Sarah Addison Allen is one of my go-to authors for comfort reads. I think everyone who’s ever read any of her books know this. There’s something aboutSarah Addison Allen is one of my go-to authors for comfort reads. I think everyone who’s ever read any of her books know this. There’s something about her words, the magic realism in her novels that just hits the right spot. So I was very excited when Lost Lake came out, and I couldn’t wait to get lost in this new, magical world crafted by her SAA’s words.
A year after her husband’s death, Kate Pherris wakes up. Her mother-in-law, Cricket, plans to move her and her daughter Devin with her, but Kate didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. When Devin finds a postcard from her Kate’s Aunt Eby from Lost Lake, the mother and daughter drive off to Lost Lake. Eby Pim knew Lost Lake is going bankrupt, and with a heavy heart, she finally decides to sell it. When this news comes out, Eby’s old friends started coming back, to spend one last time in the lake. Eby thinks she made the right decision, but something doesn’t sit well with her. Lost Lake is a place where lost people find themselves, so what happens when they lose it?
I got lost in Lost Lake a few pages in, and I mean that in a good way. There’s the usual magic and beauty in this book. It’s not quite the same as Garden Spells, a bit more similar to The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but still unique in its own way. I really liked the setting. Most of my vacations by the water involve the beach - sun, sand and whatnot. Lakes aren’t too common here in the Philippines (at least, there’s not much of them that I know), so a lake vacation is interesting to me. I loved the old cabins, the lake that seemed like magic, and all the other memories that the cast of characters had in the lake. The history gave the place a lot more personality, and it was so nice to dip into all of it and see how much the place meant to everyone in Suley. I wanted to be there in Lost Lake, too, to witness the magic of the place first hand.
But in a way, I guess I was there, too. True to form, SAA’s words brought me there, too, and it was such a pleasure to be there. Reading this felt like a vacation, the one where I made new friends in the form of the characters in the story. I loved Eby and Kate and Devin, but the people who really shone here were the secondary characters - Lisette, Selma, Buhladeen (I love her name), Wes, the alligator. I loved them in their signature quirkiness, their whimsy and the little magic that they call carried in their own. The thing with SAA novels is that even if there is a little bit of magic, somehow you'd still believe that they were just normal, everyday things. That's what I love the most about magic realism - how magic is not new, and how it's all so subtle but it leaves a big mark in the character's lives.
Lost Lake was good, except maybe compared to the other SAA books, it had a little of a lost quality to it, too. I don't mean it in a bad way; perhaps there was just too many things to love that I couldn't really settle into any of them to love them fully. I suppose this isn't bad, but I had a lot of books for comparison and Lost Lake pales just a little bit in comparison to the others. If you're new to SAA and you want to dip your toes into her stories, then this may be a good one to start with, and then I would recommend you read her others, too, because trust me: it gets better from there.
There are some books that I told myself I would never read. I would never put them in an actual list, really, but I know that these are the books thatThere are some books that I told myself I would never read. I would never put them in an actual list, really, but I know that these are the books that I would ignore in a bookstore, books that I wouldn't even think of buying. Reasons behind this may vary, but you know how we readers have preferences depending on the books we enjoy, or the time we have or the things we value, and all that.
I said that about Les Miserableslate last year. I'd never read it because it's just too thick, and I simply have no time. Then I read it and finished it in 45 days.
I said the same thing for Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. I didn't think I would read it, because frankly, I found the topic icky. I mean, a grown man supposedly "in love" with a child? I squirm at the thought -- just as how I squirmed and looked away when I watched those crime shows (based on a true story or not) that involved someone who sexually abuses a child. It's just not something I would even want to read, quite honestly.
And then, Lolita won in our book club's polls for our September discussion. I guess in a way it was my fault for suggesting banned books as a topic for September, and this one made it to the final list. Lolita was far more popular than the two other books in the list, so it was kind of a shoo-in to win. I remember thinking (and saying this to one of the discussion moderators): Perhaps it's time for me to read this. Year of the Brave, you say?
I won't talk about the plot anymore because this is a pretty popular novel, with its controversial themes and gorgeous prose, as they say. I knew I was a apprehensive when I started reading hits. No, not because I can relate to any of it (thank God I don't), but because I was wary of how it would go with me. Lolita is readable overall, because its prose isn't hard to read, nor it is boring. It's very well-written, actually, and it's commendable especially since Nabokov's first language is Russian. Humbert Humbert comes off as an unreliable narrator from the start, and Lolita is his account of what happened with her and to some events that led him to make that statement. I got confused about that, honestly -- why "statement"? I figure he did something wrong there, but what? Did he kill someone? Who? Did he kill Lolita? (No, this isn't a spoiler)
Let me go back to the prose. It was gorgeous, and surprisingly, it isn't explicit. I mean, sometimes I have to go back to some passages to understand what Nabokov was writing about and then I'll realize what happened there. Huh. And then I read on, and I go all, "Huh" again. I mean that in a good way, really.
Here's the thing: I sort of predicted from the start that I would probably not rate Lolita higher than three stars, given that this isn't really the kind of book I would read. I think even my friends expected that. But when I got to the end while I waited in line at the bank to pay some bills...I don't know, I knew I couldn't rate it that. I can't explain it in full, but there was something in that ending that just made me change my mind. Is it the writing? Probably. Is it how Nabokov somehow made Humbert Humbert seemed deserving of sympathy? Maybe. I don't know, really. It's been a little over a month since I finished this book, but I still can't answer that. All I know is I found myself thinking at the ending. It doesn't make everything that he did or whatever happened in the story less icky because it is icky, period. But somehow, there was something in the ending that made me change my mind about rating this novel.
