Tuesday, July 26, 2016

WWW Wednesday 12

What are you currently reading?
Almost halfway through 50 Foods: A Guide to Deliciousness by Edward Behr. It was on sale for P100, or $2.12, which comes to P2 or $0.04 per food, which made it irresistible to me. Each chapter is a guide to selecting/harvesting, preparing, and pairing with wine foods like strawberries, bacon, potatoes, and honey. It's one of those nonfiction books that get you doing more research afterward.

I've also been reading a fanfic where Lily Evans is the one who will end up facing Voldemort. Pretty good so far, and there's a lot more tension about being Muggleborn and wanting a place in the Wizarding world. 

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently bought and finished Trip to Tagaytay by Arnold Arre. It's a very short graphic novel set in some imagined future where most of the world has migrated to outer space and a nameless protagonist is one of the few left behind on Earth. He's communicating with his sweetheart, who is on a space station.There's not much plot, it's mostly the backgrounds of the future world and all the things that strangely remain unchanged that tell a story.

Banana Heart Summer is one of the best books I've read this year. The writing style reminds me a little of Julia Alvarez or Isabel Allende with the lush descriptions of food, usually as metaphor for desire for a better life. If anyone's looking for more diverse reads, this would be a great option. It's even available on Book Depository! I was thinking that a lot of the food or local references would be unfamiliar to foreign readers, but isn't that part of the point of reading foreign books? It's set in Bicol, a region of the Philippines I don't know well, and the non-English words sprinkled in the book are Bikolano, a language I don't speak, though that's where my grandmother is from. 

Here's the summary on the back of my copy:
'Close to midnight, when the heart bows from its stem, wait for its first dew. It will drop like a gem. Catch it with your tongue. When you eat the heart of the matter, you'll never grow hungry again.'
The myth of the banana heart inspires twelve-year-old Nenita. She will appease her family's hunger and win her mother's love. As she cooks and eats, or dreams of cooking and eating, other love stories unfold in her street, sweltering between a volcano and a church. It is the hottest summer in the 1960s, in her small town reeling with the songs of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and the Beatles.
And here are two quotes I liked:

I rubbed the chicken with the green lemon halves to disguise the meaty smell. Strange that, all the time, we attempt to 'make better' the smell, taste, texture or look of nature. We cannot leave well enough alone. Perhaps because nothing is well enough alone. Perhaps because nothing is well enough alone. Perhaps because the heart of the matter offends the palate, and where it does not offend, it scares. So we arm ourselves with herbs and spices, and we consider ourselves improved as a species.
Sometimes, only a taste can be more distressing than pleasurable, a very miserly treat. Like endearments in half sentences or embraces not coming full circle, ensuring the torment of gaps. I thought of the boy who touched my arm, only my arm... 
What do you think you'll read next?
 I plan on reading Here by Richard McGuire. I've been on a graphic novel binge, and this book is an adaptation of a famous 1989 comic strip.  From Goodreads: "Built in six pages of interlocking panels, dated by year, it collapsed time and space to tell the story of the corner of a room - and its inhabitants - between the years 500,957,406,073 BC and 2033 AD. The strip remains one of the most influential and widely discussed contributions to the medium, and it has now been developed, expanded and reimagined by the artist into this full-length, full-colour graphic novel - a must for any fan of the genre. "

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ten Things I Wish I Got From Books (Top Ten Tuesday #7)

Via The Broke and Bookish - July 26: Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them

I'm not sure if I interpreted the prompt correctly, but sometimes you read a book and wish a character's life or certain traits would diffuse through the pages and into your hands. Here are 10 things I wish I'd absorb by osmosis:

1. From All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: radio repair and all things electronic. One of the reasons why I love this book is that "all the light we cannot see" refers to (radio frequency) electromagnetic waves! It is on an old radio that Werner hones his tinkering skills, and it is radio that guides his life. For most of the book I understood the concepts and theory, but I can't imagine being faced with a broken radio and somehow fixing it by myself. 

2. From The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: strategy games. Bite and Sting, a strategy game, is a recurring "theme" (concept? reference?) in the trilogy. Strategic thinking is one of the few things Kestrel inherited from her father and actually uses. Would be useful in games and in real life.

