Book Report: August 2014

Book Report: August 2014

And just like that, it’s already September. From where I live, time speeds up when this month makes its entrance. I’m a little concerned because this has not been a good year for me in terms of the number of books I’ve read. But yeah, I know, that is just a number. It’s just that I wish I could read more.

Anyway, at least I managed to finish three books this month. I’ve actually finished five (the other two, I’ve included in the previous month’s report). Not bad, I guess.

Books Finished:

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer – 3 out of 5 stars. Quite a difficult book. I’m not sure that I got this at all. I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things in it.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – 5 out of 5 stars. This is not your conventional Russian literature. This is a great work on injustice, faith, and dignity.
  • Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver – 5 out of 5 stars. This is more like a skim and scan because I’ve read most of the stories in this collection. My rating, therefore, is based on the handful of new stories that are included here, which are the selections from his UK-only Elephant.

Currently Reading:

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. I know I promised to touch this, right? But no. I got distracted with other projects. Whoops.

New Books:

  • Postcards by Annie Proulx – I’ve always meant to read another Proulx but I don’t which book of hers to pick next. Maybe this? (Php 75.00, Undertow Books, August 27)
  • Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz – Because it is on sale and because it is by a Nobel laureate. (Php 87.50, Undertow Books, August 27)
  • Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz – And so is this one. Now I only need Sugar Street to complete The Cairo Trilogy. (Php 87.50, Undertow Books, August 27)

Book Report: July 2014

Book Report: July 2014

This is super late. If you really want to know why I am only posting this now and why I haven’t been keeping you updated, I just moved to a new place. Hurrah? Hurrah! And I am still in the process of transferring my Internet account to our new humble hole.

So yeah, I’m using my break time at the office to blog. Here’s the July Report (plus the first ten days of August):

Books Finished:

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong – 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t give a flying fuck about morality when I read this. Yeah, I just typed fuck because this is about a woman’s search for a zipless fuck. It’s our August book of the month. (Php 648.00, Fully Booked – Rockwell, July 12)
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – 5 out of 5 stars. Read with Kristel, Maria, and Monique. This is such a great book that I managed to post a review of it a few days after I finished it. A discussion over lunch with two of my reading buddies topped off my HoL reading experience.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – 5 out of 5 stars. I’m a fan! Each character in this book is just so real.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – 3 out of 5 stars. Our September book of the month. I’m ahead because I only borrowed Monique‘s copy. Should I get my own copy? If you read my rating again, you’ll find out the answer to it.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 4 out of 5 stars. Our July book of the month. This is my second serving of Dickens and I think there’s still space for me for more.

Currently Reading:

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer – Currently on page 69 of 267. Gordimer’s death pushed me to read this. I’ve paused for a couple of weeks and now I’m back on track.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. Now I can really face this again. I have more time for I am done with my required readings and I’m done unpacking my stuff. Wooh!

New Books:

  • A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion – Didion is known for her nonfiction, but her fiction is also great. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart – How can you resist that cover? (USD 14.00, The Book Depository, June 26)
  • The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz – From a Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 200.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman – My second Grossman. I haven’t read him yet, but I can’t resist this copy. (Php 200.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser – Instead of refunding money from TBD, I refunded a book. (USD 12.27, The Book Depository, July 31).
  • The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion – Another novel from someone whom I think will be another favorite writer. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantes – This is also another refund. (USD 10.50, The Book Depository, July 31)
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – A National Book Award winner. I’m not keen on those winners, but since I have too many of those books, it wouldn’t hurt to add another one. (Php 180.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton – Yes, this is an NYRB Classics month. (Php 646.20, Fully Booked – BGC, August 2)
  • View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska – From another Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, July 21)

Book Report: June 2014

Book Report: June 2014

Today is the exact middle of the year (check Wikipedia), and today I will present not only my June Report, but also my Mid-Year Report.