Lolitais controversial, I have to agree. But I also agree that this is just one of those books that a reader has to read in their lifetime. I'm glad my book club made me read this.
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 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.
I've had Life of Piby Yann Martel on my radar since my senior year in college, but I never got it because I couldn'tOriginal post from One More Page
I've had Life of Piby Yann Martel on my radar since my senior year in college, but I never got it because I couldn't really afford it on my allowance back then. Later, much later, there were many, many times I could have bought it but I prioritized other books so I didn't get it even then. One time, during a book club meet-up, some friends were talking about this book so I asked them if they think it was something I would like. I remember someone telling me that I might be bored with it, so I decided to just borrow instead of buy. But alas, I never got to borrow it even after. It still wasn't in my priority list, up until late last year, when my friends were talking about the books that will soon become movies. I figured, since I was starting to explore outside of the genres I usually read, that maybe it's finally time to read it.
That, and there was the tiger.
I love tigers. Tigers are some of my favorite animals. If I could own a tiger for a pet, I would do that in a heartbeat. Tiger photos are an automatic reblog in my Tumblr, and I swear, I could stare at them for hours on end. So a big part of my wanting to read and watch Life of Piwas because of the tiger in the story.
Piscine Molitor Patel -- Pi, for short -- is a teenage boy whose family owned a zoo in Pondicherry, India. Pi has lived an interesting life, one that made the author seek him out so he can write his book, intrigued by the idea that Pi's story can make him believe in God. Life of Piis really, well, Pi's life, as he grew up surrounded by animals, his quest for (three) religions, growing with his belief and of course, his 227-days in the middle of the ocean after the ship carrying them to Canada sunk, leaving him on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, which probably helped me appreciate it. I just knew about the shipwreck and the tiger, but I didn't know what was supposed to happen around it. I liked Pi's voice, his boyishness that was slightly tinged with pain of recollection, since the story was being told from the point of view of the older Pi. I liked the lush atmosphere of Pi's life in the zoo, and all the animal behavior lessons that he shared. It reminded me a bit of all the animal lessons in Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, my favorite scifi series growing up. This made me want to go visit a zoo and observe the animals for myself.
I also really liked Pi's journey into religion. Or religions, rather. I think this is a part that people either really get or don't get in the book. I don't claim to get it all completely, but I appreciated Pi's attempts to find God, even if it meant going to the other religions. It was more of a spiritual journey rather than religious, really, and there were several things that he learned from all three religions that I felt applied to life in general. I liked how Pi learned about God willingly, and I am pretty sure his earlier spiritual journey helped him in his predicament later on.
I realized while watching the movie that being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no sign of help or no land is now my worst nightmare. When I am island hopping on vacations, I am always the one wearing a life vest, because I am not the strongest swimmer. In the book, I cannot envision how the ocean can be merciless because I kept on thinking of it as a calm ocean since they were in the Pacific, right? Then I watched the movie and oh my Lord, I never want to be in that situation ever. Especially with a bengal tiger, even if I love that animal.
I found Pi's adventures in the middle of the ocean very interesting and I was really, really rooting for him to live. Or rather, I am really, really hoping Richard Parker the tiger would live in the end. I can just imagine the tiger in the story, and the visuals in the movie (even if the tiger is completely computer generated) helped me love Richard Parker more. Pi's adventures in the ocean had the most meat in it, I think, and there were so many, many things that got me even if I wouldn't even dare to be stuck in the middle of the ocean like him. Some of my favorite passages:
It begins in your mind, always. One moment, you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy... So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you. (p. 161, 162)
Despair was a heavy blackness that let no light in or out. It was a hell beyond expression. I thank God it always passed...The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving. (p. 209)
It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. (p. 285)
The ending left me...reeling. A friend told me about the twist in the story, but I wanted to be surprised and boy was I surprised. I couldn't wrap my head around it for a while, and I had my first case of a book hangover for the year, which was extended right after watching the movie.
I'm really glad I started the year with this one. Life of Piby Yann Martel is a beautiful book. It's not often a book leaves me with a delicious hangover that leaves me thinking and talking about the book after I was done. While it didn't exactly make me believe in God more than I already do, I think this is a book that speaks of hope and belief even in the most impossible situations. :)
I meant to rate this four stars, but I am giving one full star for Richard Parker the tiger. Just because. :3...more
A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. NotOriginal post from One More Page
A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. Note that this friend and I had different tastes in books, and it's only just recently that we started reading similar ones and it was mostly because of the book club picks. If this book was recommended to me say, early in 2011, I wouldn't have picked it up, but since I feel like I've been growing as a reader, I was actually quite excited to read this when I finally found a copy. This wasn't my first choice for our book club's book of the month for April, because there was an initial plan of reading this book with a some friends. But I guess everyone else wanted to read it for April, and who am I to disagree with that, right?
Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is actually a long letter of Reverend John Ames, a dying pastor, to his young son. There are stories of his father, and his grandfather, of his first wife, of his friendship with old Boughton and his complicated relationship with Boughton's youngest son who was named after him. He mused about life, and death, and wrote what he can to give his son a memory of him, his old father, who can only do so much now that he's about to leave his family to go to his Heavenly Father.
