Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reading List 2015: July

It's the middle of the year today, which means half of 2015 is officially past. Really?? Where did my 6 months go? How time flies, indeed.

A quick check of my 2015 read shelf over at Goodreads shows that I've already finished reading 19 books so far. For someone who doesn't really read that fast (well, by my own standards at least) I think I'm doing well. 19 books means I get to read 3 books on the average per month, and that's good for me! No reading slumps so far, but I'm not crossing my fingers now, right?


Before I proceed to this month's reading list, a quick recap of the last month's books:
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett - The book club's book of the month. 3/5.
  • Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Spillover from May. Currently at page 322 of 404. Fewer than a hundred pages left!
  • How to be both by Ali Smith - A little underwhelmed with this book. 3/5.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - What a mess of a book! Ugh. 1/5.

I'm itching to write my thoughts about The Goldfinch, which so far holds the record for being my sole 1-starrer this year, but I need to tackle one other book first.

And now, for my July books:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Redeployment

by Phil Klay

Redeployment is a collection of short stories about the war – particularly the US-led war in Iraq that began in 2003 – and its effects on its major players (and casualties): the civilians and the soldiers. Mostly the stories dealt with death, and if one is lucky enough to survive, the long-term effects of war, emotionally and psychologically. Hello, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).


There are 12 stories that make up the book: Redeployment, Frago, After Action Report, Bodies, OIF, Money as a Weapons System, In Vietnam They Had Whores, Prayer in the Furnace, Psychological Operations, War Stories, Unless It’s A Sucking Chest Wound, and Ten Kliks South. Except for vague recollections of particular scenes, however, I can no longer remember each story with accuracy – they were that forgettable for me. Redeployment, the first story, was about shooting stray dogs as they conduct operations in Iraq, when the narrator himself was a lover of dogs back home. There’s a story there about a veteran who was severely and physically injured after he was nearly blown off in an explosion, and because he was lucky enough to have survived, a girl wanted to interview him for a story. Another story was about a marine who wanted to confess something to their resident cleric but hesitates each time they meet. And these two latter stories are just a couple whose titles I can no longer remember. The others, I cannot recall without taking a peek at my copy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Lowland

by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland is the first full-length novel by Jhumpa Lahiri that I’ve read; I have a copy of The Namesake for years now but for some reason I haven’t felt inspired to pick it up. I have, however, read her short story collections – Interpreter of Maladies is my favorite short story collection of all time and Unaccustomed Earth is just as wonderful. Because The Lowland was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker prize, I decided to read it first as I delve into Lahiri’s full-length works, not knowing that nearly the first half of it was actually a novella that I’ve read last year, Brotherly Love. In The Lowland, the story of the brothers picks up where Brotherly Love left off.



From Brotherly Love, we already know that this is the story of Subhash and Udayan, brothers who started out their lives as close as two people can be, but as the years went by, they began to slowly drift apart. While Subhash was pensive and compliant, Udayan was mischievous and daring, even defiant to a certain extent. Still, the siblings loved and cherished each other. They spent their childhood in Calcutta but would eventually be separated, as dictated by their life choices: Subhash continued his studies in the United States while Udayan was left in India and became involved in the Naxalite movement, putting his and his parents' lives in danger. While Subhash was abroad, Udayan secretly married a girl, Gauri, defying custom and depriving their parents of their right to choose a wife for their son. Unfortunately, Udayan’s Naxalite activities go too far, prompting Subhash’s unplanned return to Calcutta and the beginning of his attempts to put to right what has been lost, especially where Udayan and Gauri were concerned.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reading List 2015: June

May has come and gone and despite the occasional rain showers and thunderstorms in the metro, the weather bureau says this El Nino phenomenon is going to last for a little bit more. Classes have started yesterday for most of the schools in the country, so it's a crazy start for June. How did your May go?


Before I present my June reading list, the mandatory recap of last month's performance:

  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - A tale of two brothers and a shared wife, one after the other. 4/5
  • Redeployment by Phil Klay - Jumbles of military jargon masquerading as short stories. 2.5/5
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - Currently on page 250.
  • Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Not yet read. 

My family and I went on a five-day vacation in Hong Kong on the second week of May, so that explains the two-book backlog. I did bring Redeployment along with me on the trip but never managed to crack it open, heh.

Anyway, here is my June reading list:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is, so far, my best read for this year.


It begins with a scene from King Lear, the title role played by famous Canadian actor Arthur Leander. Onstage, as he articulately delivers his lines, he suffers a heart attack. Jeevan Chaudhary, an emergency medical technician-in-the-making seated at the front row, rushes to give him first aid. On the side, a little girl actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches, horrified, as Jeevan’s attempts at resuscitation fails. That same night, hours after Arthur’s death is called and as Jeevan walks around the city contemplating his relationship with his girlfriend, Laura, a highly contagious virus that causes a sickness called the Georgia Flu begins to spread, and fast. Very fast. Within days, civilization and life as we know it degenerated – and Jeevan was lucky enough to escape it.

Fifteen years after the “end of the world,” we find Kirsten with a group of nomadic actors called the Traveling Symphony that performs Shakespeare and music as they move from town to town. Their dictum: “Because survival is insufficient.” They wanted to find the Museum of Civilization, said to be in an airport in Severn City, but on their way they encounter a self-declared prophet whose beliefs and intentions were suspect.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the coming-of-age story of two young men, the titular characters Aristotle and Dante. You might think, oh, it’s just another one of those coming-of-age YA novels that the market is peppered with these days. Yes, it’s one of those transition stories – one that overflows with teenage angst and emotional turmoil, the works – but I would venture to say that this one is rather special, because more than just discovering the secrets of the universe themselves, their personalities and sexuality, Aristotle and Dante learn the value of honesty and acceptance.


I first heard of the book last year. Someone from within my bookish circles declared it as his best read for the year, and I was curious. The book is heaped with a ton of YA literary awards: Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and YA Lit, Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/YA, and it was also a nominee for the Printz Award. (In fact, the cover of my edition is overwhelmed with the stamps of these various accolades. A waste of a beautiful book cover, if you ask me, but it cannot be helped, I guess.) So when the chance to read via the book club presented itself, I jumped at the chance.

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