Friday, September 26, 2014

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending is my first foray into the world of Julian Barnes’ lyrical prose, and I am bowled over. There is hardly any place in the novella where you won’t find a passage worth quoting. But the writing is just the tip of the iceberg; this Man Booker winner begs the question, how infallible is one’s memory?

Tony Webster – once married, successfully divorced – is quietly enjoying his retirement when a letter from a solicitor arrives with an enclosure. The enclosure is a letter from Sarah Ford, the mother of his erstwhile college sweetheart Veronica. Tony met Sarah only once, when Veronica brought him home over the holidays to meet her family several decades before. In her letter, Sarah bequeathed upon Tony two things: the diary of his old friend, Adrian, with whom Veronica had taken up after breaking things off with Tony, and “a little money.” She also apologized for the way her family had treated him during that isolated visit to their home, and wished him well, “even beyond the grave.” In answer to his silent questions, the solicitor’s letter informs Tony that Mrs Ford has drawn up her will five years prior, and that the diary mentioned in her letter is still in the possession of her daughter, Veronica.

The letter comes as a surprise, after nearly 40 years of silence, and its contents baffle Tony even more. Why was Sarah in possession of a diary owned by his friend Adrian? Why was she leaving him money? His tumultuous relationship with Veronica decades ago had ended even worse than the actual affair, which was already bad enough, and Adrian had committed suicide at a time when Tony had severed ties with them both. Sarah’s letter, therefore, prompts Tony to re-examine a cache of memories involving himself, Adrian, and Veronica.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Splurge [24] a.k.a. The MIBF 2014 Loot + Bookmarks Galore [18]

It's (only) my fifth year of attending the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) which is now on its 35th year. I attended my first MIBF back in 2010, when I was in my sixth month of pregnancy with my daughter; I remember practically waddling among the crowd because of my near-to-bursting tummy (I am not exaggerating; I was huge). Five years later, and I am still at it, and the enjoyment of going through bargain bins and discounted book-related stuff has not waned an iota.

This year, I went local. I figured that I could always get the foreign books that I want anytime (if the local bookstores don’t have a copy, there’s always Book Depository), and there wasn’t anything that I urgently needed to get. True, there would be no 20% discount on the titles, but that’s okay. If I want a book that bad, I would gladly purchase it full price anyway.

So, without further ado, I present you my #MIBF2014 loot:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bookmarks Galore [17]

A yosegi bookmark from Hakone, Japan, from my friend Beejay who went there in May. Yosegi literally means "combination of pieces of wood," as they are assembled by gluing together wood of different colors. Amazing Japanese craftsmanship, yes? :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Spark Project [15]: Tin

The Spark Project is a semi-regular blog feature where a reader and/or book blogger is invited to talk about that one book that sparked his/her interest in books and reading. He/She will tell us about the what-when-where-why-and-how of this topic, how his/her reading habits have evolved since encountering that book, and so on. Wouldn't it be fun and interesting as well to know how a fellow book lover discovered the wonderful world of books? :)
Featured today on The Spark Project: TIN of Rabbitin
People from The Filipino Group (TFG) over at Goodreads (well, at least those who are currently active) have known her and felt her online presence for a while now, but no one has yet had the pleasure of personally meeting Tin. She resides outside of Metro Manila, so she finds it difficult to attend book discussions and other events, which usually happen within the metro. Still, her fun and friendly personality can be felt online, as she actively participates in group discussions. She also regularly tumbles down into her rabbit hole, er, updates her book blog, Rabbitin, where you can "discover a whole new world through the pages of books."

This little rabbit is shy. :)

(1) What is the one book that sparked or kindled your love for reading? Describe the circumstances in which you found or discovered it.

I wish I was like Matilda, the smart and precocious protagonist created by Roald Dahl, who at the age of four has read Bronte, Hemingway, Faulkner, Austen, Steinbeck, Dickens and a whole slew of other big literary names. At the age of four, or perhaps a little older than that, what I could tell you about were: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Uncanny X-Men, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bugs and Daffy, and Tom and Jerry, Shaider and Bioman, and Disney Princesses. I wasn’t entirely devoid of reading experiences. I did read a couple of Ladybird books and a ton of Archie Comics, which I very much remember with fondness. But I mostly spent my free time zombified by the thing called television.

So the reading habit was not something that came naturally to me. My earliest memory would have to be around the time when I was about 11, I think. That was when a peddler of this big book of fairy tales came to our doorstep. She was a lady, who was quite pretty, I remember. My mom sat opposite her, held one of her wares, something entitled: A Treasury of Fairy tales. It had this glossy and padded cover, with illustrations I found to be quite mesmerizing. I was at an age then, when I knew well enough that showing eagerness in front of a salesman won’t be to your advantage, so I slunk and rubbed around my mom like a cat, willing her to get it for me. I would have purred right then and there. But it turns out, I did not need to debase myself further, as she already handed the lady some payment. And soon it became a ritual for me and my eldest sister to read one story from that book, aloud, every other night. I always look forward to those nights.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Required Reading 2014: September

August has 31 days, and despite my two-book required reading list, I only managed to finish one. [I am currently on page 340 of 848 of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries.] On the upside, however, there are two other novellas not on my reading list that I did read before the month was over. So, last month's reading progress wasn't much of a letdown after all, was it? :)

image source

Here's a recap of what went on in August:

As I said, I am still reading The Luminaries (nearing the 50% mark now), which I found difficult to get into at first, hence, the snail's pace reading it. BUT now that I am into the thick of the story, I find that the mystery in the plot married to the historical fiction aspect of it (the gold rush in New Zealand at the turn of the 19th century) is pretty engaging! I can't wait to sit down and read some more of it, and finish it, soon.

And now, for September:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Fault in our Stars

by John Green

I’ve read John Green before: some years ago I read Looking for Alaska (currently my favorite of all his books), and then Paper Towns after that. Both were worthwhile reads, and when people ask me for YA recommendations, I would usually point to those two books, among others. I have a copy of his other work, An Abundance of Katherines, on my shelf, but haven’t had time (or inspiration) to read it yet.

And then he comes out with this new book in 2012, The Fault in our Stars, about two teenagers and the Big C.

Hmm. Is this a John Green-ed version of A Walk To Remember?

It would take me two years before getting an answer.

The Fault in our Stars is about Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and Augustus “Gus” Waters, 17, on remission from osteosarcoma, or simply, bone cancer. They meet at a cancer support group meeting that Hazel Grace attends, become friends (of course), gradually spend time together, and thereafter, embark on a short, bittersweet journey to find young, sweet love – one that transcends sickness and death.

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