Gilead felt like a pretty short book, and I was kind of expecting that I would finish it real quick. But instead, I found myself reading it a lot slower than I expected. The book was slow, and it meandered, and its lack of chapter breaks made it a little bit harder to devour (what, I'm used to the normal structure of books), but I guess there was a reason for that. Gilead is actually meant for slow reading because of its content. Gilead is really more about...memories. Wishes. Regrets. Hope. It's a journal and a letter, and you just can't rush through something like it because it contains wisdom from the eyes of someone who has lived long. The number of pages I have dog-eared in my copy is the sure indication of this, but I do not regret a thing because there were just too many beautiful passages in the book. Some examples:
The twinkling of an eye. That is the most wonderful expression. I've thought from time to time it was the best thing in life, that little incandescence you see in people when the charm of the thing strikes them, or the humor of it. "The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart." That's a fact. (p.61)
Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness, a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for. (p.64)
I must be gracious. My only role is to be gracious. Clearly I must somehow contrive to think graciously about him since he makes it such a point of seeing right through me. I believe I have made some progress on that front through prayer, though there is clearly much more progress to be made, much more praying to be done. (p.145)
And grace is the great gift. So to be forgiven is only half the gift. The other half is that we also can forgive, restore, and liberate, and therefore we can feel the will of God enacted through us, which is the great restoration of ourselves to ourselves. (p.190)
I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. (p.290)
Many times, I had to stop a bit in reading this because some of the passages hit home, a bit too hard. I have to stop and reflect on them, and sometimes I feel the tinge of guilt in some because I know that I have failed in what Reverend Ames had written. That particular bit about graciousness is hard to swallow, because I find myself being in his position ever so often, and it's always a hard battle to think graciously of someone who you somehow dislike. I can't say that I am a truly gracious person just yet, but I definitely agree that there is a lot of praying yet to be done. Will you pray with me about this?
There was a little question of whether this book was a sad one before we started discussing it online, but our moderator just said that it's a book that will make us heave deep sighs. And she was right. Deep sighs, indeed. I found myself close to tears in the end, and it made me wonder what kind of legacy I would leave, and if I would be ever able to say or write that same last line in the book with peace and surrender, just as Reverend Ames did for his son. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.
My friends have said it a lot, but I will say it here, too: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
beautiful. There is no other word that can be used to really describe it.
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient. (p. 287)
This is a very, very, very late review, and I am sorry. What was I doing the past months? I don't know, except that IOriginal post from One More Page
This is a very, very, very late review, and I am sorry. What was I doing the past months? I don't know, except that I was busy reading and not reviewing.
But let's not get to to that.
When I finished reading my first David Mitchell book, Cloud Atlas, one of the many things I felt after reading that was: I'm so happy that he has other books I haven't read yet. It's a bit rare for me to find an author whose back list I would gladly read, all of which were praised by my friends. I was really excited to get back into David Mitchell's writing when I picked up Ghostwritten earlier this year.
Ghostwritten, much like Cloud Atlas (but also not quite) is a collection of short stories of different, seemingly unconnected people from different parts of the world. There's a terrorist in Okinawa, a young, half-Filipino record shop clerk in Tokyo, an British financier in Hong Kong, a woman running a tea shack in the mountains of China, a gallery attendant moonlighting as an art thief, a drummer, a physicist in Europe, a radio DJ in New York and even a strange little entity that jumps from one person to another in Mongolia. They all have their own stories, vastly different from one another...and yet, they're all somehow connected -- only in the way Mitchell can weave tales.
It took me a while to finish this, not because it wasn't good, but I was reading this alongside Les Miserables. This wasn't the kind of book that I wanted to rush through because I wanted to see all the connections that I can possibly can in the stories. There's no fancy story format in this, unlike Cloud Atlas, but there's the smooth transition from each character's story. Okay, maybe it's not that smooth, but the voices were so distinct, that sometimes it feels like it wasn't just one writer writing all of them.
Thinking about this book now reminds me of this line I heard from watching researcher storyteller Brené Brown's TED talks in the past days -- how stories are data with souls. In Ghostwritten, we have several stories that span across the globe, with different characters and different settings, and Mitchell connects them with a slight phone call, an accidental crash in the road, or even just in passing. It's interesting how these connections somehow changed the life of each character, in good ways and in bad ways. I liked how the author put it with this line: "The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed." Just like in Cloud Atlas, this book reminded me of how our actions can affect one another, and how each encounter with someone can alter our lives in ways we cannot even imagine.
Another note on the book -- I read Cloud Atlas with a bunch of people from the book club, and somehow it left me with a notion that reading Mitchell's books should be a shared experience with other readers. I didn't have buddies to read Ghostwritten with, but I stalked my friends' buddy reads thread in our Goodreads Group for the book every time I finished a story, because I wanted to see if I missed anything. It's not as fun as actually having buddies, but it was quite helpful to note their observations as I read the book.
I think I like Cloud Atlas just a tad more than I did Ghostwritten, but it may just be because of the style of the former. But Ghostwritten is a very good book -- to think it's Mitchell's debut. Color me amazed. :) Like with Cloud Atlas, I can't wait to read Mitchell's other books. But I'm going to pace myself because I kind of don't want to run out of his books in my TBR too fast. ...more
I have a feeling I will be a part of the unpopular opinion for this book. We picked The Amazing Adventures of KavalieOriginal 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....more
Normally, I wouldn't read a book like The Color Purple, because it's not my usual genre. Not that I don't read literaryOriginal post at One More Page
Normally, I wouldn't read a book like The Color Purple, because it's not my usual genre. Not that I don't read literary fiction books, but the themes of abuse and rape and all those things kind of make me squirm and feel general discomfort. I treat books as an escape from real life, so reading a book with several injustices isn't really my priority.
