Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Perdido Street Station

by China Mieville

Perdido Street Station, the first book in the Bas-Lag series, is my second China Mieville. I started reading this last month and progressed easily because the plot intrigued me, but then I had to put it aside in the meantime to give way to book club duties. But now that I have more time to spare, I finally managed to finish reading it, and I am blown away.


Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a renegade scientist who lives in New Crobuzon, city of concrete, filth, connecting train stations, and Xenian creatures. Yagharek, a garuda (or a half-bird, half-man creature) from faraway Cymek, bereft of his wings as penalty for a crime he committed in his own country, approaches Isaac with the following proposition: Isaac should make him fly again in exchange for gold. Isaac accepts, and as he embarks on his research and experiments to help Yagharek, he unwittingly unleashes a powerful, predatory force that compels him to rearrange his priorities and takes him and his companions to a world full of danger, betrayal, death, and loss.

*

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reading List 2015: March

The month of love is past, and it was quite a busy month for me. Aside from being host of back-to-back biweekly memes over at the book club's homepage at Goodreads, which concluded over the weekend, I was also busy (still am, actually) preparing for my third stint as book discussion moderator also for the book club. This month, for our 39th face-to-face discussion, we’ll be discussing Arundhati Roy’s Booker-winning novel, The God of Small Things.


So, how did I fare in February? Terrible.

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – In preparation for the book discussion, a reread. 4/5
  • Love Walked In by Marisa Delos Santos – Our book club’s book for February, a reread. 4/5
  • Perdido Street Station by China Mieville – A buddy read with some bookish friends which I had begun with an intensity and fervor that lasted all of 2 weeks, when I had to let go of it at the moment to focus on TGoST. Currently on page 316.

I have a valid excuse, I know, but I still think I have to make up for it this March. Even if the book discussion happens in three weeks.

Hello, March books.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas

by Patrick Modiano

Suspended Sentences is a collection of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano’s three novellas: Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, all translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti. Afterimage is about a young man who follows a photographer around Paris and catalogs his photographs; Suspended Sentences tells the story of a young boy and his brother and the people they were entrusted to after their parents left to work for the circus, and; Flowers of Ruin is also the story of a boy who remembers a part of his childhood, his father, and a murder mystery that transpired at the time.



Of the three novellas, I liked Afterimage and Suspended Sentences; the last one was a chore to read.

*

All three novellas explored very hazy plots and vague characters. It appears to be a common theme in the three stories. At first, the nebulousness of the characters was intriguing, but by the third story, I felt like I was at the end of my wits.

The book started out strong with Afterimage, which I would consider as my favorite novella from the lot. Francis Jansen, a photographer, takes a photo of the unnamed narrator and his girlfriend, Colette, whom he approaches in a café somewhere in Paris. They strike up a conversation, ending up with the narrator taking up the job of cataloging Jansen’s photographs, which were in a heap in his apartment. Thereafter, certain coincidences – as the narrator himself calls them – come to the fore: Jansen became involved with a woman named Colette, our narrator’s girlfriend’s namesake, and later, he realizes that his name is Francis Jansen.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reading List 2015: February

... And I thought January would never end! Is it just me, or January really does feel like the longest month of the year? It's the month that stretches out to forever, and now that it's finally February, I can heave that little sigh of relief.

Yes, February! A brand-new reading list for this month!


A recap of January's reading list is in order, however, so here we go:

  • Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano - Three novellas from the 2014 Nobel laureate for literature. 4/5
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool - The book club's book of the month. Very heartwarming story, indeed. 5/5

And now, for my February books:

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

Perhaps I should disclose at the outset that over the years that I’ve been reading, I’ve developed this little inner button that goes on whenever I’m about to read an award-winner. It makes me predisposed to like a book because it wouldn’t have received accolades if it were no good, yes?

That’s what happened when I got myself a copy of the 2014 Man Booker prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. That little button blinked like mad, and with good reason – Flanagan (and all the other shortlisted titles) trumped my bet for the Booker, David Mitchell’s latest novel, The Bone Clocks. So I knew, at the back of my mind, that I would be in for a real treat. Should be.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North did not disappoint.


The book is both a war memorial and a love story, but I’m inclined to say that it’s more of the former. As Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, now a famed war veteran, writes the foreword for a book about the atrocities that transpired at what is now known as the Death Railway (also, "Burma Railway," "Burma-Siam Railway," "Thailand-Burma Railway") during the Second World War, he recalls his own painful experiences as the commanding officer of a battalion of Australian prisoners of war (POWs) who labored in “the Line” under the Japanese Imperial command. His memories narrate for us the struggles they endured in the Siam-Burmese jungle where the railroad was to be constructed, how his men succumbed to various diseases that ate at their bodies and minds, and how the Japanese officers accepted no excuses that would exempt dying men from labor, among many others.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Speak

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is one of my “dare books”* at the book club in January of last year – it was one of my good friend’s worst least favorite books for the year and I (un)fortunately drew it as one of the books I was supposed to finish reading within the year. But even before I got dared to read it, I already have a copy of the book, having bought it for a discounted price at a local bookstore some months before. For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t muster the inspiration to read it. Until the dare happened.


Before she could even begin her freshman year in high school, Melinda Sordino had already ostracized herself: she busted an end-of-summer party to which she and her best friend were invited by calling in the cops. As a result, people shot her dagger looks wherever she passed them in the halls, and she doesn’t parry them; instead, she maintains her silence. She ignores the negative talk and withdraws deep inside herself, where she keeps secret something that she could never, ever have the courage to disclose to anyone – the reason why she called the police on that fateful summer party.

*

When I first asked some friends about Speak, they mentioned that it was a highly spoilery book. If you didn’t know it yet, I hate spoilers. They diminish my reading pleasure because I already know, in the back of my mind, the reason behind things, the moving force behind the characters’ actions (or omissions). Years would pass before I would read the book, though, and sometime during the interim, I discovered – inadvertently – the major, major spoiler about Speak. In hindsight, perhaps that was why I put off reading it for the longest time. (Also, someone told me it was adapted into a movie [?] and the lead character was portrayed by Kristen Stewart. Haha.)

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