Showing posts from 2014

Top Reads of 2014

Full Length Novels

1. We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider - Kreider writes with an x-ray vision like perceptiveness that I felt a little bit unraveled.

2.We Live in Water by Jess Walter -There is such tender pathos and smart wit seeping through the lines that despite the bleak and dismal tone, it is strangely satisfying.

3. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. MartinIt still has that unpredictability and danger and mystery.

4. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman - Gaiman turns stock stories into new ones, more bewitching, more chilling and more surreal that it’s derivative.

5. Cloud Atlas by David MitchellHe speaks of souls never leaving this earth, only crossing and recrossing each other, and evolving from from good to bad to something in between, and back again. It's a beautiful, ambitious piece of storytelling.

6. Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos - I will remember this book not only for it's comedy. But also for it's very insightful and honest look at the live…

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Dr. Oliver Sacks

Summary from Goodreads:

Neurologist Sacks, author of "Awakenings" and "A Leg To Stand On", presents a series of clinical tales drawn from fascinating and unusual cases encountered during his years of medical practice. Dividing his text into four parts -- "losses" of neurological function; "excesses"; "transports" involving reminiscence, altered perception, and imagination; and "the simple," Sacks introduces the reader to real people who suffer from a variety of neurological syndromes which include symptoms such as amnesia, uncontrolled movements, and musical hallucinations. Sacks recounts their stories in a riveting, compassionate, and thoughtful manner. --Library Journal

Although I am not quite well-versed in case studies, I have a feeling that it is more structured and scholarly than the manner in which Dr. Sacks presented his. This is not a complaint on my part because he made his clinical studies more accessible, not only …

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

Summary from Goodreads:

“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.”

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant. 

I have always gravitated towards long and kooky titles, the likes of these. I mean, how could you not give a book, entitled such, a second look? And its contents matches, or even exceeds the title in humor and wit and heart. 

The thing that really stood out for me, with this book is the humor. It is never dismissive of the seriousness of mental illness, specifical…

December 2014: Required Reading

November Required Reading Report:

1. Dwellers by Eliza Victoria - (3.5/5) Excellent writing. The tone, in particular is wonderful.. It feels creepy and suspenseful. And judging from it's awesome beginning, I thought I'd be more invested in the main characters and the plot. But I wasn't. At least, not all the way.

2. Geeks vs. Jocks by Jessica Zafra - (5/5) I miss Zafra's essays. As always, it is still as sharp and witty and funny as ever.

3. Twelfth Night, or; What You Will by William Shakespeare - (4/5) Cross-dressing, tomfoolery, pranks, love sickness, faux deaths, singing, dancing, drinking, madness, yellow stockings. Think what you will. 

4. JL8 by Yale Stewart (5/5) - A webcomic about the adventures of DC superheroes as elementary school kids. It's quite charming and funny, seeing Justice League characters as kids having to deal with playground bullies, and crushes, and birthday parties, and camping, and evil gym teachers. Sadly this was left unfinished by the aut…

Twelfth Night; or, What You Will by William Shakespeare

Summary from Goodreads:
Separated from her twin brother Sebastian after a shipwreck, Viola disguises herself as a boy to serve the Duke of Illyria. Wooing a countess on his behalf, she is stunned to find herself the object of his beloved's affections. With the arrival of Viola's brother, and a trick played upon the countess's steward, confusion reigns in this romantic comedy of mistaken identity.

I was yet undecided about what to read for TFG's Shakespeare month, but then I came across a Shakespeare Made Easy edition of Twelfth Night at a bargain bookstore, so the decision was finally made for me. Also I have come to the conclusion that I need to have some sort of assistance when it comes to reading anything from The Bard. With Much Ado About Nothing, I came into it having seen a couple of You Tube clips of Tennant and Tate's stage production, and I had an audio book version on hand. But I discovered that what truly helps is a modern translation! My comprehension and…

A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman


"On February 4th 2013 Neil Gaiman embarked on a fantastic art project in partnership with Blackberry and millions of his fans. He tweeted twelve questions to the world, one for each month of the year. From the tens of thousands of responses he received, Neil picked his favorite answers and wrote twelve short stories inspired by them. Releasing these back to the world, Neil asked people to contribute art to illustrate the stories."

