Just so you know, I never had any intention of reading Les Misérables. I have a friend who talked about rereading this book last year for research be...moreJust so you know, I never had any intention of reading Les Misérables. I have a friend who talked about rereading this book last year for research before NaNoWriMo season came around, and I remember vaguely wondering how can one reread such a thick book. I had no intention of reading this, thinking that my life can remain untouched by this tome, until some friends from the book club started a reading support group for the unabridged book. I still didn't join them, but I applauded them for their efforts. Until...one day, I wandered around the thread, and saw their discussion. And then the briefest of brief thoughts came into my mind: Maybe it won't be so bad reading such a thick book if you have friends reading with you.
Then my friends started inviting me to join them, and I felt like giving in. It could be an interesting challenge, right?
So finally, by end of 2012, I said yes. Angus gave me a copy of the unabridged version and I started reading it by January 1. If you're like me who has no idea what Les Misérables by Victor Hugo was (I know, I know -- I was living under a rock all my life), this is the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who was shown mercy when he least expect it, but is chased by his past even if he tries to change his present. There's a lot more to the story than that, of course, but that was the main story arc. I never watched any of the musicals, or the first movie with Liam Neeson. I have zero expectations and I knew very little in the story -- only fragments of a discussion in a college Theology class, and the knowledge of the song On My Own, because who doesn't know that song?
The goal was to read as much as I can in the book until we had watch the movie. I wasn't dreaming of finishing the book before the movie because that gave me about 16 days to just read, but I wanted to reach at least halfway. I didn't. I watched the movie, got spoiled and tried to read again. My reading progress was slower, because I knew what was going to happen (and this is going to be another post in itself!), but I was in too far into the book to drop it. A half-read book is a half-finished love affair, right?
Until finally, exactly 45 days since I started reading Les Misérables, I finished it.
Les Misérables is long. And sometimes tiresome. And sometimes I wonder what Hugo's point was in several chapters/books. But besides those things, I must admit: Les Misérables is a beautiful book. There's so many layers and complexities in this book that's kind of hard to remember when you're deep into some of its very boring and tedious chapters, but when you step back and think about what you've read with the other parts that that boring part came with, you see that the boring parts sets the stage so the interesting parts become colorful and detailed. For example: I probably could've lived without knowing about Paris' sewer system back then, but I wouldn't have appreciated Valjean's attempts to get out of it, just how dire his situation was when he was there. Hugo is talkative, but it ties well together -- you just need to have a little more perseverance and slog through the slightly boring parts. (Y'know, just like life. Heh. :P)
If you think watching the movie is enough for you to know what Les Misérables is all about...well, no. There's so much in the book that wasn't in the movie and it makes several characters stand out on their own a bit more. For example: Marius in the movie was shown as a revolutionary, but in the book, he wasn't. Not as much as Enjolras was, anyway. Marius just wanted to show his grandfather that he can make it on his own, and then he falls in love. Which is also another thing -- in the movie, Marius and Cosette just made eyes at each other, but in the book, there was a longer and slightly more interesting "courtship" between the two of them. And there were the other characters that we hardly got to know, as well as Jean Valjean's whole thought process throughout the novel. The book gives the characters and the story so much more depth, making the sad scenes a bit more heartbreaking and the victorious scenes mean so much more.
Les Misérables is long, and arduous at times, but I am so glad I powered through it. It's totally worth all the lugging around and the times I spent trying to stay focused on the story. It's a story of forgiveness, mercy and love in all forms - and I personally think we need more stories like this. :)
This is officially the thickest book I've read in my life time, and now I feel like I can read any door-stopper now without getting intimidated...
I'm not a huge fan of historical novels, really. I tend to stay away from them because they're just not my type. Of cour...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm not a huge fan of historical novels, really. I tend to stay away from them because they're just not my type. Of course, there were some that I enjoyed, namely Jennifer Donnelly's books, The Guernsey Literary ...,and yeah, even Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere, which I really attribute to the fact that these books had personal significance for me (A Northern Light had things about words, Revolution because of Paris, Guernsey because of the recommendations, and Noli Me Tangere because it was a Filipino historical novel), but other than that, I had no reasons to pick them up. They're almost like classics to me -- hard to get into, and really not my cup of tea. But I can make exceptions, especially since I did say I want to read more Filipino fiction, so when the publisher offered a review copy of Raissa Rivera-Falgui's Woman in a Frameto me, I decided to give it a try.
