July 20, 2016

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto is a story about human relationships, notwithstanding differences in race, upbringing, and stations in life. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking as well, and the sadness of how it all ended up left me feeling mixed-up inside.

It begins with a dinner party in honor of world-renowned Japanese businessman Katsumi Hosokawa, hosted by the President of a small, unnamed country in South America. The party - held on the day of Hosokawa's birthday - was held at the official residence of the Vice President of that country, with statesmen, VIPs, and international personalities from various fields in attendance. Famous soprano, Roxane Coss, was the special guest of honor, invited because she is Hosokawa's favorite opera singer. Unfortunately, the President himself was unable to attend, and the Vice President - his name is Ruben Iglesias - was host.

In the middle of the revelry, armed men and women - some of them barely out of their teens, a few were actually children - barge into the mansion. They've been planning on taking the President for weeks, and just a few hours before the party, had been hiding inside the mansion's air vents. But because they were not counting on the President to be absent at the dinner party that he himself had staged, the terrorists, in an impromptu resolution, decide to take everyone in the mansion hostage until such time that they had a backup plan concocted. This is where the story unfolds.

July 4, 2016

The Danish Girl

by David Ebershoff

I finished reading The Danish Girl last week and wanted to see the film adaptation right away. Unfortunately, despite efforts to procure a copy, I was unable to do so, which, perhaps, is just as well so that I can write my thoughts about the book without regard at all to the film. It’s also to prevent this write-up from becoming a comparison between the book and the movie. 

The Danish Girl is about Einar Wegener, a Danish painter, and his wife, Greta Waud, an American. Set in the 1920s, the Wegeners live in an apartment in Copenhagen where they have set up their living as painters. Einar paints bogs and landscapes, Greta paints portraits.

When Anna, an opera singer and Greta’s current subject, fails to show up at her studio one day, Greta asks Einar to sit for her. Greta needed to finish Anna’s portrait, so she came up with the idea of asking Einar to put on Anna’s stockings and shoes and sit for her. Einar agrees, and that single moment in Greta’s studio stirs something in Einar, something deep inside him – something feminine – and right there was “born” Lili, the transgender artist.

June 23, 2016

On The Road

by Jack Kerouac

This is, by far, the worst book that I least like that I've read this year. I've been racking my brain for things to say about it but I can't, because nothing happens in it. Nothing.

There's just a bunch of guys who go on a road trip across the country. I don't understand why. Sal Paradise, the protagonist, decides to go from West Coast to East Coast, running out of money in the process and needing to be bailed out by a relative, and then when he's there, he goes back again. Dean Moriarty, his "friend," is his companion who cannot, for the life of me, decide who between two women he'd rather be with. Both of them waste waaaay too much time traveling and driving and that is all there is to this book, really.

June 14, 2016

Bingo, again!

And so today, I complete my second pattern for the book club's book bingo.

Second pattern is the F-N column. Now which pattern should I complete next? :D

June 6, 2016

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

by Patrick Ness

Remember high school? Think jocks, cheerleaders, prom kings and queens, popular kids. With reference to pop culture, think kids with cool powers and/or endowed with special talents for saving the world.

Now flip the coin and imagine the "regular" kids, the "ordinary" ones who have neither special talents nor cool powers, the kids who can't even begin to save themselves from themselves.

This is their story.

I have no problem with the concept, and because Patrick Ness is a hit or a miss with me ("Knife" was a sore miss, "Monster Calls" was a perfect hit), I was hoping that the scales would tilt to the "hit" side. I enjoy reading YA every so often and thought this would be one of those books I'd like. Guess I spoke too soon.

May 13, 2016

A Tale For The Time Being

by Ruth Ozeki

There's something Cloud Atlas-esque (Atlas-ish?) about A Tale For The Time Being. It's the metafictional connections between and among characters, principal of which are Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese girl whose family relocated from California to Tokyo after her father lost his job at Silicon Valley, and Ruth, a middle-aged novelist who lives with her husband, Oliver, in a small island off the coast of Canada. One fine day, while Ruth treks along the beach near her home, she picks up a barnacle-encrusted plastic bag containing a diary, a packet of letters, and an old sky soldier watch. They all belonged to Nao, whose story Ruth reads from the diary.

Ruth presumes that the plastic package, coming as it did from Japan, drifted off onto their beach after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. As she reads through the diary, she discovers that Nao's father attempted suicide several times as a result of losing his job in the States, that Nao's mother had to take on the role of breadwinner, and that Nao was bullied so much in school up to the point that she herself began to contemplate suicide. Ruth also reads about old Jiko, Nao's Buddhist grandmother who was also a nun in a temple at the Fukushima prefecture, and who taught Nao all about what a moment is, and what a time being is. Nao also writes in her diary about her grand-uncle, Haruki #1 (because her dad is also named Haruki), a kamikaze pilot during the second World War, whose story of honor and duty inspired her.

As she reads the contents of the package, Ruth gets emotionally attached to Nao, getting completely affected by the seeming cries of help that were her diary entries. She wants to help, but there is total dearth of information: when did Nao write the diary? Could she still be alive, or had she committed suicide? Where could she be? In the end, was it better for Ruth to not know about Nao's whereabouts, and just hope for the best?