LATEST BOOK HAUL.
- The White Tiger by Aravind Diga. Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.
- Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. Follows the story of Madison, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.
- Invisible Monsters: Remix by Chuck Palahniuk. Injected with new material and special design elements, this book fulfills Palahniuk’s original vision for his 1999 novel, turning a daring satire on beauty and the fashion industry into an even more wildly unique reading experience. NOTE: I’m done reading this and I love it! Full review to follow!
- The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. September returns to Fairyland where she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. Sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
- Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman. A collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds—collected and introduced by beloved New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.
- The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Follows junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes are drawn from Burroughs’ own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs.
- Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan. Collection of “witch” stories from the biggest names in fantasy and young adult literature, including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Diana Peterfreund, Margo Lanagan, Peter S. Beagle, and Garth Nix.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Deftly interweaving the lives of the blind Marie-Laure and German orphan Werner set during WWII, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell. A tale about a disintegrating marriage and a phone call from the past—and not just from anyone’s past, it’s from the past self of the Georgie’s—the protagonist’s—husband. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but Georgie feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. (Thanks for the gift, Mamu Kit!)
Title: The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5 stars)
Certain books can prove that back-cover blurb staples like “haunting”, “riveting”, and “powerful” are churned out especially for them. On the first read, you know they are a gem; on the second read, you’ll realize there are smaller precious treasures in them that you haven’t seen the first time you encountered before. It doesn’t matter how many times you have heard or read their tales; when you reach their last pages and you decide to dip into their worlds again, the experience would just amplify the reasons why bits of starred reviews are strewn on their covers.
Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner, is one of these books.
It is my second time reading this book, and I must say rediscovering its beauty is a satisfying reading experience. Walled by themes of love, friendship, family, and loyalty, The Kite Runner at its core is a long journey for hard-won self-redemption that our young Afghan narrator, Amir, embarked on. For the most part it is a raw bildungsroman starting in 1975; it zeroed in on Amir, his betrayal of his best friend Hassan, and how a single event followed and haunted him to adulthood.
With the tumultuous politics during the last days of monarchy and the subsequent invasion of Russian forces in their country as its backdrop, The Kite Runner stands out as a clear picture of Afghanistan at that time. Hosseini unfurls the story with an obvious fondness for his craft. There is warmth as he describes the then-peaceful Kabul, and there is poignancy in how the annual kite-fighting event somehow symbolizes the fragility of the unconventional friendship between the two main characters (it’s important to note that Amir is a well-to-do Pashtun while Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant).
Every page shows vivid brushstrokes of Afghan culture—colors that continue even when war broke out and marred the picture. With simple prose as his only tool, Hosseini doesn’t hold back in stringing [flinch-inducing] descriptions of violence the same way he doesn’t hold back when talking about agonies, of emotions that make a punching bag out of a young heart until its owner changes into a different person. That is one of the things I like the best about this book: Amir is as human as a human boy can get. He loves Hassan but he is weak and insecure; he falls prey to jealousy and fear for more times than he could count, and he would rather choose the safest way out…even if it means having to break a relationship he can never repair again.
Good plot twists abound, and there are no real dry moments in the book that would make a reader put this down. Moments that broke my heart the first time I read the book didn’t lose their hold on on me. It is that powerful.
As a whole, The Kite Runner is an account about seeking personal salvation and a historical piece that is relevant to our society even today. I’d read this book—in some of the words of one of the characters—“a thousand times over”.
Giving this novel a very well-deserved five out of five stars.
YOU DIDN’T THINK I’D MISS TAKING A SELFIE + SHELFIE WHEN I FINALLY HAVE A DECENT MINI-LIBRARY IN MY BEDROOM NOW, RIGHT?