Here’s the June Report:

Books Finished:

  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – 1 out of 5 stars. I’ve returned the copy to its rightful owner. 1/3 of my 2014 Dare Reads.
  • The City and the City by China Miéville – 3 out of 5 stars. Our June book of the month.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4 out of 5 stars. Read this as fast as I can to catch the movie in the theaters. 2/3 of my 2014 Dare Reads. My copy is currently in the hands of my office mate.
  • The Stories So Far by Jessica Zafra – 4 out of 5 stars. Finished this as soon as I bought it from the author herself. (Php 399, June 21)

Currently Reading:

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Currently on page 74 of 709. After so many failed plans, I’m finally reading this. What’s more, I’m finally reading this along with Kristel, Maria, and Monique.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Currently on page 70 of 172. I paused because I ordered a new edition.  I can’t resist the Vintage Classics Virginia Woolf series. (USD 6.26, The Book Depository, June 26)
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Currently on page 61 of 470. This is our July book of the month. A difficult first chapter should be surmounted before the pages spin what seems to me a beautiful tale.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. I’m thinking of restarting this book.

New Books:

  • Embassytown by China Miéville – I won this from our book discussion raffle. Thank you! (from Gwaxa and Meliza, June 28)
  • The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford – I would like to think of this as a belated birthday gift. Thank you! (from Huhi, June 16)
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – An NYRB Classic that has great reviews from some of my favorite reviewers. (USD 12. 04 less USD 4.5 partial refund, The Book Depository, June 26)
  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf – The search for the meaning of life continues. (USD 8.64 less USD 4.5 partial refund, The Book Depository, June 26)

Here’s the Mid-Year Report:

2014 Fave List (4 and 5 star books)

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
  • A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
  • The Stories So Far by Jessica Zafra
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

2014 Mid List (3 star books)

  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • The City and the City by China Miéville
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

2014 Hate List (1 and 2 star books)

  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka

Book Report: May 2014

Book Report: May 2014

I just joined this blogging challenge that would help me build, or rebuild, my blogging habit. That way, I can not only post these template-ish stuff, but also start, or restart, really blogging about books. I really do miss it. It’s just that I have so many lame excuses for not actually doing it.

Now I’ve got a reason to get back on the blogging train. Yay! But I have an interesting question: would Writing 101 work on a book blog? I’m not too sure, but here’s the first task anyway:

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

Stream of consciousness eh? Should be quite easy since I just finished reading, twice, a high modernist novel which is also one of the landmarks of the aforementioned narrative style. I should really continue here but no, this is a template-ish post and I must follow it despite the prompt. It’s getting a little streamy anyway, eh? I haven’t really stopped typing. I just hit the backspace for the random typographical errors. And I’m only five minutes into this. This should be interesting

So here’s my reading accomplishment, which would probably be a bit streamy.

Books Finished:

  • A Death in the Family by James Agee - 4 out of 5 stars. I can’t help it. It just kept calling out to me. Actually, I put it on a separate stack so it would stop winking at me. And it was a worthless effort. I just picked it and read the first page. There’s an author introduction where it’s stated that the author died in the same month. It was the first week of May then. Oh dear, is this coincidence? So I read it, but I read it only after I finished the self-required readings of the landmark novel that I mentioned above, which is the book below. A Death in the Family is a little difficult, what with some of the text in italics, which are parts of the original manuscript that were not put in order by the author himself. You see, Agee died before he actually finished this, but it looks like there was not a lot of editing that needed to be done. So the unordered text were published in italics, like the editors and publishers couldn’t make up their minds as to where to put those parts. But it’s fine, because it actually worked. It felt like the text in italics were dream sequences after each part. Yes, the novel is divided in three parts. And no, I should stop at this part because I’m not supposed to be writing a review.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – 5 out of 5 stars. Yes, I’ve already read this maybe two years ago and last April but I read it again last May because of my discussion leader duties at the book club and yes, it’s the same number of stars. I have to admit though that the magic of the first read is no longer there, which includes the falling of my tears before the actual wrenching of my heart at the thought of a disintegrating house with winds roaming around and asking the remaining furniture whether they would remain. We remain, the pieces of furniture replied. This third reread is more critical because I was hunting for questions that would make the members of the book club think. There were the regular plot questions, but I was more interested in themes. Questions on symbols and characters were necessary as well to fully understand the novel. I don’t claim to fully understand it now, but I understand it better than the first and second readings. I noticed new things on each pass and I never failed to notice the power of Woolf’s writing. Such a great prose-poem writer! I have become a fan. I think I’m going to collect her works, particularly the Virginia Woolf series published by Vintage Classics. And I’m in the middle of reading one of her novels, which is indicated below.

