Friday, May 27, 2016

[from my book journal] Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

I really am a sucker for American fishing communities. Even the poorest people in the stories have such idyllic lives. (Pakicompare sa buhay third world, thanks.) I cannot for the life of me remember when I first read this, but the angst gets me every time. Wheeze is such a silly little girl, and I see so much of myself in her. Weren’t we all just silly little girls at one point? I think she’s the literary character I am most protective of. However, I am dissatisfied with the ending. Does history really have to repeat itself? But the biblical stuff was great, really. In conclusion (not that this review made any points): when a book makes you feel this many feelings, keep it, treasure it, never let it go. Even if those feelings are ugly and painful at times.

Friday, May 20, 2016

[from my book journal] Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

I want to call it “gently feminist”, but that wouldn’t do it justice. The heroine learns that her faults don’t make her worthless, that her silly little hobbies could help her make something of herself, and she learns to stand up for herself both to men and to women. That counts as feminist, imo. I loved the book. Loved it. Loved loved loved. (And history of fashion would be such a kickass major, omg.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ten Books I Picked Out On A Whim (Top Ten Tuesday #4)

I do most of my book shopping in secondhand bookstores and bargain bins, so on a whim actually just means whatever I found there that I hadn't heard of before but decided to buy anyway.

1. The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon: This has the prettiest cover art, and it was wrapped in plastic so I didn't realize it was a book of poetry.

2. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: I also picked this out for the cover art.

3. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs by Ellis Peters: I don't usually buy mysteries, but this had the coolest old-timey stained glass-esque cover art. 

4. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: I haven't read Jane Eyre, but the hipster-style photograph overlaid with white text really appealed to me.

5. Astray by Emma Donoghue: The title was evocative of something restless and adventurous but also sad, so I got it.

6. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut: This was such a dumb choice. I didn't even read the blurb, just remembered the fascinating unit in high school biology on Darwin and evolution and decided this would probably be just as cool.

7. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: My first Chevalier! The painting/painter was mentioned in Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, so I took a chance on this book, and she ended up being one of my go-to authors.

8. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman: I borrowed this from the library because I was really amazed to find a graphic novel in the social sciences and philosophy shelves.

9. Remember the Tarantella by Finnola Moorhead: I haven't read this yet, but the blurb said it was written with only female characters, which seemed interesting. 

10. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman: What a title. Just, what a title.

Friday, May 13, 2016

[from my book journal] The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I just finished reading The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan last night. In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime and didn’t wake up in time for my 7am class. Anyway, it’s a great book! Honestly, I just bought it for the gorgeous typography on the cover, and at first I was like, di yan sulit. P400 and it’s just that thin and he doesn’t even fill every page. But then, as I started reading, I realized how sulit it was. I remember my CW 10 prof telling us that poetry is an economy of words, and now I get it. It doesn’t matter that the book doesn’t have enough words; it has all the important words and it is more beautiful for all the superfluous words that were weeded out. In fact, since it’s a dictionary, the economy of words was really important.
Another thing I loved about it is well, that it’s a dictionary. I’ve always loved words and definitions. In elementary school, when I qualified for spelling bees, I’d try to review by skimming the Merriam-Webster Garfield dictionary. I’d always end up reading the comics instead, but I think along the way I also formed an appreciation for how carefully the definitions are crafted. How they have to be so exact, as simple and yet as complete as possible. In high school, I felt the same way about math. How you had to define a concept in just a sentence and yet cover all its rules and exceptions. How postulates and theorems were used to prove bigger concepts, and how even the most basic of operations, such as addition, had their own definition. In college, I always spend too much time learning the definition of each variable, each concept. And in this book, the author didn’t pin down what each word stood for in the English language, he pinned down what each word meant to him. Isn’t that lovely? (I kind of have a vague dream of doing the same thing with all the words I’ve loved, but I don’t think my life is interesting enough for that. Also, it’d be a really derivative work. Boo.)
Another great thing about it is that it’s vague. Details are deliberately withheld, I think, to keep the book as universal as possible. Sure, some things are really specific, but they’re the details that could belong to anybody. I didn’t even remember to wonder about what his love looked like, I was too wrapped up in the book. And yet I feel like I skimmed it too quickly, like I should go over it again and highlight my favorite passages and rewrite words in my own handwriting so they can feel mine. It was a great book, easily one of my top 10. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WWW Wednesday 7

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

What are you currently reading?
I'm still trying out this thing where I only read one book at a time, but I ended up switching what I was reading. Now I'm on The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. She uses words wonderfully; I particularly love the way she writes about the mist and the mountains.