Of course not. But to give this photo an excuse for a good purpose, here’s my current read: the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m 700 pages in and enjoying it! Theo Decker is a wonderfully flawed (albeit unlikable) character and I’m captivated by the way he handles the slew of thoughts and memories in his head. It gives the narration a very real feel to it, almost as if the text is part of a transcript of some obsessed kid’s free-flowing thoughts.
The book’s a big doorstopper, though, and I could only plough through it slowly because I’ve got just my shuttle bus rides to work and an hour before bedtime as my reading time these days. :(
How about you guys? What are you reading?
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”
The hanging bookshelf my father built for me a while back.
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)
No book screams “I’m your soulmate!” louder than one that requires zero effort to connect with you, the kind of story that makes you believe the author has planted a bug in your room so she can document your daily life. Expectations like this bubbled up when I picked up Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling “nerd power ballad”, the aptly titled Fangirl.
As what one can gather about the title, the proverbial fanatic lifestyle takes center stage in the book: gushing obsessively over fictional characters, staying up all night writing or reading fanfiction, creating fanart, buying collectibles, beefing up fandom vocabulary (I kid you not), and getting heavily involved in “shipping” (which, by the way, has got nothing to do with deliveries and packages). Cath, the main protagonist, has been living this life ever since she became a Simon Snow fan.
The Simon Snow series is a Harry-Potteresque magnum opus, complete with witches and wizards with a little bit of vampires thrown on the side. Cath and her twin sister Wren were addicted with the series—are in Cath’s case, since it seems like she’s the only one who still couldn’t let go of the fandom. Cath finds that college is a completely different world, and she’s going to have to go through it on her own. Wren doesn’t want to be roommates this time; she’s stuck with a cool albeit churlish roommate, an always-smiling farmboy who may or may not be her roommate’s boyfriend, an ambitious fiction-addicted classmate, and her dad whom she really can’t leave alone.
The book’s lynchpin zeroes in on Cath’s struggles as her current situation pries her out of her fandom-induced, antisocial-ish shell. It asks: Can Cath do this on her own?
A truly warmhearted tale, Fangirl can succeed in anchoring itself in the hearts of its target market. For one thing, Cath is easily a Tumblr girl! (What fandom-loving soul doesn’t frequent the Internet’s wild blue yonder that is the Tumblr nowadays?) Rowell knows all too well that the first big step in capturing your audience is to make your audience care for your character, and Cath is the perfect heroine she needs to achieve that goal.
However, you need more than a heart-magnet character to make a good story. I have no problems connecting with Cath; she’s practically 80% of what I was back when my time pie graph consists mostly of expanding my knowledge about my favorite shows and books. Reading about her is some kind of a throwback experience.
But as the story went on, my initial vise-like connection to her loosened up. The story went a tad dry in what I expected to be its “oases”—parts I hoped to shape Cath up not just as someone who is an exact, superficial mirror of most of its readers, but as a real person that could coax out genuine emotions in me. I hoped she would develop into someone I could connect with not because we are the same, but because I feel she’s a real person that I could perhaps talk to or console. But that did not happen; the story dragged almost uneventfully for a while, with random speed-hitches in moment-of-truth scenes.
Be that as it may, I think it still holds a charm that a true-blue fangirl/boy would not be able to resist. There’s love, there’s obsession, there are fears, and there are hopes. There’s a decent cast of characters too (Reagan is my personal favorite); there’s the constant presence of geeky ambiance, and the satisfying feeling of an outsider that is wholly accepted by someone as she is.
I liked how there are “excerpts” from the Simon Snow books, Cath’s fanfiction, and even some ‘Encyclowikia’ entries strewn across the novel. They were an entertaining bit of Fangirl’s “reality”, pulling the readers closer to its universe and making them part of it. Thumb up for the major props! :)
I could not say I enjoyed Fangirl in its entirety, but I liked it for the most part so I’m giving it three out of five stars.