Woman in a Frameintroduces Ning, short for Sining, who is a daughter of an artist and dreams of becoming an artist herself. Thanks to her deceased father's connections, she was able to attend a summer art program where she stumbles upon a very curious painting of a woman who feels very familiar to her. Curious, Ning searches for the artist and the story behind the painting. In 1896, Marcela, a young artist from the Simbulan artist family joins her father to paint the town's darling, Raquel Riola. Raquel is set to marry Julio Benitez, a Spanish peninsular from Europe. Marcela develops a friendship with Raquel, but also falls in love with Julio. She is faced with choosing between her family, new friend and her love, the social differences between her and Julio and a possible involvement in a brewing revolution against the government.
I liked Woman in a Frame.I wasn't expecting it especially since I wasn't really captured in the first chapter, but as I read on, I fell in love with Marcela and the Simbulan family and their life in 1896. I can imagine the afternoons where Marcela and her father would be at the Riola mansion to do their job, and how a Filipina and a half-Spanish girl would walk in the afternoons and chatter over things despite their differences. I'm not an artsy person, but I can vividly imagine the kind of art that the Simbulan family makes, and how it could become their living. I liked Marcela as a character, and her loyalty to her family and her friendship, and how she dealt with her affection for Julio. It was quite refreshing -- she's far from timid and shy Maria Clara, but more of a Sinang from Noli Me Tangere, especially with what she did in the end.
I think it was the freshness of Noli in my mind that helped me visualize the setting and in the novel, so it almost felt I was just focusing on another character in Noli when I was readingWoman in a Frame. A spin-off, if you may. There were the friars and the brewing revolution, but it didn't take over the story and turn Marcela into a young Katipunera as I almost expected it to be. I'm glad it didn't turn out that way, because I didn't know if I'd like that turn! I liked the bittersweet feeling of the first love, and how it all unfolded in the end. The synopsis had that Filipino soap opera feel when you think about it, but it had a pretty interesting turn of events that wasn't dramatic at all.
My only wish is that there was more Ning in the story! The story reminded me a lot of the dual narrative in Revolution but it lacked what that novel had -- the dual narrative. I enjoyed the Marcela story, but I wished that we got to see Ning more since this was also her story. Okay, fine, it was more of Marcela's story, but I just really wished we had more of present time and Ning, and not just some sort of info dump at the end tying up the connections between her and Marcela.
I still liked Woman in a Frame despite that little nitpick, though! I think historical fiction fans will like it, and it's a quick enough read and get lost in in a day. It also gives readers a good insight on Filipino artists and how regular people were a part of the revolution. And...yeah, the romance factor is pretty satisfying, too. :) Thanks to the publisher for the review copy! :)(less)
I have a feeling I will be a part of the unpopular opinion for this book. We picked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalie...moreOriginal post from One More Page
I have a feeling I will be a part of the unpopular opinion for this book. We picked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clayby 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.(less)
Ever since Tosca announced that she was writing this book in 2010, I have been eagerly waiting for this to come out. I...moreOriginal post from One More Page
Ever since Tosca announced that she was writing this book in 2010, I have been eagerly waiting for this to come out. I loved her first two books, Demon and Havah: The Story of Eve, and a novel about Judas Iscariot is something that I know only Tosca can write with the same heart-wrenching clarity and sensitivity that she did in her first two books. When it came up available in Netgalley, I immediately got it and saved it in my Kindle. Of course, it took me ages to finally start it, until I decided that it would be my Holy Week read.
Judas Iscariot. The traitor. The betrayer. It's so easy to hate him, and blame him, because if he didn't sell Jesus for 30 silver coins, then maybe Jesus wouldn't have died. It was simple, right? But have we ever wondered that even if Judas hadn't done what he did, would Jesus still have died? After all, it was salvation history, and it was God the Father's will for the Son of Man. Would someone else have betrayed him? And we always associate Judas with something evil, but if he was evil, why would he even be a part of Jesus' closest circle? Why would Jesus even call Judas friend?
Iscariot doesn't attempt to answer this, but instead presents what we know of Jesus' time in an even more clarity. Tosca brings us to the heart of that time -- the social and political unrest of the Jews against the Romans, the religious customs of the Jewish and how important it is to them, and how the Pharisees just seem to be everywhere. And then there's Jesus, who shocks everyone and speaks of a radical faith, heals people, drives out demons and resurrects the dead. We see all this in the eyes of Judas bar Simon, who came from a tumultuous childhood and is desperately wishing for a messiah. When his paths cross with Jesus the Nazarene of questionable birth and he follows him together with eleven other men, he wonders if he is the one. He wonders, and dares to hope, torn between love for his master and wanting a specific vision for the people. In Iscariot, we see Jesus through human eyes -- through doubting, human eyes and a heart that is so scared to hope -- and it brings the readers this question: if I were Judas at that time, would I have done the same thing if I thought it was the right thing?