Currently Reading:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Currently on page 82 of 197. Oh, I just had to read this. I couldn’t get enough of Woolf. At this point, the novel is still promising, although I feel that there are more lovey-dovey scenes than To the Lighthouse. Is that what makes it popular? Oops. My twenty minutes are up. Now I’ll have more control of my writing after this point. Goodbye, streams!
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. No touch. I promise to read this in June.

New Books:

  • The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace – a gift from my book club friend. I already have a copy of this but how can I resist it? Thank you! (From Doc Ranee, May 31)
  • The City and the City by China Miéville – Our book of the month. Genre is new weird. What is new weird? Don’t ask me. (Php 449.10 Fully Booked – SM Mall of Asia, May 17)
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – A birthday gift, albeit belated, because it’s a future book of the month. Thank you! (From Gwaxa (and Meliza?), May 31)
  • Troubles by J. G. Farrell – Winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize and published by NYRB Classics and found in the sale bin and in mint condition! Yay! (Php 145.00 Book Sale – SM Mega Mall, May 16)

Book Report: April 2014

Book Report: April 2014

Would you believe that more than half of the books that I finished for this year were done in April? And they say that April is the cruelest month. No, it’s really T. S. Eliot who said that. And for once, I have to disagree with him.

Actually, my reading interest was in full blast thanks to the hashtag that my bookish friends came up with for the whole month of April. The group spirit was irresistible. Now I just want to read until my eyes bleed, and that just couldn’t be. May could turn out to be my cruelest month because of the tasks that I have to do, both in my literary and real life. After I finish my writing project, I hope to go back to book reviewing. If you’re still there, there’s something to look forward to aside from my quick updates and documentation of book club activities (I somehow ended up as a secretary).

So here’s my reading accomplishment.

Books Finished:

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan – 5 out of 5 stars. A reread via audiobook. First time I read this, I was wowed. I’m still wowed this second time. I merely eavesdropped on my bookish friends’ reading (eavesdropping is when you informally and casually join a buddy reading because a.) you’ve already read the book, or b.) you don’t want to commit yourself).
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – 2 out of 5 stars. I wanted to at least like this but it just didn’t happen.
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders – 5 out of 5 stars. We discussed this in The Folio Prize group that I created on Goodreads (join us for future discussions of The Folio Prize winners). All of us who participated love this collection of short stories.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – 5 out of 5 stars. Our book of the month for May. I had to finish this ahead of everyone because I am the discussion leader (also for my own pleasure because subsequent rereadings will be for more uhm, academic purposes). I reread it on text and audio. Hmm, I am developing a love for audiobooks.
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – 1 out of 5 stars. All I can say is, I am finally done! Perhaps I should have read his Metamorphosis first?

Currently Reading:

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. No touch. Maybe in June, when I don’t have a lot of things to do.

New Books:

  • The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro – A birthday gift because it’s on my wish list. Thank you! (From Miss Ronnie, April 26)
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – I have yet to finish Wolf Hall, and now this? I cannot resist it. It’s brand new and it somehow ended up on a sale bin. (Php 100.00, National Book Store – Robinson’s Galleria, April 4)
  • The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih – A birthday gift because it’s an NYRB Classic. Thank you! (From Bennard, April 26)