But don't get me wrong -- every now and then, I read these kinds of books, too. When I do read them, I have to admit that I try to find an excuse to do so. Alice Walker's The Color Purple was included in the list of books that we were voting for our July book discussion, and it was the one I voted for only because of the title and the other cover with the huge sunflower on it (which I really wanted for my copy, but I couldn't find one). The book didn't win, but we had a book buddy discussion on this (which I totally sucked at because I hardly left a comment on the thread). I ended up reading this book while I was at the beach -- it felt totally inappropriate, but in a way, it's also not. I'll explain that in a bit.
The Color Purple is a collection of letters from a black woman named Celie to God and eventually to her sister, Nettie, covering 20 years of her life from 14 when she was being sexually and physically abused by her father, and eventually marrying an equally abusive husband she calls "Mister". We learn of her new family, of her missing her sister and her friendship with a singer named Shug, who reveals to Celie that Mister is keeping her sister's letters to her in an attempt to keep here where she is. The Color Purple is the story of Celie's journey from being a victim to a survivor, from hate to love, and of family and friends and faith.
So, reading The Color Purple while I was in Boracay was interesting. Being surrounded by so much beauty and pleasure and luxury makes it hard to concentrate on what Celie was experiencing, but it was also eye-opening because somehow, reading this while on vacation kept me a bit grounded in the fact that life for other people isn't a vacation. There's so much pain and suffering in the first few pages of this book that it almost feels like it's going to be a hard book to read, but Celie's resilient personality shone through. Her letters were heartfelt and honest, and I felt myself rooting for her as the letters came.
I read in one of my friend's reviews that it was implied in this novel that God was Celie's most attentive listener -- and I realized that I can relate to that! Every morning (or whatever time I wake up when I am on night shift), one of the first things I do is go to my room, open my Bible and pray. I used to pray only in my mind but I always end up falling asleep when I do just that, so I learned to write my prayers down in my journals. Ever since then I have filled so many journals with my prayers, and thinking back, I never felt that God had been inattentive to me in any of my entries. Though Celie somehow lost hold of her faith somewhere in the middle of the novel, there was still that lingering faith there, about how God listens and how the God she knows answered her prayer in the end. Looking back at all my entries, I realized the same was true for me -- and if I read some of them there, I find that the God I know has answered my prayers. It's not always the same way I expected, but they were answered in the best way and they were for my good.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a pretty powerful novel, if you don't let the coarseness of the language and the format get to you. It had the same feel as A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and The Nickel Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty, only it's more adult and possibly more touching. While it's not the perfect beach read, it was a pretty good reminder that there is a life outside beaches and iPhones that take an unexpected bath in saltwater....more
I read and enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells a few months ago and ever since then, I've had her other books oOriginal post at One More Page
I read and enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells a few months ago and ever since then, I've had her other books on my wish list. I've seen some of them around, but never The Sugar Queen. I know friends have seen copies of this everywhere, but it remains elusive. So I figured, if other people can see it more than I do, then they can probably get it for me for Christmas right? Imagine my delight when Monique sent me this book as a Kindle gift. Squee! Thank you! :) I wasn't planning to read this anytime soon, but Chachic's Christmas Reads post got me craving for something Christmas-y. Unfortunately, I don't have a book that specifically fits the season, unlike last year when I had Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. The next best thing was to look for books that had the closest atmosphere to Christmas and wouldn't be so taxing to the mind. And that brought me back to my first Kindle gift, The Sugar Queen.
Josey Cirrini had always lived in the shadow of her mother, because she felt the need to repay her for all the grief she had put her mother up to when she was a kid. Now at twenty seven, she lives at home, answers to the beck and call of her mom, eats her secret stash of sweets and reads romance novels in the privacy of her bedroom closet. Until one night, she finds Della Lee hiding inside her closet, threatening her of blackmail of the contents of her closet if Josey didn't do what she asked. Della urges Josey to befriend Chloe Finley, a young woman who just came from a break-up with her boyfriend Jake, who also happens to be the best friend of Josey's crush, mailman Adam. Josey's world opens up and she discovers things about herself and her surroundings that she never knew, and also builds a friendship and a romance she never expected. Della's work is now done, but it wasn't long before Josey finds out the real reason why the older woman was hiding in her closet.
Now there is really something about Sarah Addison Allen novels that is just so comforting. It's like she brings magical realism into real life, and it makes me want to believe that the things happening in her books were real.
Like Clare in Garden Spells, Josey tends to keep by herself, but this time not because of her routine, but because she felt that she needed to be good after all the embarrassment she made her mom go through. Josey was kind of a tough character to like, but that's mostly because I'm don't think I have too much in common with her. But then, I also think Josey's mom is a tougher nut to crack. I really didn't like her especially with how she puts her daughter down if only to keep Josey home to order around. However, it was fairly easy to like Della and Chloe. Della was a bit of an oddball, but I liked how random she seemed to the point of nonsense but ends up making sense in the end. Chloe is my favorite character, though, if only for her special "ability". No, it's not sandwich making (although from the descriptions, she seemed to make very good sandwiches), but how books tend to follow her everywhere. Imagine how a book would just magically appear to you whenever you need it, depending on how you feel? The bookworm in me (which is really...well, me) would be delighted with that kind of magic -- maybe I should choose that as my superpower instead? But other than that, Chloe was also a strong character and a perfect complement to Josey.
I liked how the relationships of the people unfolded out here. Josey's friendship with Chloe and Della, Josey's relationship with her mom, Chloe and Jake's romance and Josey and Adam's. While I wasn't a fan of what Jake did, I really couldn't think of any other way for his relationship with Chloe would go. I'm no judge of course, but I don't know what I'd do if I were in Chloe's place. On the other hand, I loved Josey and Adam's banter. I loved the uncertainty, the push and the pull, the smiles. I was positively thrilled when someone finally made a move, and how natural the progression of their relationship felt.
