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?


Call Me By Your Name

by Andre Aciman

Call Me By Your Name is the coming-of-age story of Elio, a 16-year-old who develops feelings towards an older guy, Oliver, Elio’s family’s scholar house guest for the summer. Told from Elio’s point of view, their story spans decades, beginning that summer at Elio’s family’s cliffside house overlooking the beach.

At first, I felt for Elio. It was clear he had a crush on Oliver, and he was dying inside just seeing him there: by the pool, at the dining table, around the house. I could just imagine how he’d swoon when Oliver would look at him, how he didn’t know how to react at the slightest touch or contact with Oliver’s skin. And I understood Elio. At a young age, his feelings must be all whacked up, and not knowing what to think or how to react came with the territory.


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastards, #1)

by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora came highly recommended by my husband, self-proclaimed high fantasy purist, although the Gentlemen Bastards series isn’t top on his list. I’ve been meaning to read this and, thanks to the TFG Book Bingo, I finally found the perfect opportunity.

Locke Lamora is an orphan. He and his comrades, who will later on style themselves as the Gentlemen Bastards, were trained in various fields – including thievery – by Father Chains, the Eyeless Priest of the Order of Perelandro. Locke and his various disguises, together with his posse Jean Tannen, twins Calo and Galdo Sanza, and their apprentice, Bug, practically bleed the wealthy nobles of Camorr of their money, which they keep under the temple of Perelandro. It is through these schemes and devises that the unidentified Locke earns the title Thorn of Camorr.

All is well in their thieving ways until the Gray King decides that he wants to replace the ruling capa, Barsavi, before whom Locke has, as a child, pledged his loyalty. In order to wrest power from Barsavi, the Gray King commissions Locke’s talent, under duress. From there, the Thorn of Camorr and the Gentlemen Bastards find themselves embroiled in the midst of a premeditated plot of revenge.



Or, yay, I completed my first pattern for the book club's book bingo!

Backing up a bit: at the beginning of every year, the book club cooks up an activity where members are dared to read books, more often than not, those that are out of their comfort zones. The past couple of years we've picked the "dare books," as we call them, from the members' best and worst reads for the preceding year. We just tweak the rules a bit every year.

This year, the challenge is hosted by Angus, who created the first-ever TFG Book Bingo. Every participant is required to fill up squares to create a pattern (much like your regular bingo game) by reading a book that fits the description or genre indicated in the squares. Each participant is given a unique bingo card, meaning, no two participants have the same cards. There are other specific rules for the benefit of book club members so I'll stop at the basics.

Here is my TFG Bingo card, and it took me a while (more than 3 months!) but I finally have my first pattern.


Weekend with Rhena

For the book club's April read, we're reading Andre Aciman's Call Me By Your Name. The sole activity for the participants this month is called It's a Date! Unlikely Pairs Weekend Adventures where members of the book club who don't usually hang out with each other are paired and required to spend some time together. For the instructions, I'm lifting the moderator's words verbatim:

There will be 3 categories of activities you need to fulfill:

Enjoy: Do something fun together. Something that will require you to be an active participant, This could be something you don't usually do. Participate in a fitness class, join an arts and crafts class, go kart racing, play archery, etc.

Browse: Browse some place. It could be a library, museum, vinyl record shops, antic shops, etc.

Eat: After all those activity you've done, reward yourself with a meal. Fill yourself up with great food while enjoying each other's company.

My (unlikely) partner is Rhena, whom I've always wanted to get to know since time immemorial. I already know that she's talented, smart, and sweet (not to mention charming, of course) but I really haven't had the proper time to spend with her. So when I found out that I'd be doing this activity with her, I was so happy!

Our first activity was Eat. We had afternoon snack at Za's, one of the older restaurants in the Manila area which serves fantastic grilled ensaymada and hot chocolate.


In The Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1)

by Tana French

It’s been a while since I last dipped my feet into the suspense/thriller pool, and I’ve always loved a good thriller. I’ve had a secondhand copy of In The Woods in my shelf for a couple of years now, but I never really got around to reading it until the TFG Bingo came along. It seemed like the perfect book to read for the suspense/thriller square, and despite less-than-stellar ratings from some book club friends, I decided to go for it.

In The Woods is about Detective Rob Ryan, a fairly new addition to the elite Dublin Murder Squad. He and his partner, Detective Cassie Maddox, are tasked to solve the murder of 12-year-old Katy Devlin, whose body was found on a ceremonial stone altar in an archaeological dig. The dig itself forms part of the estate and the woods where Rob, as a child, figured in an unresolved incident: twenty years ago, Rob and his friends, Peter and Jamie, were playing in those woods when something happens – something that Rob’s memory can no longer recall – and Peter and Jamie disappear without a trace. Rob, the sole witness who could have helped the investigators in the task of finding Peter and Jamie, was found hugging a tree, with bloodied feet, shaking, traumatized, with a big chunk of his memory of that day missing. He has since moved on and no one knows that he was the child who survived that incident. As Rob and Cassie delve into the details of the murder of Katy, Rob cannot help but feel that Peter and Jamie’s disappearance was connected, in some way, to Katy’s death.