Saturday, April 30, 2016

Filipino Literature 1

April was Buwang ng Panitikang Pilipino (National Literature Month), and all my favorite bookstores had new Filipino releases (and old stock from the authors) prominently displayed. The resulting book-buying spree could be justified as doing my patriotic duty.

What I managed to read:

Middle grade magical realism.
A collection of short stories I immediately sent off to a book swap.

Another collection of short stories, sent off to a friend.

What's still unread:

A young adult novel, two graphic novels, and a collection of stories inspired by Philippine mythology.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

WWW Wednesday 5

This meme/link-up is hosted by Taking on a World of Words

What are you currently reading?
I just started reading The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr. It's been interesting so far.

What did you recently finish reading?
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George was magical. A sentient castle helping the royal family defend the kingdom reminds me both of Hogwarts and of JARVIS. My only nitpick might be that it doesn't really feature Tuesdays that much, but that's me taking book titles too literally.

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar was an easier read than Jessica Zafra's short stories because the characters were more fleshed out, with someone you could actually pinpoint as having a central role. It was odd, though, how much "local flavor" was infused into the stories, like there was some "authentic" reference to dried fish or pad paper sold by the page in each sentence. Another thing that didn't sit well with me was how she wrote about a country I didn't know. The cultural references were right, but she wrote about Martial Law and the first People Power Revolution (which happened thirty years ago) and the lives of migrant workers/OFWs and their families. 

What do you think you'll read next?
I don't know, actually. April is almost over and I don't feel as pressed to focus on Filipino fiction. 

Top Ten Bookworm Delights (Top Ten Tuesday #2)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. When you find books from your TBR in the sale pile, marked down to P20 ($ 0.42) each:
It's the sign you've been waiting for, the sign that makes all the digging around worth it.

2. Or better yet, when you find those books in your university library:
In the most random colleges: graphic novels in the Philosophy section, fiction in the Asian Center, chick lit in the College of Education. All for free!

3. When you flip through your yellowed book pages and they smell like vanilla:
That's vanillin, and the other compounds are less-innocuous sounding: toluene, 2-ethyl hexanol, ethyl benzene, benzaldehyde, and furfural. (Whew, that was like an organic chemistry pop quiz.)

4. When your secondhand books have marginalia or surprises from former owners:
But the nice kind of surprises, like old-fashioned bookmarks, or a grade-schooler's vocabulary words. Sometimes even a dedication from a loved one.

5. When your books have surprises from yourself:
Is this something that only happens to forgetful people? I've found receipts from fro-yo dates years ago, notes from sweet roommates, and even the occasional banknote.

6. Finding out a friend likes the same book as you:
It'll bring you closer, and in the case of an already close friend, it's the best validation of your compatibility, haha.

7. When people ask you for reading recommendations:
The most random incident (and the toughest!) was in a book sale in a parking lot: my friend and I were comparing favorite titles, and a guy came up to ask for help picking out a book for his girlfriend.

8. Reading a book to a young child:
My sisters and my cousins used to love being read to when they were smaller. That was a lot of cuddle time and giggling and sharing childhood favorites with new people.

9. When you finish a book you've been "currently reading" for years:
There's a special sense of relief there, a sense of closure. And in the end you either have a surprise favorite or a new space on your bookshelf.

10. When you crack open a book and instantly know that you'll enjoy reading it:
Not necessarily that it'll be a favorite, but that it will be a breeze to read because the plot, the characters, and the writing all hit the sweet spot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

WWW Wednesday 4

This meme/link-up is hosted by Taking on a World of Words

What are you currently reading?
I'm currently reading In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar, though I haven't gotten past the first story yet. I'm also reading Noble House by James Clavell.

What did you recently finish reading?
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson was a really sweet love story, and in a way The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker was also a love story. Both were about Eastern cultures in the West (England and New York, respectively), and felt sort of like they tied in with last week's uncomfortable feelings about Ann Morgan. On the other hand, I also finished Tai-Pan by James Clavell, which was about the founding of the Hong Kong colony. It was very entertaining, and the vulgarity seemed period-appropriate.

What do you think you'll read next?
Honestly I just want to finish all the books I'm currently reading, but I'm also cramming for Captain America: Civil War. Not that I'm actually reading any of the comics, but I'm trying to find myself a nice deprogramming headcanon on AO3.