The ending kind of took me by surprise, but it wasn't entirely unpredictable. The ending provided a good tug at the heartstrings, though, which I think is the perfectly sweet way to end this book. While The Sugar Queen didn't have that same magical feel that Garden Spells had, I thought it was still a very good and comforting -- and yes, Christmas-y -- read. I'm really glad that I have Sarah Addison Allen's next book on my TBR because I think I already know what to read the next time I need something comfortable and easy and magical. :) ...more
It's a rare occurrence nowadays when I actually review a book I just finished reading. Usually it takes me a few days weOriginal post at One More Page
It's a rare occurrence nowadays when I actually review a book I just finished reading. Usually it takes me a few days weeks to write one, but since this is up for discussion for our book club this weekend, I thought I'd try something new and actually write a review soon after I finished the book.
The Remains of the Dayby Kazuo Ishiguro is the story about a butler. Stevens has been a butler for Darlington Hall for almost all his life, working for the "great" Lord Darlington and later for an American gentleman, Mr. Farraday, who bought the big house soon after Lord Darlington passed away. When his American employer told him to go take a vacation while he is away, Stevens sets off on a motoring trip to meet an old colleague, Miss Kenton, with the pretense of asking her to work for them again to correct some certain staffing errors in Darlington Hall. As with every road motoring trip done in solitude, Stevens thinks of his experiences and subtly questions the things he knew about his old employer and his own affections for a certain co-worker.
Hindsight is 20/20. That's a popular quote that I never really understood until I started thinking about things more often than usual, and I wish it wasn't always the case -- the thinking and how hindsight can be 20/20, I mean. Sometimes I wish we could make better decisions when we need to, and not regret things in the end when we realize how we could have done better and we should have done this. That's one of the things I remembered while reading The Remains of the Day. Stevens is an interesting character, not quite like Kathy H from Never Let Me Go, but also the same in how they reminisce the past. Of course, Stevens is older, so he has more experience so to speak, but can I be honest? Sometimes I have to admit that the experience he shares can be quite...boring. Maybe it's because I can't exactly relate to him. Or maybe because we have a kind of generation gap. It was interesting to see what he thinks of dignity and what he thinks of his employer, and how he tells of tales from when he served him. He didn't question it back then, and even as he related his stories he never questioned it either -- but there was that subtle doubt that made me wonder if he thought if he could do anything about it, or if he should do anything, given that he was just a butler. Does he have the power to do it? Can he even say anything about it, especially since he believes that his employer is a good man? To put it in a better and more personal context: I'm an employee of a multinational company, one of thousands in this country. Do my decisions count? Can my voice be heard amongst all the executives? Do I have a right to say something if I notice something is amiss? Or will I even notice that? And finally, if I do that, will I even matter?
I don't want to be a fool wondering what might have been. Trivia: in college, I used to like that song. :P As with Never Let Me Go, there's a certain romantic aspect in The Remains of the Day, too. Miss Kenton was one of the characters that Stevens kept on talking about, and I found his interactions with her both annoying and hilarious. To say more would be spoilery, but I had to laugh at their interactions because they seem to be beating around the bush and making excuses about their conversations. It goes to show that even someone as "dignified" and knowledgeable (in his own right) as Mr. Stevens can know nothing about how women are -- but maybe it's because it was his choice. I can't blame him too much, though. He made his choice, even if he didn't know it, which forced Miss Kenton to make her own, leading them to where they both ended up in the end.
There's no time for my regrets. One of our pre-work for the book discussion this weekend is to write a piece that talks about love, loss, hope, and/or regret. When I was writing my piece, I realized one thing: it was easy to remember tales of love and hope, but not of loss and regret. Perhaps it's because I don't have any tales of loss and regret (thank God for that). I figure that is true for loss, but for regret, I'd like to think it's because I've long told myself that I choose not to regret over anything. Maybe that's me being positive, but I have always believed that mistakes are made for learning and there's always a higher purpose to why things happened, and regrets will just bog you down. I guess what matters is how we should be aware of our choices so we won't have to think of regrets in the future.Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and we won't really know if we chose the right thing later on. But like I said, maybe all we need to do is to trust that things will be okay, eventually, and that despite making wrong choices, we always have a choice on how we shall see our life after that.
The Remains of the Day is my second Ishiguro, and I'm glad that it still has that quiet, calm writing, one that I really needed after reading several high-action zombie books. I really loved my first Ishiguro, so I had high expectations for this one which I am glad was met. It's not quite as amazing as Never Let Me Go, IMO, but it's a good book that makes you think about life, just as how I did in this review, I think! :) This will definitely not be my last Ishiguro book.
Also, you know what, maybe I will reread this a few years later, to see if I still think of the book the same way as I do now....more
I've heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired itOriginal post at One More Page
I've heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired it and even some more time before I decided to read it. Every now and then, there's a book that comes along and takes you in and makes you comfortable with every page. They're those books that you just sink into effortlessly, almost like it was an old friend welcoming you with warm food after a long day's travel. I am very, very glad to say that Garden Spells is one of them. :)
Claire Waverley has lived alone for a long time now, choosing to stay in the Waverley house, running her catering business that offers the strangest but life-altering delicacies. Being a Waverley, Claire possesses a kind of magic that is unique to her: she can cook food from their garden that can shape the minds and moods of people who eat them. Claire is content with living alone and is not in any hurry to relinquish control over her routines until her wild and rebellious sister Sydney comes home with her daughter. Claire's quiet life is turned upside down as she deals with her sister's homecoming, and she tries desperately to stay in control even if she's afraid of the changes this would bring in her life.
