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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Love Among the Geeks

by Raissa Rivera Falgui

Back in January of this year, our book club decided that we should have a repeat of last year's Best and Worst of the Year + I Dare You To Read challenge. In a nutshell, members will each declare which books were their best and worst least favorite reads for the year, and from there, everyone who wishes to be dared or challenged to read will pick a book which they will be required to read within the year. For this year, I picked this book, Love Among the Geeks, my friend Tina's Worst Read for 2014.

Love Among the Geeks is essentially a romance/love story. Arden, a recently graduated archaeology major, crosses paths with young scientist Rob at a coffee shop when Arden learns that her mother, a famous bridal couturier, is diagnosed with cancer. Rob offers to research on possible cancer treatments to help out Arden's mother, and that was the start of their friendship. They would meet and talk for hours at Geek Reads and Eats (or G.R. Eats), a geeky (of course) restaurant/cafe. It doesn't take long before Rob falls for Arden, but she doesn't seem to reciprocate the feeling. Unfortunately, Arden's mother, whose fervent wish was to see her only daughter walk down the aisle in a bridal gown of her own creation, turns for the worse. Arden gets desperate, and she concocts a plan to make her mother's (possible) last days on earth happy. The plan involves Rob, and he jumps at the chance because, who knows, Arden might finally fall for him, too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)

by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia was better than its predecessor in the series, The Thief, but given the chance, I would still not read it on my own volition. I picked it up only in answer to a challenge/recommendation by our book club discussion moderator for the month. I still wish I had been given another book to read.

There were a lot of handicaps when I first started reading The Queen of Attolia. First is the fact that I can no longer remember the plot of The Thief, which I read years ago, perhaps owing to its lacklustre appeal and forgettable storyline. I had to read a lot of spoiler-filled reviews of The Thief just to reacquaint myself with the characters, kingdoms, and other important details. Second is that I was under time constraints to read it, and it took me a while to get used to the third-person narrative. But I ignored the looming deadline and promised myself to read it properly, because a lot of people have been telling me to give Eugenides another chance.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reading List 2015: May

It’s 31 degrees outside; what a blistering hot summer day! And as Filipinos psyche themselves out for the Fight of the Century tomorrow, I’m here typing up my reading list entry for the month. (I will most likely just read a book or something tomorrow because I can’t take watching these boxing matches; my heart just can’t bear the suspense haha.)

Anyway, my April reading report looks like this:

  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones – On black owners owning black slaves, and more. 4/5
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Post-apocalyptic lyrical novel, on immortality and being remembered. “Indelible.” 5/5
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Currently on page 45.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When We Were Orphans

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro once again explores his favorite theme – memory – in When We Were Orphans, a novel set in and around the time of the Second World War. Distinguished British detective Christopher Banks has established a reputation in London for having successfully solved all the cases that fell onto his lap – all but for one, and the most important one at that: the mysterious disappearance of his parents when he was a little boy living in the International Settlement in Shanghai, China. Thus, he returns to Shanghai to resolve the matter and finds himself tangled in memories of the years past, exploring each memory with both careful intimacy and urgency as well.

The narrative goes back and forth between the past and the present: Christopher’s recollections of his childhood make up the narrative from the past. The narrative also see-saws between London, where Christopher resides with his adopted ward, Jenny, and Shanghai, where much of his childhood years were spent with his parents and his Japanese friend, Akira. At the heart of the novel is a mystery that can only be unraveled by combining Christopher’s memories of those childhood years in Shanghai and his talents as a renowned detective in London.

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