What an unsettling novel. It's kind of hard to explain what effect this novel had on me. It reminds me of the Gospel during the Palm Sunday mass -- you know, the one where the priest is Jesus and the mass goers are the people and we all had speaking parts in the Gospel? My heart clenched like crazy when I had to say, "Crucify him!" The second time I had to say it, my eyes burned with tears, because I knew that at several points in my life, I had crucified Christ because of my sins. And I keep on doing it whenever I fail to be loving, when I fall into sin. In Iscariot,we see Judas and the apostles in all their humanity, and how they tried to follow Jesus even if they do not understand him. Tosca weaves a story of how everything must have been like for Judas as he fights against himself in hoping that this charismatic Nazarene could be the savior of all -- and how he tries to act as a good friend when he realizes that maybe his master may not be what he expected him to be. Tosca's writing was rich and colorful, and it puts all those miracles and stories in the Gospels in a more concrete way, so much that it felt like I was also there. Here's a favorite part, when Jesus calmed the storm:
In a flash of lightning, I saw the sandaled feet of Jesus, flagging against the floor of the boat, loosely in the water, like the body of a dead man, floating. Had he drowned, then, there beneath the stern? Had he departed from us silently, without even a word of farewell? Soon we would all be fortunate to float like that on any water here.
I told myself to let go, to lunge forward and seize him by the legs. Then the boat jinked sideways, throwing us all backward. For a horrifying instant, I thought we would capsize. I opened my mouth to cry out to him, only to be slapped in the face with a crashing wave that slapped my ears and sent my head ringing.
It was John who fell down over us, grabbing me by the arm when I nearly fell over the side. "Master! Save us!"
It was a horrid sound, that scream. I would remember it for the rest of my life.
I covered my face, trying to shield my eyes. Against the dark, I saw him, the pale of his tunic in the sluicing blackness, rising up. In my deafness, I heard him when I should not have against the screeching gale:
The words had not been shouted to the furious wind or issued to the sky, but spoken as through directly to my heart.
I'm not very good with history or theology, so I can't speak if this book is super accurate, but for a piece of historical "fiction", this definitely made me think. It made me feel sympathetic at the least, and it made me see Jesus in a different light. It made me see my Savior's passion and death in a different perspective. It made me see my own humanity, and the depth of Jesus' love even for those who He knew would betray Him.
And aren't we all that, anyway? Haven't be betrayed him at some point in our life? And won't we betray him in the future, because we are human and we are weak? And Jesus knows that...still, He loves us without a doubt.
I finished reading Iscariot before 3:00pm on Good Friday, and I was a little overwhelmed with the time and how it ended. I knew how it would end, and yet...it left me somber. It left me sad. 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?
We would never know.
I admit that I may be just a little biased because I love everything that Tosca has written, but if you would read any of her work, I think Iscariot: A Novel of Judasis the best place to start. It's not the easiest thing to read, but it's one that will leave you longing for your Savior.(less)
The Historianby Elizabeth Kostova is our book for our November discussion for the book club. It was my only choice amon...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The Historianby Elizabeth Kostova is our book for our November discussion for the book club. It was my only choice among the three books that we voted for last July because our theme for November was horror and I'm not a horror fan, so I go for the least horrific. :P I've heard good things about this book from some blogger friends, plus our moderator, Monique, liked this one too, so I figured I will probably like it too.
The Historianis the story of an unnamed narrator and her family's past. What starts as a simple book and some letters found in her father's study turned out to contain a story bigger than she expected, even bigger than her father and her dead mother that spans across the centuries. The book is more of a collection of her recollection of her own research and her father's research and travels about Vlad the Impaler and the danger that they encountered as they pried deeper into the life of the fifteenth century Wallachian ruler.
I started this book a little apprehensive, because like I said, I'm not a horror person. I don't like scaring myself, so I was kind of careful when I started reading it. My friends assured me that it wasn't that scary, but there were several times when I felt jumpy while I was reading this, especially when it was raining and when I was alone at home. I found the first part of the book quite engaging, where I was passed from the main narrator's point of view to her father's and back. I liked how the mystery presented itself, and how I got invested in the main characters in this first part. I liked the dangerous -- and a little scary -- tone around the first part, where they just don't know what's going on and how they do not know just how big the thing they're poking is.