You know one of the age old questions that writers get asked? "What inspired you to make this story?" And I am always interested in the answer because really, we all have that need to know the origin, the beginning from which such a masterpiece sprung forth. With A Calender of Tales, the inspiration comes from the fans. He gave out 12 questions/prompts (one for each month of the year), the fans answered, he picked his favorites and wrote stories out of them, launched them to the world, then asked the fans to make illustrations …

2014 Filipino Fridays #4: Let's Talk About Diverse Books

Do you think we have enough diversity in the books that we read? Are our choices enough to satisfy our different tastes? Are our writers able to present the variety of people, culture, lifestyle, interests and so on? How diverse are your reading interests, and are you able to find enough books to satisfy your reading needs? Do you think we need more diverse books?International literature is pretty diverse. When it comes to genre classification, literature is expanding constantly, like now there's New Adult, New Weird and Cli-Fi (a subgenre of sci-fi that focuses on climate change). But I once heard in the international publishing scene, that many are lamenting the lack of characters of color in YA and Children's Literature. There is just no cultural diversity in the stories the kids consume, nowadays, they say. Which I think is kind of true. But then again like if the writers are white, they will most likely put in white characters in their novels. So what is lacking are write…

November 2014: Required Reading

October Required Reading Report:

1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks - (4/5 Stars) Not at all stiff and formal because Dr. Sacks is a great story teller, who gives free reign in the exercise of his poetic license, without compromising the integrity of the scientific facts presented, in my opinion.

2. A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman - (4/5 Stars) - The idea behind A Calendar of Tales is amazing. A collection of tales borne out of collaboration between author and readers.  I think Gaiman can create a story out of anything. Dust bunnies, a gum under your shoe, a sneeze. Anything. 

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg - (4/5 Stars) Precocious children are a hoot. Sassy, wealthy old ladies, even more so. And this book has both.

4. The Distance of the Moon by Italo Calvino (on audio, read by Liev Shreiber) - (4/5 Stars) Unlike If On A Winter Night's A Traveller, this particular Calvino short story is m…

2014 Filipino Fridays #3: What Do You Think of Fan Fiction?

"Fanfiction is pretty popular, no doubt about it, but it has been received with mixed feelings by many authors and writers. Some don’t mind it, and even welcome readers who give their own spin on their work. Some writers don’t like it at all, to the point that they contact fanfiction authors to take their work down. Others use it as a jump-off point for their own writing.How about you? What is your take on fanfiction? Do you read fanfiction, and if you do, what kind of fanfiction do you read? Do you write fanfiction, and why? Or are you against fanfiction? Enlighten us."The first time I've heard of fan fiction was through my sixteen year old cousin and her gaggle of teenage friends. She told me about this site called Wattpad, a writing community where anyone can write, read and share stories including fan fiction. Since the site requires registration, which I was not up to doing at that time (or now), I don't have any idea as to how the shared stories are constructed…

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Summary from Goodreads:

Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding. The fairy tales that don't get more complicated. In this book, celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold sifferently. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox's game. And so Mr. Fox is offered a choice: Will it be a life with the girl of his dreams or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit?

I once expressed my difficulty in pinning down Oyeyemi's style. It's been roughly a month since I read Mr. Fox, and I still have that exact same feeling. The best I could come up with is that there is a bit of Neil Gaiman in it, with her eye for the macabre and the bizarre. And a tad of Paul Austere, becau…

2014 Filipino Fridays #2: Have You Ever Wanted To Write A Book

Topic 2: 
"As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfil this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?"
As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book?