Photo from Imgarcade
Review: Running with Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Genre: Humor, Memoir
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)
Everyone has probably tried attaching punch line-hugging ends to the ‘when life gives you lemons’ proverb; I’ve heard phrases that are as hip as those involving tequilas and the beginning of a citrus monopoly. But I haven’t heard or seen anyone did it like Augusten Burroughs. Life has practically cannonaded him with thousands of lemons in his childhood and instead of feeling miserable about it, he used all the fruits to write his bestselling memoir, Running with Scissors.
The book follows a big slice of Burroughs’ childhood life. He was only a little boy when his parents—a manic-depressive poet mom with Anne Sexton delusions and a professor dad with “the loving, affectionate and outgoing personality of petrified wood”—divorced. His mom gives him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who is a dead ringer for Santa Claus: Haven’t Bathed in Weeks edition. Burroughs then befriends the doc’s abrasive children, starts a relationship with a thirtysomething pedophile residing in the backyard shed, and slowly accepts that playing with electroshock therapy machine when things get dull, or substituting dog food for popcorns, or even consuming Valium like candies, are normal…as long as he lives in the midst of this Victorian squalor. But this is one thing he is 101% sure of: when you inherit a family as dysfunctional as the Finches, you’d know you’d just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
I was full of head-shakes, of smirks and snorts, of this-couldn’t-be-real’s, and of oh-my-god’s (in varying intonations) while reading the book. From the reactions Running with Scissors elicited from me, you’d know that Burroughs is a man of talent. I turn the pages and see his ‘70s to ‘80s life unfold in full color. I like how his style of storytelling balances between complete wack and sheer cynicalness. Aside from being mostly hilarious, his darkish tales are effective in a way that it makes his readers yearn for a life that is—in his own words—“fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal”.
But one does not need rocket science to know that behind all the gags and sarcasm, it’s not as funny as it sounds—a sad Burroughs must be somewhere beneath all the kookiness. Sure, there are stuff that can be a real barrel of laughs at one point (scatological fortune-telling, anyone?), but on the other side of the scale there’s staging a suicide attempt to avoid school (supported eagerly by Dr.Finch), being sexually abused, the fact that you’re having guardians that cannot guide or guard you in life at all, among other things. It’s awesome that Burroughs can joke about the whole thing David Sedaris-style, but something tells me it would have been more honest if there’s a little poignancy thrown in there somewhere. He’s a bloody kid! I’m all for positivity, but no one is that positive; too much cynicalness for a situation comedy-like effect sometimes takes away all the humanity from a character.
Speaking of lack of humanity, that is my main beef too with the supporting characters. The author failed to sculpt them into something the readers can feel as real people, and I’m not even talking about their colorful craziness. They’ve become hackneyed paperboard-cutouts in a sitcom-ish set of tales.
Towards the end the book becomes more disjointed, the anecdote-chapters reading like standalone vignettes. It’s only on the page before the epilogue that Burroughs made an attempt at sentimentality, about how taking risks to reach his dreams is like running with scissors (or something to that effect). It was quietly hopeful, but the buildup to the moment was shabbily constructed that there wasn’t a big impact at all.
It was still a good read, although I’m having second thoughts about reading its sequel, Dry.
Dear friends and fellow bookworms (if by some miracle you’re still coming here),
I know it’s been ages since I last updated this or any of my other blogging sites. Aside from the important offline commitments that have temporarily divorced me from my laptop, I have submitted myself to a Social Media Sabbatical, hoping it would help me de-stress and give me more time with my loved ones. And it did! After over three months of that, I thought it’s about time I come back. :)
And so…the bookwormism continues!
Reblogging because I wish I have my favorite authors on speed dial whenever I’m feeling sad. I’m pretty sure they will understand even if I just blather on about anything and everything.
“A bookshelf is like a framed collage. Every book is a photograph; every spine tells a story. Friends you left behind, enemies you’d long forgotten, places you’d once visited. This is why I keep my books.”
— Emily Daniels (Naturalistic Benevolence)