That was the first part. The second part was still quite interesting, but then somewhere in the middle, it started to lag. I don't read much historical fiction, or anything that had too many historical documents for that matter. Somewhere in the second part, I was amazed at the setting but everything else was bogged down by the fact that the characters kept stumbling upon different documents, countless books and letters about Vlad the Impaler. I get it, okay. They are historians, yes, so these documents were a necessary part of the story, but man, they were tedious. I didn't want to skim through it because I might miss something else, but I admit that I slowed down my reading at this part.
Come part three. Part 3 was a little bit more exciting, especially since it felt like they were getting closer and closer to uncovering the mystery. I got a little bit annoyed when they opened yet another book and read yet another letter, but when you're that close to the end of a book, giving up is not an option. At least, not for me. And when the final reveal comes...I was all...huh.
I won't spoil it for you, but at the end of the book, I had to clarify with some friends if I understood what I read, and they said I got it right. And after 900 pages, all I could think of was: That's it?
Overall, I have a bit of mixed feelings with The Historian. Perhaps I was expecting more, and I was shelving it together with some of the adventure/mystery/horror books that I have read before and forgot that the book is really more of a travelogue and historical account more than it was supposed to be horror. I liked the writing and the level of detail that this book possessed, and it made me want to go backpacking around Eastern Europe to see the places the characters in the book. As far as the story goes, however, I thought the big reveal fell a little flat, and I was really expecting a big one after all the things the characters went / read through.
I didn't really dislike The Historian, but I didn't like it too much, either. It was a little bit more than just okay, though, because like I said, I enjoyed the travel part and the writing and maybe just a little bit of the research, until I felt like starting a drinking game for every document / letter / book that they read. I don't regret that I read it, but I don't think I'll find it particularly memorable later on, either. Maybe I'm just not much of a history buff to be really in love with this, and I think my aversion to vampire stories made me a bit more disinterested after some point. The only real memorable part of The Historianas far as I'm concerned was the book club discussion, which was a fun time to discuss with good friends what we think of this chunkster. :)(less)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was another one of those books w...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was another one of those books where I had no idea what it was about, except that some of the bloggers I followed loved this book. I am easily swayed like that, and it helped that I got my copy from a secondhand bookstore, so splurging on the hardcover version isn't that painful. After my fantasy filled June and a few more books in between, I needed something new to read, something that I don't normally read. So I picked this from my shelf and dove into it without really knowing what it was about.
Juliet Ashton is a writer and she's looking for ideas for her next book. She's in a rut, and she doesn't know what to write until she receives a curious letter from a man she's never met who found her address in a book by Charles Lamb that somehow landed in the island of Guernsey. This starts a correspondence between her and several people in the island who form The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a spur-of-the-moment book club that used to be an excuse from German soldiers for several people who were caught outside after curfew and then became a genuine group of literature lovers. Julie learns about the island and the people through their letters, until she finally sets off to Guernsey to meet them for herself, not knowing that this journey will changer her life forever.
I was just 8 pages into the book when I fell in love with Julie's character -- she's a smart and charming woman with little quirks that make her not like anyone else. I like her voice, and it was a pleasure reading her letters to her friends and the people she "met" in Guernsey. I particularly like the background check done about her, and how contrasting these two letters were! Julie was such a darling that I wanted to receive a letter from her after I was done with the book. The other characters were lovely, too, although they may seem a bit too sweet and nice sometimes, but by the time I realized that, I was too invested in the book to really think that people this nice and charming couldn't possibly exist.
Speaking of the letters, they were so engrossing that I often forget that this book was set shortly after WWII, and they were correspondences that takes days before it gets delivered. It reminded me of those days when my childhood friend and I would send letters to each other -- it often takes 2 weeks before the letters get delivered, and it was enough to gather enough stories to fill the next letter, on top of the reply from the last one I received. I remember being very excited to receive my letters, and how I would read and reread them when I need comfort, or simply when I just feel bored. Who still takes the time to write letters nowadays? Long emails are lovely in their own right, but it's just not the same.
The best part of the book, I think, is the idea of how books drew people together. I loved reading about how the little group in Guernsey was formed, and how they all became friends even if they don't read the same books at all. It was just timely that I was reading this book right before our book club's 7th face to face discussion, which proved to be a very sentimental one for all of us, with the production of our club's very own collection of stories. Our July discussion was also my 2nd year anniversary of being with the book club, which made the event a bit more special for me. I was assigned to give the opening remarks for the event, and I was glad that I was reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societybecause it had that one quote that summed up most of what I feel towards the people I have become good friends with in our book club:
None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we'd read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another...our evenings together became bright, lively times - we could almost forget, now and then, the darkness outside.
