Thursday, August 14, 2014

The City & The City

by China Miéville

Just a quick run-through of the awards this novel has won – the Hugo Award in 2010, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel also in 2010, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel still in the same year, and that’s just to mention a few – should be sufficient to impress a prospective reader. Fantasy or sci-fi readers, in particular, would know that they’d be in for a treat. (The Hugo is, like, the Oscar equivalent for fantasy and sci-fi literature. Neil Gaiman, another favorite, is a Hugo awardee as well.)

But when I read this book last June, I wasn’t even aware of its many accolades. All I know was that it was chosen as the book club’s book for the month of June, that it falls under the genre “new weird,” and that it’s supposed to be about two cities-slash-countries that inexplicably co-exist in the same physical space. Weird enough?

Later, I would read that these cities' inhabitants have to adapt to a life that involves “unseeing,” be wary of the “grosstopical” landscape and “crosshatched” areas, and be careful about having to breach that demarcation line lest the Breach descend upon them. As you may have guessed by now, the two cities – Beszel and Ul Qoma, they are called – are, well, not exactly enemies, but they are not exactly friends, either. Can you imagine how it would be to live in either place?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Independent People

by Halldór Laxness

Independent People was a real challenge to read. Not because it was a lengthy novel, because it really wasn’t, at least for me, at 400+ pages of fine, condensed print. This is actually considered an epic by some. And it wasn’t because of the writing, which was lyrical and simply beautiful. Rather, it was because as you traipse through chapters and chapters of narrative about sheep, debt, coffee, independence, and still more sheep, you will inevitably arrive at a point when you will begin to wonder, Is there a point to the whole thing at all?

But I’m not going to answer that. Instead, I will write about how I felt about Independent People – and still do.

The epic novel set in Iceland is about Bjartur of Summerhouses, a stubborn and very determined sheep farmer who, after nearly two decades of servitude, has finally earned enough money to buy himself a tract of land where he intended to raise a flock of good sheep. The tract of land he has purchased was said to be inhabited by a specter from the tales of old. He builds a croft thereon, takes a bride, and starts a family. Bjartur has also made it his life’s mission to be free of debt from absolutely everyone – an independent man.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Required Reading 2014: August

Aaaand it's August!

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As I write this, it's raining cats and dogs outside, and no, it's not because of a storm or typhoon (weather bureau says Jose [international name: Halong] is already within the Philippine area of responsibility [PAR] but is too far to be actually felt) but because of the monsoon rains (or what is locally known as habagat). Bed weather? I know. Bed + book weather? I think I'm gonna cry. :'(

The month of July also rained good books from my end! Take a look:

Friday, August 1, 2014

To The Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf is one of those authors whose works I’ve wanted to read for the longest time, but for some reason, I have never managed to. Woolf's reputation precedes her: we all know that she had nervous breakdowns, attempted suicide once, and eventually succeeded (don’t we all know that?). So when our book club chose To The Lighthouse as the book for the month of May under the theme modernist literature, I was beyond thrilled.

To The Lighthouse follows the story of the Ramsays, a family of ten vacationing in their home, Isle of Skye, overlooking the water and the Lighthouse beyond. It is also the story of young artist Lily Briscoe, the Ramsays’ guest; Charles Tansley, Mr. Ramsay’s protégé, and; William Bankes, a family friend. Their stories are intertwined and framed in a novel divided into three parts, with the first part covering the duration of an afternoon, the second one spanning ten years, and the last one transpiring – again – in a single afternoon.

To The Lighthouse is written in the stream of consciousness narrative style which, I must admit, was difficult to get into. At least in the beginning. I had trouble holding on to an initial thought as subsequent ideas meandered and threatened to shake me out of focus. There were entire paragraphs which I read through without understanding a word, and so I had to read it again, a second or third time, slowly, before finally comprehending.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy 3rd, marginalia!

Today, marginalia is officially 3 years old.

Happy birthday, my dear little corner in the blogiverse! Here's a cupcake for us. :)

And, the winner of the bloggy birthday giveaway is... drumroll please?

Congratulations to my fellow book club member, Meliza! Expect to hear from me soon. :) To all those who joined, thank you, as well. It was fun knowing which are your favorite books for the first half of the year. :)

Cheers to more years of books, book write-ups, and all manner of bookish adventures! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Spark Project [14]: Janus

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: JANUS

Janus is not only one of the prettiest faces on The Filipino Group at Goodreads, but she is also a voracious reader - with a special liking for the young adult (YA) genre - and an uber-talented computer graphics artist. She recently tied the knot with the love of her life, and I'm thankful that she found the time to write something for The Spark Project. Oh, and she loves dogs, too. :D

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

When I am often asked this question before, the easiest answer I could give, without any further details, were Archie Comics. But the more I think about this matter, I’d have to say there was more than one book that sparked my love for reading. Whoops! I’m such a cheater, but hear me out.

This is going to sound really silly, but the first EVER book that I read all by myself was Macmillan Very First Dictionary: A Magic World of Words. I am not kidding. I know! It’s not even a novel.

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