3. From The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella: cooking. The title is actually The Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary Seduction. If that's not enough of an explanation, the officer falls for an Italian widow and the food she cooks. 

4. From The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: sleight of hand or anything related to stealth and subtlety. Eugenides has an official title as The Queen's Thief, and I loved reading about how his skills can change the political landscape of three countries, mainly because of how everyone underestimates him. I'd like to be able to blend in at will, and to be better at hiding what I'm feeling in polite company.

5. From The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: metalworking. Ahmad, the jinni, finds temporary employment in a tinsmith's shop. I've been fascinated by metalworking for a long time. The reforged Shards of Narsil from Lord of the Rings almost made me study metallurgical engineering in college. 

6. From The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: horseback riding. Definitely not on water horses like Puck and Sean ride, but at least to be able to say that I rode the horse instead of just holding on for dear life and trying not to fall off.

7. From It was snowing butterflies by Charles Darwin: keeping such a beautifully detailed diary, someday worthy of publication. This is a selection of his notes from the voyage of The Beagle, and his field notes make for better reading than some of the bestsellers or critically acclaimed works I've read recently. Pretty high standards, huh? I just want to be better at journaling, so when I read my notebooks in the future I'll be able to reconstruct memories that might have already faded away.

8. From The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: holding on to (things from) my dreams. Ronan brings back impossible objects from his dreams, sometimes with disastrous consequences. There are times when I feel like it'd be worth the risk, if only to have something to prove that yes, I did dream that.

9. From Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson: dressing however the hell I want. Frank is a very special child, and part of what makes him special is the way he dresses. It's a very shallow thing to take away from the book, but it's one of the things that most stuck with me.

10. From Perfume by Patrick Suskind: smelling things on a whole other level. I watched the movie with a very bad cold, and the whole time I was so envious of Grenouille when I just wanted to enjoy the taste of my food. Then I read the book, which was so lush and descriptive that I thought myself lucky to only have watched the movie during my cold.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WWW Wednesday 11

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

What are you currently reading?
I am currently rereading Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It's one of my favorites. Also finally cracked the cover of The Passion of Mademoiselle S., which I won in a Goodreads giveaway several months ago. It's a compilation of letters from a woman named Simone to her lover Charles over the course of their "perverse" affair. I've read three letters so far, and she has used that word several times already. 

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished reading Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. He has the most beautifully descriptive way of writing that comes across even in translation. The dark night often got compared to the sea, both in the potential hiding beneath it, and in what it has already swept away. So, so lovely. I also finished Sixty-Six by Russell Molina. Mang Tino, an elderly man of 66 years, suddenly gains super strength and uses it to "clean up the neighborhood." The action scenes are interspersed with him caring for his ailing wife Aura (I think she has Alzheimer's) and with the letters she wrote to him when they were younger and he worked overseas. I think it's the first book of a series. I really loved the illustration style of this graphic novel. I also finished the e-book of The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. It's the sequel to the Winner's Curse, and has much higher stakes and ~palace intrigue~ involved. Just now I finished the last book in the series, The Winner's Kiss. It was a satisfying ending but I still want epilogues and peeks at the progress every five years and maybe a TV miniseries or a movie adaptation. Does anyone else get that way about good series?
What do you think you'll read next?
Banana Heart Summer still hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. My long-distance book club will start book # 3, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, after we finally discuss This Side of Paradise.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ten Books Set Outside the US (Top Ten Tuesday #6)

Via The Broke and BookishTen Books Set Outside The US (I don't know about you but sooo much of what I read is set in the US and I love finding new recs of stuff set outside of it!)

The Philippines
1. Tall Story by Candy Gourlay - other parts of this are also set in the UK, where Bernardo flies to join his mother's new family. 
2. In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar - some stories are also set in the Middle East, where overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) had gone to secure better futures for their families back home.
3. Sixty-Six by Russell Molina - Tino, at 66, suddenly gains super strength and becomes a vigilante, fighting crime on the streets of Manila.