I like to entertain the idea of me writing a book. Like, when I stumble upon a brilliant piece of literature, with striking metaphors, clever remarks and arresting sentences. I say: “Wow, I wish I could have written that!” But my book writing capabilities, remain questionable. I cannot seem to keep a journal for more than three days. My writings are limited to book blog posts and Letterboxd posts. But I take much pleasure in coming up with them. But I don’t know, being an author seems to be completely out of my reach, much like being a concert pianist, an impressionist painter, a Broadway actress...On one hand, who knows what the fu…

2014 Filipino Friday 1: Surprise, Reader!

Hello there! I have been participating in the Filipino Friday meme from the moment of its conception, which was back in 2012. And just as this meme has become a tradition, in anticipation of Filipino Readercon, it has turned into a customary thing for me as well.
Topic 1: "Surprise, Reader! Hello, it’s the first week of Filipino Fridays 2014! Whether it’s your first time to participate or not, tell us a bit about yourself. More specifically, tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of? A book you didn’t think you’d like, but you ended up liking/loving? Any book series that you just have to get your hands on? Have you discovered anything new from Filipino authors this year?"Tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of?

1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - Fell head over heels bonkers over this genre-bending book.…

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Summary from Goodreads:

Hanging over the porch of the tiny New England bookstore called Island Books is a faded sign with the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming him or for a determined sales rep named Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a…

October 2014: Required Reading

September 2014 Required Reading Report

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - (4/5 Stars) A short, quick read. It left me a bit wanting, but it was entertaining enough.

2. Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi - (4/5 Stars) I don't know how to pin down Oyeyemi's style. It's a bit Paul Austeresque with a little bit of Gaiman? Or this might seem inaccurate. Anyway, it's a tad strange and loopy, but I admired the craftsmanship.

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell-(4/5 Stars) Fun! I realized that this is my first YA read, and the year is almost ending! Strange. Anyway, enjoyed this a lot. The Rowell hype is well founded.

4. Against Joie de Vivre by Philip Lopate - (3/5 Stars) I was off to a good start with this essay, but towards the end, it kind of lost my interest.

5. Dr. Bird's Advice For Sad Poets by Evan Roskos - (5/5 Stars) Since I just got off reading this, I still need time to process my thoughts. But I can safely say that I love it to beets and peases. 

October 2014 Req…

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Summary From Goodreads:

The narrators hear their echoes in history and change their destinies in ways great and small, in a study of humanity's dangerous will to power. A reluctant voyager crosses the Pacific in 1850. A disinherited composer gatecrashes in between-wars Belgium. A vanity publisher flees gangland creditors. Others are a journalist in Governor Reagan’s California, and genetically-modified dinery server on death-row. Finally, a young Pacific Islander witnesses the nightfall of science and civilization.

Ah, Cloud Atlas. It's been quite awhile since I have been properly infatuated with a book. This particular read has gotten a playlist out of me, and made me feel this compelling desire to shove it down people's throats. With my sister's throat being the closest, I pummeled it down hers, but with unfavorable results. She said it was weird, and that I was weird. But ultimately agreed to set it aside for future reading. But perhaps only to appease an already shou…

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Summary from Goodreads:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really bee…

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

Summary from Goodreads:

After five years, Isadora Wing has come to a crossroads in her marriage: Should she and her husband stay together or get divorced? Accompanying her husband to an analysts’ conference in Vienna, she ditches him and strikes out on her own, crisscrossing Europe in search of a man who can inspire uninhibited passion. But, as she comes to learn, liberation and happiness are not necessarily the same thing.

A literary sensation when first published in 1973, Fear of Flying established Erica Jong as one of her generation’s foremost voices on sex and feminism. Nearly four decades later, the novel has lost none of its insight, verve, or jaw-dropping wit

When I saw the cover (2003 NAL trade edition) of our book club's book of the month (not the one pictured here, as I don't think I am self-assured enough to not blush or giggle at it) I had completely different expectations from what I had just read. Well, it does contain some crass and raunchy stuff. The word fuck and…