Monday, April 18, 2016

10 Books That Made Me Laugh (Top Ten Tuesday #1)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. The Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison (from the original post)
This was delightfully shallow and irreverent, and Georgia inspired me to try and come up with my own slang.

2. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
All the puns were so dry and yet felt like the author was winking and pulling faces all the time, and it all made me giggle so much.

3. The Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry
Criminally underrated, in my opinion, though it might be because of how old the series is. Anastasia is pretty self-absorbed, but it's still funny when she gets brought back down to earth.

4. Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Frank's antics are adorable and hilarious, even as you realize that they might be "symptoms"

5. Spoiled and Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Fug Girls have always been known for their special brand of snark, and it's delightful in YA fiction. The usual high school drama, and out-and-out enjoyment of how absurd it all is.

6. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Blabbing all your secrets to a complete stranger is already terrible enough, but having him come back to haunt you makes for the kind of awkward situation that brings about a lot of giggles.

7. The Bartimaeus sequence by Jonathan Stroud
This was a new approach to the world of magic for me, but the main charm of the book was Bartimaeus and his endless insults and complaints.

8. The Wayside School series by Louis Sachar
Nonstop silliness! I read this with my little sister when she was just learning to read, and we both loved it.

9. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
The Mindy Project led me to this book, which had the same trademark sass and self-absorption.

10. Hold Me Closer by David Levithan
The wordplay in this one really cracked me up. I got into imagining the musical actually being staged.

Wow, it's really hard to come up with ten funny books/series! Most of the books I remember as funny were read in my childhood or high school years.

Epistolary Fiction 1

Before this year I'd only read this kind of fiction in a Meg Cabot book (The Boy Next Door), and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, and a skimming of my aunt's copy of Griffin and Sabine. Oh, and in fanfiction. In fact, it was through an anonymous ask on someone's Tumblr that I found out the term for that style, and I'd mistakenly thought it meant fiction written as correspondence only. Actually it can be any series of documents, which means that all the "case files" of Disney franchises I read as a child probably count. 

In 2016:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman (sort of)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (sort of)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I think this genre is one I'd like to explore because of how you get multiple voices without becoming disoriented due to  POV-switching (what a fanfic term, ugh), and again, because you're more aware of the "unreliable narrator" possibility as you read. A drawback of this genre, I think, is that the books work better in print than in e-book form. Another thing I noticed, particularly in 84, Charing Cross Road, is that you're more aware of yourself filling in any perceived "gaps", like when there were several years' worth of correspondence omitted. I think I like that you can't read them as mindlessly as more familiar novel structures, and how the novels are broken into smaller chunks (letters or documents instead of chapters) for easier digestion. The next ones I'd like to read are Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern; Dracula by Bram Stoker; We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver; and whatever else I come across.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

The epistolary format of this novel was a little unfamiliar, but I think it's actually useful because in this format you are more aware of how limited your perspective is, both by what the narrator is seeing and by what he or she is actually choosing to pass on. The post-war setting also seemed tired and over-explored at first, but I hadn't actually read anything about the occupation of the Channel Islands before. 

I found this book unexpectedly charming, and the format did contribute to that since Juliet's writing voice was similar to Anne Shirley's (of Green Gables). If she spoke like that in a conventionally narrated novel in the third person, it would be too precious and off-putting, but it worked just fine for old-timey correspondence. 

This book also gave some perspectives I hadn't considered: the children sent off to safety (only encountered previously in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), the prostitutes/camp followers, the Todt workers. And the slightly more familiar perspectives were also unexpected - the villagers all had that small town/island background I never could resist, but this time talking more about literature, which was unexpectedly lovely, particularly for Clovis Fossey and his letter about poetry.