4. Crazy Rich Asians (and China Rich Girlfriend) by Kevin Kwan -
set all over Asia (and all over the world, tbh), this follows several elite families in a super gossipy, super entertaining style.

South America
5. Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery - all over South America but mostly in Argentina, this is about the commercial flights used to send mail overnight in the most perilous of journeys.
6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - in an unnamed nation, this is about a hostage situation that goes on for much longer than anyone would have expected. One of the best books I've ever read.


7. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - set in South Africa, about a pastor and his son Absalom and their struggles. (I just realized I haven't read that many books set in Africa.)

8. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes - an American writer moves to Italy and restores an old house with her husband. Lots of mouthwatering food writing.

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - about a socially challenged professor who uses science and logic to search for true love.

10. The Martian by Andy Weir - does this count? It's a whole new landscape out there. An astronaut gets left behind on Mars and has to survive until the next Mars mission. He has a little help from the people on Earth.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

[from my book journal] I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell 
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. (from Goodreads)

What a smart idea to split a book about twins into two perspectives, Jude and Noah, past and present, or present and future. To make them practically switch lies, catalyzed by their mother's death. To have them share Oscar and Guillermo unknowingly.

It was almost too quirky for me, though the prose was beautiful. Grandma didn't really fit into the story, as Noah barely mentioned her. For some reason I liked Noah's part better, maybe because it was the  'before'.

I really liked how "I'll give you the sun" actually came about. Twin siblings dividing up the universe between then in a series of negotiations - how young, how innocent. And Jude giving up most of her share for a portrait of a boy she didn't know was real.

"I wish he were real," she says, "He's so cool-looking. He's so... I don't know... There's something..."
..."Can I have it?"
This shocks me. She's never asked for a drawing before. I'm horrible at giving them away. "For the sun, stars, oceans, and all the trees, I'll consider it," I say, knowing she'll never agree. She knows how badly I want the sun and trees. We've been dividing up the world since we were five. I'm kicking butt at the moment - universe domination is within my grasp for the first time.
"Are you kidding?" she says, standing up straight. It annoys me how tall she's getting. It's like she's being stretched at night. "That leaves me just the flowers, Noah."
Fine, I think. She'll never do it. It's settled, but it isn't. She reaches over and props up the pad, gazing at the portrait like she's expecting the English guy to speak to her.
"Okay," she says. "Trees, stars, oceans. Fine."
"And the sun, Jude."
"Oh, all, right," she says, totally surprising me. "I'll give you the sun."

I think I was so pleasantly surprised by this because I dreaded the title line being given as a (presumably empty) promise. Bartering is much more enjoyable.

Lastly, that minimalist cover art is even more impressive now you see how full of imagery the novel is and how cluttered the cover could have been.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Minimalism on my mind (or, what to do with my books)

There are books by favorite authors, books I've been meaning to read since their appearance on some list or another, irresistible bargain books, books with pretty covers, etc. They sit, unread, on my shelves for years. Once I've read them I have to figure out what to do with them. A favorite book is an easy decision - back to the shelf, between spines of similar color and height. A terrible book bought cheaply is another easy decision - the little free library. Less easy decisions: a book that appears masculine, literary - my uncle, to his towers of cobwebbed books beside his old reading lamp - or feminine, also of some literary merit, acceptable physical condition - one of many friends, sometimes to return to me, oftentimes not. But what about the horribly expensive books that I loathed, or the books I love now but will dislike upon rereading? (The former I give to B., the latter are still undecided.) What about the books I can't finish reading? What about the unique editions, usually out of print, interesting cover art and all? What about the series I so carefully completed, only to find out while reading the last book that I'd outgrown them all? I want to save them, I say, for when I open up a secondhand bookstore. Of course I'll want an eclectic a collection as possible, I'll want good books no one has ever heard of, books with no literary acclaim but with a line or a paragraph that strikes a chord in me. I'll want the retro cover art, the obscure publishers, the awkwardly sized paperbacks. On the other hand, I live in a tropical country. Our house is not air-conditioned. The window-to-room ratio is such that direct sunlight hits everything for hours at a time. And my books are already mostly secondhand or old stock. I'm 21 and my library smells about twice my age. I'm a careless reader, leaving deliberately broken spines, dog-eared or even torn-off corners, water droplets and cheetos dust secreted away into the binding. No one would buy books in such deplorable condition. There is the option, of course, of not doing anything about it. But I have filled four shelves with upright books and books lying on top of those. I've cleared out clothes from the bottom shelf of my closet to make room for more books. I have books hidden away in what should be a laundry hamper as well as under my bed. The books I bought more recently are still in limbo in my dorm room, on the shelf and also in my closet. There are books in the bathroom, next to the towels, and I mix some of my books in with everyone else's, on the communal bookshelf. Sooner or later I'll start keeping them in the fridge. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Annotated TBR #2