No doubt about it -- there's a certain magic when books bring people together. I think anyone who's ever been a part of a book club, or have had bookish friends can relate to that. :) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a lovely, lovely book about books and reading and how it brings people together from wherever they are in the world. :)(less)
Quick note! I'm giving away a Kindle copy of this book on my blog! Just a leave a comment on this entry and I'll pick one lucky winner on November 18....moreQuick note! I'm giving away a Kindle copy of this book on my blog! Just a leave a comment on this entry and I'll pick one lucky winner on November 18. :)
I'm really all for supporting local authors and content, so when Honey told me that they will be releasing Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena's High Society under their publishing company, I bought it without blinking. Local content for the win, plus I really enjoyed Kataastaasan, so I was excited to read more about this alternate steampunk world.
Thing is, High Society is really the same as the Kataastaasan I read a year back...but also a little bit different. High Society is a stand-alone comic set in Cebu City circa 1770, and tells an alternate history of the Philippines’ struggle for independence from Spain. Here we meet someone called "The Carpenter" telling our main character Rita about the location of a treasure that they need to recover. Rita goes undercover in a party with the Spanish colonizers to retrieve the treasure. Now you'd think Rita is just your normal undercover agent and all, but then she's also not. I won't reveal what the twist is, but I remember I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about it on my first read. Even if I knew about it then, I really liked how it was illustrated and revealed this time, and I think it's the part of the story that hooks the reader the most.
I think the improvement on this one compared to the ARC I read was how Rita was given a more human aspect. There's a hint of romance in the story that made me smile, and it made me want to know more. This version also had a little more background on how Rita came to be as well as why their mission was important. I'm not a big judge on artwork, but I liked how it had that dark and authentic Philippines in Spanish era vibe.
So yeah, I liked this one on the second round as much as I liked it during the first. Too bad it's a stand alone, but I kind of have high hopes with what they mean with the "Wooden War" series. More please? High Society is a creative take in Philippine history, and anyone who's a history buff, or at least interested in alternate histories and steampunk should pick this up. (less)
This year is the year of novels in verse for me, and I have been trying to keep one on my TBR in case of a need for a qu...moreOriginal post at One More Page
This year is the year of novels in verse for me, and I have been trying to keep one on my TBR in case of a need for a quick read. Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell is one of those books that hovered by my radar but I never really got because...well I'm not sure anymore. But anyway, when I saw a copy of this for swap in one of our Goodreads meet-ups, I got it immediately (with cackles of delight because I got it first -- then again I'm not sure if anyone else wanted this more than I did).
Anyway, I haven't read any book about Arthur or anything related to this legend, but I am a bit familiar because of all those Camelot-related cartoons and of course, Merlin. I wasn't familiar with any other characters there, though, so this book came as a surprise and a bit of a crash course with the legend. Elaine of Ascolat is one of the two girls in the military camp where Arthur and his men stay to fight for Britain. Elaine's only other companion is Arthur's sister, who she loves but can't talk to about her secret: that she is secretly in love with Lancelot, Arthur's right hand man. Then another girl joins them in the camp, Gwynivere, and Elaine suddenly felt some competition for Lancelot's affection.
I wasn't really afraid that I won't like this book, but I also wasn't expecting to really like it so much. Despite its historical/mythical nature, the passages in this book were very easy to read. It was easy to slip into Elaine's world and imagine how it is to be the only girl in a camp of men, and treat the guys as old friends and brothers who you know will also watch out for you. I could also easily feel her frustration of not having a girl friend in the camp and even more so Elaine's jealousy and anger when attention goes from her to Gwynivere. It may be the book's format that somehow made the book a little more romantic than I expected it to be -- poetry does have its merits in that department. Plus, I wasn't expecting the romantic twist in the story, and how it was resolved really made me smile. Then again, I don't know if the twist here is really a part of the Arthur legend, so maybe I'm the only one who's surprised.
A favorite passage:
But I believe, I continue, I know what true love is -- or what it should be.
What should it be? Tristan asks, his voice soft now.
It should begin with friendship, I think.
Suddenly I cannot look at him.
It should begin with friendship and truly knowing who a person is, knowing his flaws and hopes and strengths and fears, knowing all of it. And admiring and caring for -- loving the person because of all those things.
Song of the Sparrow is a lovely book, and this has made me more curious about more Arthur stories. If you're looking for a quick and yes, a little bit romantic read, then pick up a copy of this book. :)(less)
One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It wa...moreOriginal post at One More Page
One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It was a story about a group of friends that we started passing around our group, leaving a part hanging so the next person could continue the story. We never finished the story, but I remember we had a colorful cast of characters, and I ended up continuing the story and posting a snippet of it somewhere that I cannot remember for the life of me. Anyway, we also had the same kind of exercise during my college literary folio days -- one would start a story and then another would pick it up. I adopted that exercise for our NaNoWriMo group, and although it never really flew, it was a fun project.