Garden Spells, in a word, is lovely. This book reminds me of Marisa de los Santos' books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, both of which I loved. The prose is lyrical but never flowery, the characters quirky but never too much that they'd be annoying or forced. I love that all characters had something going on with them -- even the apple tree had a personality. Just like Waverley magic, there's something really magical about this book, just enough that you wouldn't question the people's abilities or the things they believed in the little town of Bascom. Granted, there isn't anything that surprising with regards to the book's plot, but there's just a certain charm in this book that would stop you from caring too much. It's like you want to live with them there. This book should also not be read while hungry because all the descriptions of food made me hungrier! It makes me wonder if there is some truth in the life-altering food that Claire makes. Maybe if I put candied violets in my cake...? Haha, right. I can dream.
It's not often I let out a contented sigh at the end of a book, but this got one out of me. Sigh. If all of Sarah Addison Allen's books are as yummy and as magical as Garden Spells, then consider me a fan. I can't wait to get my hands on her other books. :)...more
One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It waOriginal 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. :)...more
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of theOriginal post at One More Page
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of the clever idea behind the book. I love anything that involves wordplay. I loved the idea that this book is told using dictionary words, and for some reason, this gives me the feeling that this book has a universal feel to it, like anyone could relate to an entry here at one point. I ordered a copy off Book Depository a few weeks ago after I realized that it's cheaper there, and when it finally arrived, I actually dropped the books I was reading to devour this one.
The Lover's Dictionary is quite easy to devour given its short, dictionary-like format. This book, as mentioned in the blurb, tells the story of an unnamed couple, written using different words from a dictionary. The narrator, who is a guy based on the entries, is a writer while the girl seemed like a wild, whimsical character who seems to have enchanted our narrator. But as their relationship goes on, it gets harder for the both of them, and we readers are left wondering if the they decide to stay together or part.
The entries weren't written in chronological order so the timeline tends to jump from one anecdote to another, while others just seem like a sharing, or a comment on how the relationship is or how each has changed because of the relationship. It's equal parts sad and happy, a lot mushy and it tends to leave the readers pondering on what makes a relationship tick. There's something about finding common ground, which I really liked:
I noticed on your profile that you said you said you loved Charlotte's Web. So it was something we talked about on that first date, about how much the world radiant sealed it for ach of us, and how the most heartbreaking moment isn't when Charlotte dies, but when it looks like all of her children will leave Wilbur, too.
In the long view, did it matter that we shared this? Did it matter that we both drank coffee at night and both happened to go to Barcelona the summer after our senior year? In the long view, was it such a revelation that we were both ticklish and that we both liked dogs more than cats? Really, weren't these facts just placeholders until the long view could truly assert itself?
We were paining by numbers, starting with the greens. Because that happened to be our favorite color. And this, we figured, had to mean something.
Or this, about being intimidated by one another:
Really, we should use this more as a verb. You daunted me, and I daunted you. Or would it be that I was daunted by you and you were daunted by me? That sounds better. it daunted me that you were so beautiful, that you were so ate ease in social situations, as if every room was heliotropic, with you at the center. And I guess it daunted you that I had so many more friends than you, that I could put words together like this, on paper, and could sometimes conjure a certain sense out of things.
The key is to never recognize these imbalances. To not let the dauntingness daunt us.
I'm pretty sure the story the authors intended for the characters here is not the same for everyone, but I think everyone who's ever loved will find that they are able to relate to one or two or more entries in The Lover's Dictionary. This makes the book very rereadable, especially in random -- just pick it up, open to a page and read. This book also makes me wonder: if I were to make a dictionary of my own love life, what words would I use?
But alas, my own love life is still nonexistent. That fact made me a bit distant to the novel, because I can't relate. Not yet, anyway. However, The Lover's Dictionary affirms things that I know, based from stories, reading and yes, even experiences (the proper place to elaborate on this is on my personal blog :P): relationships are messy, it takes a lot of work and it would hurt both parties a lot...but allow me to believe that even so, relationships can be beautiful at the same time. :)
Whether you're a romantic or not, I recommend The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. I'm sure you'll find a bit of yourself in one of the entries in this dictionary....more
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensiveOriginal post at One More Page
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensive for something so thin. I remember splurging on the ebook instead a couple of months ago, but true to form, it took me a while to read this. I know a Lewis book is never easy reading. What better time to read this one than during the Lenten season, right?
The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novella that contains the letters of a demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood with detailed advice on how to lead his assignment, a man only named as "the patient" to sin and eventual eternal damnation. In these letters, Screwtape tells Wormwood of particular human weaknesses and how they can exploit it, of religious weaknesses and how to make it their patient's downfall, of how they're just not in it for general mischief but snatching human souls from their Enemy.