(I came across this idea on Badass Romance.)

I've been meaning to finish Captain Corelli's Mandolin since late 2014, and in June I decided to just give up on it. I wasn't particularly interested in what would happen to any of the characters, and though the setting was lovely and new to me, I was kind of sick of wartime novels. No take backs, too, since I gave away my copy last Wednesday.

From last month's TBR, I have to admit I didn't make any progress on the biographies of Roald Dahl and Marie Antoinette, or on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, though I'm staying optimistic for this month.

For the long-distance book club we have book 3, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and hopefully book 4, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

For my birthday treat to myself, I want to reread some old favorites, either The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, Inside Las Vegas by Mario Puzo, or Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I also want to read one of the books I bought in anticipation of my birthday, either Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, Here by Richard McGuire, or Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which incidentally is on Ann Patchett's list of the 75 best books of the past 75 years. Other books I own from that list are The Once and Future King by T.H. White and The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

WWW Wednesday 10

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

What are you currently reading?
I haven't picked up anything new since the graphic novel yesterday. Does a review paper on solid oxide electrolytic cells count?

What did you recently finish reading?
I'd previously planned out my June reading in a sort of Annotated TBR, and I'm pretty proud of myself for finishing four titles on my list. I finished Never Let Me Go earlier this month, and since my last WWW I've finished Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier, Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also finished a sequel, The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.

More recently I finished a Filipino graphic novel, Halina Filipina by Arnold Arre
What do you think you'll read next?
Banana Heart Summer probably deserves another shot, and for my birthday month I want to read books by my favorite authors. I have Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery on hand this week.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Top Ten "Underrated" Books (Top Ten Tuesday #5)

Via The Broke and Bookish:

Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads (we've done underrated books a bunch of times in the past 6 years but thanks to Lenore at Celebrity Readers for suggesting this topic as a new way to talk about underrated books especially when underrated is subjective. An easy way to find this -- go to Goodreads, your read list, at the top of your read list where it says settings you can add a column for # of ratings, then you can sort by that. If you aren't a Goodreads user you can look up books you think are underrated and see what their # of reviews is on Goodreads? Or if that's too hard you can spin it some other way!

Inside Las Vegas by Mario Puzo (111 ratings) : nonfiction, about gambling and people who never lose hope

Orvis by Helen Mary Hoover (145 ratings) : middle grade/YA, in which two children and an obsolete robot go off on an adventure

It was snowing butterflies by Charles Darwin (205 ratings) : Penguin Little Black Classic, nonfiction, about Darwin's voyage on the Beagle

A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs by Ellis Peters (382 ratings) : an old-fashioned mystery with an excellent title

George and Sam by Charlotte Moore (433 ratings) : nonfiction, a mother writing about life with her two autistic sons

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (787 ratings) : Nick Hornby talks about what he's reading 

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez (1145 ratings) : middle grade/YA , connected to How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and to Yo!, just as delightful

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (1257 ratings) : middle grade/YA, about a Filipino boy who joins his mother's new family in the United Kingdom and leaves behind a barrio filled with superstition and mythology 

Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst by Lois Lowry (1788 ratings) : middle grade, in which Anastasia Krupnik has conversations with Freud

Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz  (1920 ratings) : middle grade, nonfiction, an American girl growing up in China, this was one of my favorites growing up
© Someday this will be a book blog
Maira Gall