So that's really one of the reasons why I was curious about Angelica's Daughters. This book is a collaborative "dugtungan" novel by five authors: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Susan Evangelista, Veronica Montes, Nadine Sarreal, Erma M. Cuizon. They are all writers on their own but their friendship (and writing classes) led them to collaborate on different short stories. One day they decided to upgrade into writing a novel, passing on an idea and a chapter to one another, until they came up with the story of Angelica.
Angelica's Daughters revolved around three female descendants of Angelica de los Santos. First was Tess, whose 8 years of marriage dissolved after she found out her husband Tonio was dating a younger woman. She flies home to the Philippines to gather her thoughts and herself and spends time with her Lola Josefina. Josefina had secrets of her own, one that she wasn't sure that her granddaughter (or anyone else in the family would understand). In the course of Tess' stay, a cousin gives her a bundle of letters from their Angelica, a distant grandmother who was the subject of many of her childhood stories. They were never really sure if all those stories about Angelica were real or not -- like how a guy killed himself when Angelica refused to give him her love, or how wives were often jealous of her because of her beauty. Through the letters, Tess got to know her better but there were holes in the story that she longed to be filled. On the annual Tayabas fiesta, Tess meets her younger cousin, Dina, who carries a darker secret that is eating her alive.
As I was thinking of how I was going to review this book, I realized one thing: Angelica's Daughters could pass as a perfect comfort read. It's like the local version of a Sarah Addison Allen novel, but maybe even a bit better because it hits closer to home for me. There's a certain grace and lyricism in the prose that makes me immediately sink into it, and marvel at the familiar feelings it evoked. There's really something about a well-written Filipino work that just hits the right spot, like how a perfectly cooked dish can satisfy the strongest craving. Case in point, this particular line:
She served herself generously from the garlic fried rice and daing. She took her first bite and closed her eyes with pleasure.
I totally started salivating for garlic fried rice and daing (dried salted fish, for my non-Filipino friends) after I read this line. :) The entire novel had that feel of home that made it such a good comfort read.
Besides that, the book also had an interesting angle of history. This kind of reminds me a bit of old history readings in school, or watching movies based on Philippine history. Note that it didn't really have the "required reading for school" feel, but it provided a sense of nostalgia for the early Spanish era in Philippine history. Angelica's letters to her aunt and her stories were vivid and she felt very much alive in those letters. She may not be the nicest or the most honest character, but she is a well-formed character that it's hard not to be curious about her as the book goes on.
I had a few nitpicks though. For one thing, I felt that Lola Josefina's angle wasn't really that explored, up until she admitted her secret to Tess. I wasn't even aware that she was the third person in the story until I finally figured it out. Also, I thought Dina was introduced a little too late in the story, almost like she was an afterthought, like she was only there to be the receiver of Tess' wrath.
Also, there was the dreaded insta-love. I wished there wasn't an insta-love thing between Tess and Luis -- I could accept Tess liking/lusting after him during the first time she met him and danced with him in the disco, but the idea of her falling in love with him felt a little too quick for me. I was never a fan of insta-love, anyway, and personally, I would've been fine if Tess ended up not having a love life in the end. After all, she still had to find herself after her marriage disintegrated.
Nevertheless, I thought Angelica's Daughters was a well-written and enjoyable novel that deals with family, love and moving on from past mistakes. It's chick lit, but it's not really hardcore fluffy chick lit that I think even guys will like to read this. Plus that recipe for Angelica's special tsokolate-espeso is a must-try. This is one of the good ones in Filipino fiction, and I hope more Filipinos get to read this book. :)(less)
I was never a big fan of historical novels because in my mind, they're equivalent to classics: slow reading and oftentim...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I was never a big fan of historical novels because in my mind, they're equivalent to classics: slow reading and oftentimes, hard to read. I tend to shy away from any novel set in any part of history that isn't a classic because...well, classics are classics for a reason that's why I feel the need to read them. Historicals are just that, and it doesn't really call my name.
That's just me being a book snob, excuse me there.
But the good reviews of Jennifer Donnelly's books got me curious, so I had her books somewhere in my wish list, for possible future acquiring and reading. Fortunately, I didn't have to buy any because I got her two YA novels as gifts last Christmas. Knowing myself, however, I was kind of sure those books would sit on my TBR pile for a while before I get to go through them. If I wasn't crazy enough to set a mini-challenge for myself every month, I don't think I would have picked up and discovered the beauty that is A Northern Light.