What did you recently finish reading?
I set everything aside to read The Raven King as soon as people started reviewing it. Ronan is such a great character! I'm not sure if it was the best ending we could have gotten, it felt a little anticlimactic, sort of like The Deathly Hallows. But still a great series.
What do you think you'll read next?
Either I'll go back to everything else I have on hold, or I'll read one of the new books I bought today. This was on the first page of one of them, so how could I say no to this?

From A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Yoshida Kenko (Penguin Little Black Classic)

Friday, May 6, 2016

[from my book journal] The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Romance is my thing, okay? I am alternately preachy, defensive, and apologetic about this series. This series has all the magical ingredients. Time travel, you guys. Highland Scots and Frenchmen and herbs and healing. Lots of lovely Gaelic. And I think Jamie and Claire do have one of the best love stories ever, because they grow old together. Even if there is a lot of the normal romance novel heaving and quivering interspersed with the adventure and the medicine. And the medicine is made all the better by it being makeshift/make-do, when a 20th century nurse gets sent back without the technology she’s used to. Pretty damn cool.

I’m still stuck in Outlander-land, though I’ve moved on to the Lord John stories. These are wildly inconsistent in length, by the way, ranging from ultra-short novellas (50 pages in iBooks) to full-length novels (700+ pages in iBooks). It's sort of a stop-and-go reading situation. You just gotta appreciate how believable Diana Gabaldon makes everything seem, like there aren't any details glaringly out of place. She’s probably really good at research and thinking things through.

The TV show is pretty good too! Even if book Jamie feels like William Wallace and tv show Jamie is suddenly a baby in comparison. And Claire is taller and thinner than I expected. I wanted a Melissa McCall-type person, I don't know why.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

WWW Wednesday 6

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

What are you currently reading?
I'm trying out this thing where I only read one book at a time. This week I'm focusing on Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis. This is the first young adult novel I've encountered that reads like a foodie memoir. So far, so good. 

What did you recently finish reading?
I finally finished reading The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan. Three weeks ago I had really weird feelings about the chapter on colonialism/imperialism, and the chapters that followed were... milder. The book itself felt like a comprehensive review paper, like there was more research than conclusion. It was compelling in the sense that I felt compelled to take notes. I do think it's an interesting and worthwhile project, to try and read a book from every nation.

What do you think you'll read next?
After Banana Heart Summer, I want to read Sixty Six by Russell Molina. It's a graphic novel about a senior citizen (he's 66 years old) who gains superpowers. Should be interesting.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ten Characters I'd Like To Revisit (Top Ten Tuesday #3)

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
The original prompt was: "Ten Childhood Characters You'd Love To Revisit As Adults (ie a novella or something to see what they grew up to be) -- you could always just pick YA characters you've read recently you wouldn't mind revisiting in 10 years or so. Or you could pick 10 characters and guess what you think they'd be doing in 10 years or 20 years. OR you could go the other way and wish for coming of age stories for adult characters you love. "

1. Any of the characters from the Baby-Sitters Club: Did Claudia go to art school? On which coast did Dawn end up? Whatever happened to all the Pikes? I'd like to know who stayed in touch with each other, and who moved on or drifted off. 

2. The Marauders: Though their flashbacks were a little disappointing, I'd still love to know how the Map came to be, or what Sirius was like as a first year: did he go against everything the Blacks stood for since then, or was it when he got Sorted into Gryffindor?

3. Encyclopedia Brown: These days it seems like there's a Sherlock Holmes spin-off everywhere you look. A grown-up Encyclopedia Brown (modern-day or not) would fit right in.

4. The Pevensies (the lost years): My favorite Narnia book was probably The Horse and His Boy, which was set during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. A longer peek at those years would be a childhood dream come true. 

5. Susan Pevensie: My biggest problem with the Chronicles of Narnia was that my favorite character didn't get to come back to Narnia. It wasn't just that she grew up, it was that she was a girl who grew up. So unfair. 

6. Stanley Yelnats (Holes): I just really need to know more about how Sploosh was invented.

7. Matilda: I read on Tumblr that Matilda was like Hermione if she'd been raised by the Dursleys. Imagine Matilda at Hogwarts. Or better yet, imagine Matilda in a dusty public library, working her everyday magic. 

8. Mowgli and his friends: I know, The Spring Running exists. But I like to think of the possibility of Mowgli coming back, a chubby toddler in tow, to be taught the Law of the Jungle.

9. An in-between peek at Draco Malfoy: I didn't like the epilogue, and imo a look at the rebuilding of the Wizarding World would be much better.

10. Anastasia Krupnik: Anastasia and Sam would probably grow up to be such weird, interesting people. 

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Maira Gall