhale) The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories (exhale)
Purchased: April 28, 2008
from: Fully Booked
Read: March 19, 2010
According to the book's flyleaf blurb, Roald Dahl began writing after a "monumental bash on the head" he sustained as an RAF pilot during WW2. I hope I wouldn't need the same kind of blunt force to compel myself to blog again.
So, I'm pushing myself to review letter D of my A to Z challenge series. D is for Dahl. Yes, I know, why is a 43 year old woman reading Dahl for the very first time? I don't have a good excuse.
I remember my sister had a couple of them on her shelf in the room we shared growing up. But for some strange reason, I've never been compelled enough to read any. I even have my own collection of his children's stories, and still, no Dahl. Well, better late than never, right?
I am happy I finally read him and even happier I chose this collection of short stories to give me my first taste of Dahl. He is a most imaginative and entertaining writer. That bash on the head must have knocked around some of his gray matter giving him a different view of life, because he can take ordinary themes and twist them around a little bit here and there, turning the prosaic into strange and unexpected tales. I liked the way he twisted around the theme of adultery in the collection's second story of Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat. Very cleverly written.
Dahl is a deft storyteller who can pack a lot into a short story. Less able writers would require a novel for each of his short story plots. In fact, his short stories do not end with that unfinished feel that most stories leave you with. He brings his tales to satisfying denouement in as few words as possible. I can imagine that takes a great deal of talent.
Another favorite in the collection is Parson's Pleasure, the story of a rare furniture collector slash conman who travels the countryside in search of fine furniture sold way below market value. And dresses up as a parson to do it. The jaw-dropping ending left me aghast even though the bad man got his comeuppance.
Story number 4, Man from the South, is the story of a man who makes bets with strangers, not for cash, but for body appendages. It seemed vaguely familiar, and then I remembered I have watched that on TV, which reminded me that back in the 80s, there was a series called Tales of the Unexpected. I googled it, and yes, my memory, in one of its rare moments of functionality, served me right. That series was actually hosted by Roald Dahl. The link leads you to a wikipedia post on the TV series.
Of course, the title story, was what got to me in the first place. The Great Automatic Grammatizer is about a splendid but scary invention -- a machine that can spew words and words to produce articles and novels. Hmm, because of my low level of desire to blog these days, I need a machine like that. A great automatic bloggerator.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Purchased: March 10, 2009
from: Booksale, Cash & Carry branch
Read: May 14, 2010
For May, our book club discussed Art in Fiction. We could read any fiction book in which art featured prominently.
I first read Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and then I moved on to Peter Mayle’s Chasing Cezanne, but I only hit the jackpot with Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue.
Girl in a Hyacinth Blue is a fictional Vermeer painting from Vreeland's imagination. This imagination was inspired by real-life Vermeer paintings, a common theme of which is a subject looking out the window, both subject and window bathed in golden Delft sunshine. Daily props and accoutrement litter the scene to paint a story of extraordinary ordinariness.
This is a beautiful read. I try not to use the word beautiful too casually, because it is way too easy to use it as a default adjective. But this book really is beautiful.
Physically beautiful. Though my copy is just a mass market paperback (MMP), its proportions are slightly narrower and taller than the usual inelegant MMP. The cover suggests a Vermeer painting, but it does not show it exactly the way the author describes it in the book. This means the burden and gift of imagining the painting is upon the reader. Inside, the margins are generous as if framing the text. Gaillard font is an excellent typography choice.
And the stories are beautiful. It seems, at first, that the label "novel" is a misnomer, because it is more a series of seemingly unrelated stories in different settings, going backward from Philadelphia present all the way to 17th century Delft. The thread that binds these stories is the painting as it changed ownership, and how each owner perceived it, valued it, or not.
I like how the book focused on provenance. Those who know even a little bit about art know that it’s not a commodity, its value not determined just by supply and demand, but by so many factors. Provenance is one of those factors that can give a piece legitimacy and can make its value go sky high beyond logical reasons. Yet, in this book, provenance is not treated as a valuation component. Provenance takes on a deeper meaning as the stories show the worth of a painting to the one who owns it, hides it, holds on to it for dear life, paints it, and even to the one who inspires it.
My favorite story is story number 5, Morningshine. The painting comes to a poor farming family, a couple and their 3 children flooded in, stranded in the second floor of their home, with all the possessions they saved. Oh, and a cow.
The painting comes with a baby boy and a note that instructs them to sell the painting and feed the baby. The wife falls in love with both child and painting and decides to keep both, even at the point of starvation. And at the risk of writing a spoiler, I share my favorite line, “There’s got to be some beauty too.”
This line struck a powerful chord within me. In relation to the beauty of reading. Sometimes, I feel people scoff at the time and money I spend on fiction. Like it’s a waste of time when there’s more to be learned from books that teach or inform. I like non-fiction. But there’s got to be some beauty too, the kind of beauty that only fiction can give – the kind that stirs the heart enough to make me cry or laugh. I know some people who will spend their lunch money on a book and starve their stomachs but feed their souls. They get it. They get what Vreeland is saying about art and the agonizing balance of worth between the practical and the beautiful.
There are other stories too, but I’ve said enough about this one, my favorite one, that I don’t want to spoil the rest for you. So, this finally satisfied my Art in Fiction lust.
Purchase date unknown
Purchased from: Goodwill Bookstore
Read: May 10, 2010
Peter Mayle was on my list – my list of Favorite Authors I’ve Never Read (FAINR), authors I buy whenever I get the chance. Shelf candy, perhaps, sharing space with other FAIRN authors, Theroux, Pynchon, and Vonnegut. But I knew I wanted to read him because I’m a frustrated travel writer. But you know how it is with TBRs – too many books, too little time, and too much Facebook.
FFP's May’s themed book discussion on Art in Fiction was the kick I needed to finally read a Mayle. Chasing Cezanne fitted the theme perfectly.
This book had all the promise – a scrumptious recipe of travel, food, art, wit, and suspense – the stuff Mayle is known for. The promise was delivered. The book presents a little bit of all. Sadly, it was just that – a little bit or each element.
A little bit of travel – main protagonist, New York based photographer Andre takes the dotted line to the Riviera and Cap Ferrat and the Bahamas and Paris, and other European destinations on my TBV, To Be Visited, list.
A little bit of food and wine – Andre snacks on “a wonderfully dense rosy saucisson” and “pommes allumettes that snapped in the mouth in the most delicious and satisfying way.”
A little bit of art – well, it’s about a Cezanne.
Just a teeny, very teeny weeny bit of suspense; more is revealed than kept as mystery.
A little bit of all those, but but not enough of any of those to satisfy. I imagined it to be a light comedy flick starring Steve Martin with a fake tan and a funny moustache.
Mayle will not move from my FAINR list to to my Favorite Authors list; not just yet. Though I still think he is worth another read as a non-fic, purely travel, food, and wine author. As a novelist, he is just like what my book nerd friends call sorbet, something to cleanse the literary palate.
And so, this too was not enough to satisfy my Art in Fiction lust. So I moved on to this.