Mattie Gokey is working at Glenmore when the body of Grace Brown was found in the river. She remembers Grace very well -- after all, she had asked Mattie to burn some letters for her just a few hours before she was found dead. Unable to sleep that night, Mattie decides to read the letters and finds that there was more to Grace Brown's death than it looks.
At the same time that was happening, another story is told that accounts how Mattie got to the Glenmore in the first place. Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey is a smart young lady who has big dreams of being a writer but is losing hope of them coming true. After their mother died and her older brother ran away, Mattie is left to help manage the Gokey household with her sullen father and three younger sisters. A lover of books and the written word, Mattie dreams of writing her own, too, but poverty, her family and a possible romance all comes to her, forcing her to decide if she should follow her dreams or stay and fulfill her promise to her dead mother.
The summaries I wrote there is not enough to do justice to the beauty of this book. A Northern Light turned out to be an easy read despite it being set in a time so far from what I know. The setting was vivid, and it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood reads, The Nickel-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty. I could just imagine the sprawling farm lands, the cows that they need to milk, the hotel, the Gokey home. Adding to the vivid scenery are the wonderfully drawn characters. Mattie's voice rang clear and true, and all the people around her shone like little stars, too, shedding more light in the mystery and the story. Even the unnamed guests in the hotel felt like real people, and I can almost hear the noise of the guests eating as Mattie and her co-workers in Glenmore rush to and from the kitchen, picking up plates and serving dishes. The writing was simple yet poetic, immediately pulling me in without having to adjust to any odd language. Overall, the book just worked for me and it read almost like a contemporary YA novel, which I really liked.
The best part of the novel, the one that tickled my fancy so much, is the fact that Mattie loved words. My bookish self found a kindred spirit in Mattie and in her fascination with books. It was almost like A Northern Light was also a book for appreciating books and the power of words. I could definitely relate to Mattie in this particular scene when she saw her teacher's massive library:
What I saw next stopped me dead in my tracks. Books. Not just one or two dozen, but hundreds of them. In crates. In piles on the floor. In bookcases that stretched from floor to ceiling and lined the entire room. I turned around and around in a slow circle, feeling as if I'd just stumbled into Ali Baba's cave. I was breathless, close to tears, and positively dizzy with greed.
I get the exact same reaction when I'm in a bookstore. ;)
I also always loved those scenes when Mattie and her best friend Weaver would have a word duel, where they'd "shoot" each other with synonyms of a word that they set at the start of the game, and the one who fails to give the answer "dies". This book gave importance to even the simplest of words, and to further stress that, chapters that narrate Mattie's past before she got to Glenmore had headings of Mattie's word of the day that somehow made its way into the story.
A Northern Light is a ultimately a story about following your dreams, but it also gracefully tackles other issues such as sex and racism. Sometime during reading this book, I got the good chills, and that just confirmed that how good this book was. I loved it, and I think people who appreciate the written word would like this book very much, too. I'm still not a big fan of historical fiction, but I will definitely read Jennifer Donnelly’s other books. :)(less)
I read and loved Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light earlier this year, and I looked forward to reading her second (?) YA novel, Revolution after I got a taste of her writing prowess. There were only two things that stopped me from reading it: (1) I still shy away from historicals and (2) the book looked so daunting with its size and length. I didn't think I would be able to read it for Required Reading last month as I'm jet-setting all around, but I'm really, really glad I found a way to read it!
Andi Alpers is an angry girl. After her brother's death, everything in her family fell apart and all Andi could think of is thoughts of suicide. When her school calls her dad with a threat of expulsion, he brings her to Paris for her winter break to work on her senior thesis. Living with her dad's friends, Andi finds a diary hidden in the guitar case given to her. There she meets Alexandrine Paradis, an girl who lived two centuries ago who dreams of being a popular actress but whose life is forever changed when she meets a young (and doomed) prince of France. Andi finds comfort in Alex's diary, until a night at the catacombs of Paris brings her face to face to what just Alex was going through.
Like I said earlier, Revolution looked daunting because of its length -- the table of contents lists 80+ chapters! I was kind of worried that I didn't have much in me to invest in something this long. However, I found that the book was extremely readable. I was never bored with any chapter, and it was really more contemporary than historical. Andi's anger and grief radiates through the pages, and I felt really, really sad for her. I think out of all the books I've read with grief, this book had the rawest and angriest form, and the first time I read about someone willingly self-destruct because she couldn't find the strength to face the days living with the grief.