I was discussing this book with a friend a few days before I finished reading it, and he told me that while he liked the book, he didn't have the heart to review it because it struck too many familiar chords. I could say the same for me, too. The Screwtape Letters is almost humorous in some ways, especially whenever Screwtape would scold Wormwood for messing up, but it's more chilling in more ways than it is humorous. Screwtape outlined ways on how Wormwood could lead his patient to eternal damnation, and the ways he listed were a little too familiar that it borders on being uncomfortable. I admit that it really made me think of the times when I fell for the same things -- the feeling of "owning" my time that I get mad at any interruption, or worrying too much about tomorrow instead of focusing on today, self-righteous thinking. This book poked a little too much at the parts of my heart that I try to not look at, and helped me see myself for all the ugliness with all the sin that I've fallen into. I remember cringing as I highlighted the parts of the book that struck me the most, like these:
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. (p. 16)
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. (p. 25)
It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (p. 60)
Now you will notice that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him...They anger him because he regards his time as his and feels that it is being stolen. (p. 112)
It's not that this book is not without hope -- in fact, it ends quite hopefully. But seeing it in the eyes of the "protagonists" it doesn't feel like it. This book is not really for fast reading -- each letter is meant to be read slowly and reflected on, maybe even discussed with other people of faith. Like other Lewis books, I think The Screwtape Letters is one for re-reading, because I'm sure different passages would hit people depending on what is the state of their life when they read this.
Of course, this is still considered as fiction, but like all other Lewis books I've read, it's one that made me think. I can't help but remember Ephesians 6:12 as I read this book: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The Screwtape Lettersis a book that definitely needs to be read more than once....more
I used to believe that writing short stories was easier than writing a novel, mainly because of its length. I mean, shorOriginal post at One More Page
I used to believe that writing short stories was easier than writing a novel, mainly because of its length. I mean, short stories are just short. You don't need to put in so many characters, you don't need to have complex plot lines, or chapters. But as I wrote, I realized that a short story is equally hard. In a novel, I can afford to ramble, I can afford to insert as many characters as I want, put in all kinds of random devices just to make something happen in the story. In a short story, I am limited because it's supposed to be short, and a short story has to pack as much punch as a novel. Somehow, the characters have to be more memorable, the plot tighter and the ending more memorable, despite its length.
It's been a while since I indulged myself in a good short story, so it was just timely that I saw Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo in National Bookstore for only P150. I know my friend Sam likes her writing (loves?), and I trust her taste, so I figure this one seemed to be a good choice. Plus I like falling stars. ;)
Catch a Falling Star is a collection of short stories about Patricia Soler. Yes, you read that right: all twelve stories in the collection are about a girl named Patricia, or Trissy, her childhood, her school life, and other stories about her family and the places around her. It's not a novel, and it's not a series of stories that you have to read in order. According to the author, she wrote these stories after writing her novel, in memoir mode, as if an older woman was recalling stories of her childhood. So Trissy was born, and her stories first appeared in magazines such as the Philippine Free Press and Philippine Graphic before they were published into this book.
Just like the title, I thought the entire book was positively charming. Despite the length of the stories and how I was only offered glimpses of Trissy's life, I thought she was a real person. The stories were written as if I was with Trissy in a coffee shop and she was telling me of all these stories of her childhood and laughing as she recalled them. The stories here are diverse enough to each pack its own punch -- there was a story of the glasses she received for Christmas that she attempted to trade for a hopscotch stone, a story of her afternoons with their laundry woman who other maids thought was witch. There were stories from her conservative Catholic school and her classmates, stories of her befriending the most unpopular girl in school, a story of her being called "Patriciang Payatot" because of her stature, and stories of class reunions discussing one of their old classmates and her sad fate. There were stories about her family, of one summer vacation she spent with an aunt, of a boy that must have been her half-brother, and even a story of a woman who arrived at a wedding but no one knew who she was. And of course, there were stories of crushes, having loved and lost. It all seems very different, but there is a continuity in the stories that helped me keep track on where I am and who was who.
Trissy never lost her charm all through out the book, and the descriptions of her life were clear and imaginative, despite the seemingly simple text. I love how the author just seemed to have the right words to describe whatever Trissy was feeling perfectly, without sounding pretentious or too flowery. Case in point, from the story "Sweets for my Sweet":
I expected my heart to break. Indeed, I was convinced that it had. I thought I could actually see the bleeding fragments lying about on the floor, waiting to be trampled on and crushed...
...And then I realized that it simply wasn't true. Since Buddy had never been mine, I could not very well feel that I had lost him. (p. 79)
Even if most of the stories only showed Trissy from her childhood up to sometime during her college years, I didn't feel cheated at the end of the book. I felt like a friend just simply ended her story, and is waiting for me to tell mine.
Catch a Falling Star is one of those anthologies (that is the correct term, right?) that hits the "I need to read something new but nothing too serious" spot just right. If you're in need of a palate cleanser in between books, or you just want to indulge yourself in good local literature, pick this up and get ready to be charmed by Patriciang Payatot. :)...more
I wasn't aware of the ride I was in for the moment I cracked this book open. I just liked the blurb when I saw it, and got it, thiOriginal post here.
I wasn't aware of the ride I was in for the moment I cracked this book open. I just liked the blurb when I saw it, and got it, thinking it will be a somewhat humorous read, with all the references to food. I was expecting for a short discovery of Rose's "talent" as a kid, then fast forward to her grown up years where she has grown up gracefully using her skills. I guess I was expecting a little bit of Pushing Daisies with a dash of Love The One You're With and maybe even a bit of Twenties Girl wrapped in a delightful cover of a lemon cake slice.
But if there was anything I learned in life, it's this: expectations are almost always never fulfilled. Most of the time, I'd get disappointed when that happens, but for this book, I'm glad my expectations were set aside, because The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a beautiful book. :)
Rose Edelstein is nobody special, at least not until the eve of her ninth birthday. When her mom baked her a lemon cake, and she tasted it, her world opened up in a way that she couldn't understand why or how. Somehow, she can taste what the person who prepared the food felt while preparing the food. It's a strange talent, which quickly became a curse for her because she knew she wouldn't be able to escape knowing what other people felt, even if they don't tell her. She felt the emptiness of her mom, the distraction of her dad and the slight anger of her brother. She felt the rush of the baker from the cookie shop, she felt the desperation of the baker's girlfriend in the sandwich she tasted. Rose felt the love that her friend Emma's family had for her. She also felt even what the people who prepared the raw ingredient of the food felt like: the thirst of the grape pickers from the raisins, the rudeness of the parsley farmer. She could taste where the food came from, how far it traveled, how fresh it was and the metallic, blessedly blank taste of factory-prepared food. Rose is a food genius, in a way, but it would have only been a blessing if Rose asked for it.