I loved this book (just can't figure out how to shorten the title), for the new points of view and for the history lessons I did not expect, and for bringing out so much sympathy both in the characters and in me. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

WWW Wednesday 3

This meme/link-up is hosted by Taking on a World of Words

What are you currently reading?
As always, I'm reading about fifteen books at the same time and making only a couple of pages of progress on each of them. E-books enable me to switch up what I'm reading depending on my mood. The main book I'm reading is still The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan. I recently finished the chapter on colonialism/imperialism, and it's so weird to encounter thoughts on this topic from a white person. I mean, it's good that you feel uncomfortable and awkward about your country's history, and that you're acknowledging the atrocities committed in the name of "civilization", but it's even better for you that that's all you have to feel about it, if that makes sense. You go on about exchanges of culture and how native cultures are strong enough to not be diluted by Anglophone literature and stuff like that, but you get to say it from your outsider's point of view. I think that's what bothers me most about this - that reading literature from outside her nation is a sort of noble quest, while in bookstores here the main display area is for all sorts of foreign literature while the local literature is somewhere in the back, most of the time near the textbooks. Idk man this book makes me feel like I'm learning a lot one moment and in the next I'm raging about privilege. 

What did you recently finish reading?
This week I finished The Pedant's Return by Andrea Barham, which was full of trivia and fact-checking, and though it was interesting I don't think it's the kind of book you keep around for reference in this day and age.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson was lovely, with a nice small cast I got to know pretty thoroughly, and beautiful, unique Frank who ended up saving the day.

I'm about four years late to the party with Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which I got into during a sort of side project where I'll try to read as many fairytale retellings as I can get my hands on (or I can stomach).

Just today I finished Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, just in time for the author's 100th birthday! Love her and her work.

For Buwan ng Panitikang Pilipino I read The Stories So Far by Jessica Zafra. My favorite of the lot was  914, 915, 916 (The neighbors keep missing each other in an apartment building that messes with the space-time continuum.)

What do you think you'll read next?
I have quite a few Filipino books on shelf - two graphic novels, two more collections of short stories, and another YA novel - and I want to prioritize them for now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

WWW Wednesday 2

This meme/link-up is hosted by Taking on a World of Words

What are you currently reading?
I'm almost through with The Pedant's Return by Andrea Barham, and on the fifth Mediator book. I also started reading Be Frank With Me, which so far has been mostly cute and light with the occasional tug on my heartstrings. The closest comparison I can make right now is probably George and Sam, which was one of the best books I read last year.

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished reading The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, which was sort of like a mash-up of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue, but with more feels and uh, political tension, I guess. The prequel novella, Honeymoon in Paris, was shorter and sweeter.

I also read the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat. The first book was really intense and kind of uncomfortable for me, but I think the second book showed deeper relationships and the game of chess the royals seemed to be playing was on a larger scale.

Just yesterday I read Cindy Gourlay's Tall Story, which I'd picked up because the blurb reminded me of the myth of Bernardo Carpio. The YA novel turned out to be built around that myth, and various other barrio superstitions. It was interesting to see Filipino YA in the regular shelves of the bookstore and not just on the Wattpad/magazine shelves.

What do you think you'll read next?
The Inheritance of Loss is due back in the library soon, so I should probably get reading. I also plan to read In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

March Wrap-up

March was National Women's Month, so I said I'd only read books by female authors.

I read four books from my own shelves: Beetles, Lightly Toasted by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.

I also read two books from the Asian Center library: Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine, and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun. It was particularly frustrating to read the latter while eating microwave pasta with pesto from a powder mix. 

This month I read a lot of e-books, as I'd given up Tumblr for Lent and then spent a lot of time in queues or waiting for my tardy professors. The ones I didn't cover in the WWW post are:
  • Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
  • Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
  • Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  • Act Like It by Lucy Parker
  • After You by Jojo Moyes
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

National Women's Month reading was mostly successful. I only read two books by men, one because it was a serendipitous library find and the other because my sister and I swapped tablets for an hour. I also bought a lot of books this month, mostly from secondhand stores. Here are some of them: 
Foodie board books, ostensibly for future children or godchildren
Old-school Winnie the Pooh, for the same purpose.
Two middle-grade favorites I wanted to reread.
Middle grade and middle age: A Tita Tea-time mystery, and the novel a favorite movie (Aquamarine) was based on, apparently.
Two serious-looking books, to play at being an adult
Earlier today I cleaned out my shelves at home. This is what 198 books look like, in semi-random stacks (stack stability was the major consideration). I have 20-30 books hidden elsewhere. 
These piles look a lot neater in the photo than in real life.
April is National Filipino Literature Month, so I plan on reading some Filipino books. April 9 is also Araw ng Kagitingan, so I figure I'll read something 'heroic' (valorous?), or maybe just go for a biography or two. 
© Someday this will be a book blog
Maira Gall