Despite that, I found Andi's anger and her going around a little too tedious, and it took a long time before Alexandrine was introduced. When she was, however, I found myself stuck further to the pages. I found myself engrossed in Alex's diary just as much as Andi was, and even if I knew how it would probably end, I felt the same fear and longing for the story to end differently, for the Alex to make it through.
I think a reason why I loved this book more than I thought I would was because I was actually in Europe while I was reading this. The moment I got to Paris, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and the familiar names that I was just reading in the book. Bastille, Palais-Royal, River Seine, Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur. The book definitely came alive to me because I was at the setting, and I could imagine Andi running through the streets of Paris in the cold, playing in the park. I can imagine Alex in Palais-Royal performing. It was such an awesome thrill to see the places I only read about with my very eyes. It was just too bad I had no time to visit the catacombs. :D
The ending, while it was wrapped up nicely, was just a tad too unbelievable, especially with the seemingly time-space-warp thing that happened. Still, I think Revolution is another solid book from Jennifer Donnelly. It's intense and gripping and wonderfully colorful despite its bleak atmosphere. Music lovers and historical fiction fans should definitely pick up this book, but if you're neither and you like contemporary YA novels, then you may enjoy this one very much, just like I did.
I tried reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thiefin 2011, a little over a year after I got the book. Then I stopped, because I wasn't in the mood to read the book yet, so I shoved it back into my TBR with no concrete plans of reading it. I knew it was good, but I didn't know when I'd have the time to read it. Two years later, the book was selected for our book club's discussion this month, and I figure that's why I didn't read it back then.
The Book Thief is a World War II story, set in Nazi Germany, about a little girl who steals books because of her love of books and words. But it's not really that simple, because of the war, and all the other things going on around her and in her life with her foster parents. The story is also a little bit more complicated because it wasn't narrated by the girl or any other people surrounding her. Instead, the entire story was narrated by Death, who was very busy collecting souls at the time of war and yet Liesel Meminger the book thief caught his eye.
I don't like WWII stories. I've read several books but they weren't books that totally focused on war or the casualties of it. I never really read much about bombings or the people dying, and I never liked reading about them because it saddens me, and quite frankly, it gives me the creeps. I didn't know what to expect with The Book Thief, except maybe that people I know who read and loved them cried at the end...so maybe, I will cry too?
Here's the thing: I thought that having Death narrate this story is quite ingenious. Sure, Death is quite snarky and he loves giving spoilers, but it gives the story a little bit of a different perspective, than say if Liesel was the narrator. I actually liked Death's segues and the random facts, although it took me some time to get used to. There also wasn't as much war in the book as I thought it would have, and it was good...but there were enough to make me stop reading for a while and breathe because I felt horrified at what I was reading. War is never a pretty thing, after all.
The little neighborhood in Molching, and the people in Himmel Street grew on me, some quick like Hans Hubermann and some took a while, like Ilsa Hermann. I was constantly holding my breath, hoping against hope that nothing bad would happen to them...but like I mentioned, Death loved giving so many spoilers, so even if I managed to spoil myself accidentally while we were having the online discussion for this book, I realized that getting spoiled early on didn't really matter because the narrator would do that for you. But in a way, this builds the right expectations, and somehow, a part of me still didn't want to believe what Death said would happen. Oh how I wished it wasn't so. I'm also particularly fond of Rudy Steiner, too, and ...that boy really just broke my heart.
The Book Thiefmade me reflect on several things, especially with how words and reading played such a big deal in the characters' lives. That was my favorite part, how there was so much emphasis on reading and the power of words. I liked how it was illustrated in the book and how it showed that even if words were used for evil, you can use it for good, too, and using it for the latter touches so many people, even Death himself. I'm all about words, you see, and I could really relate with Liesel when she found her words and how she "...would wring it out like the rain." (p.80) It made me wonder if I can still remember how it is not to have words at my disposal, and not to have the books where I have access to so many words. Furthermore, it made me wonder: do I use my words like the Führer? Or do I use them like Liesel?
I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
I didn't bawl at the end of The Book Thief, but I did shed some tears, and it took me a while before I could move on from the story. I suppose, like Death, I was haunted. And I think that I will remain haunted by it for a little while longer, because there's really so much in this book than what was written on the synopsis, or from its black and brown (at least in my edition) cover. It's not just a WWII story, but more, and I'd rather that Death the narrator would spoil it for you rather than me.
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
One last thing: I hope that when Death comes for me, he'll find my soul sitting up.(less)