But Rose didn't. In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, we get to see Rose's journey from the innocent kid to the girl wary of food and scared of eating what others prepared. It's not easy to summarize this book because there were so many layers into it. It wasn't just about the food, but it was also about Rose. Then it wasn't always about Rose but about her family. Within her family, there were little secrets and stories too -- her mom and dad's history, her mother's emptiness, her dad's routine and her brother's strangeness. There was even a hint of love with her brother's friend George, but then it also wasn't. This book is complicated, yet simple. Charming, yet haunting. Sad, but hopeful, too.
I can't say anything more without spoiling anything, but I hope you take my word for it: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a beautiful read. Rose is a memorable character, one that I found myself rooting for and loving up until the end. Please, if you decide to read this, look past the lack of quotation marks (it kind of drove me crazy at first but I got used to it), and stick to it up to the end. Some parts may not make sense, but I guess it mirrors Rose's predicament: we'll never be able to make sense why she does what she does, but what's important is she chose to live despite the "curse" her gift brings.
I look forward to reading more of Aimee Bender's books. :)...more
I invest a lot of emotions when I read a book. I am very particular with characters, and strong characters always make a mark in me, even if the plot is typical. Most of the books I marked as favorite are books that leave me both sad and satisfied at the end, books that I felt that the characters were not only people inside a book, but people who have become my friends.
When I saw Wonders Never Cease up for grabs at Book Sneeze, I grabbed it because I thought this is one of the books where I would find friends. I figure, it’s a book about impersonating an angel, and there’s got to be a lot of hilarious moments here, and redemptive moments as well. The blurb alone sounds like a movie, and it seems like a heartwarming read.
I really wanted to like this book. I really, really wanted to. But somehow, as I read, I find myself feeling very, very annoyed at the sheer ridiculousness of the characters. Kemp McAvoy is a nurse with an MD, and he’s always been dissatisfied with his life. Natalie Pelton, Kemp’s girlfriend, is struggling to make the ends meet while raising her daughter Leah, who suddenly sees angels. Kemp shows no care over Natalie’s concerns, and instead chooses to focus on how Lattes with God, a book he found in the nurses’ break room can be so popular when he feels it’s full of crap. When he meets the comatose Olivia Hayden, he gets an idea to impersonate an angel and tell Olivia to write a book that will be published and be even bigger book than Lattes with God. This brings in a lot of complications because Kemp can’t stop only thinking about himself, and pretty soon there’s a sort of mafia-like guy in the deal (with a name that sounds even more mafia-like: Tino Gambitto), a janitor, a neurologist who suddenly disappears, not to mention a teacher who’s attracted to Natalie, and a school counselor who doesn’t believe in God.
I never felt any connection to any character in the story, not even the “good guys” and the underdogs. I could give a bit of credit to the plot, but characters who I couldn’t like or relate to just made it blah, for me. I wanted to know: where were Natalie’s parents? Why is Kemp so stubborn? Is it only because of family? I felt that none of the characters were given enough depth just so the story can move. I couldn’t figure out who the real protagonist here was — is it Leah? Is it Natalie? I’m pretty sure it isn’t Kemp.
Faith issues were poorly dealt with, too. I thought there would be a redemption scene at the end, but there was sadly none. Some characters discussed the kid’s visions of angels, and the idea of being willing to believe, but it felt weak, almost forced. I have a feeling none of the characters there were really even believers, not even Natalie, or Emmet the janitor. Furthermore, the repercussions of Kemp’s actions didn’t seem like it happened because it was simply wrong, but because he just wasn’t smart enough and he’s too greedy.
The ending would have been heartwarming, if the money given to Natalie and Leah were not taken from extortion. I mean, seriously, the end doesn’t justify the means. Just because you’re giving money to help someone doesn’t excuse the reasons how you got it. Even if Kemp and his partners deserved to be conned, I don’t think it was an excuse to extort money from them, by wanting in in the operation and threatening them. I feel this sets a poor example to the readers. This is supposed to be Christian fiction, right? Or maybe I’m mistaken?
I really, really wanted to like this book. I swear, I really did. But in the end, whatever wonder this book wanted to give just didn’t reach me. I give props to the plot with potential, but everything else just just felt short. Maybe this would have been better if it was made into a movie....more
It didn't have the same satisfying ending as Thr3e did, but it contained the same thrill and creepiness and surprise up until the end, especially in tIt didn't have the same satisfying ending as Thr3e did, but it contained the same thrill and creepiness and surprise up until the end, especially in the final twist. I so did not expect that. I thought for a moment that there would be a longer "what happened next" story after...when I got to the last newspaper article, I was sort of disappointed that there wasn't.
True enough, this book was creepy in more ways than one. It didn't make me sleep with my lights on, but it certainly made me think. I'm a big fan of CSI, and I like how everything there in the show is done methodically and there's medical and scientific explanation for almost everything, but Adam brings in a whole new dimension into the crime scenes and the motives and yes, the spiritual factor. It's really something no one should dismiss.
I liked this, but give me a short time before reading anything like this. I need to catch my heart first. ;)...more