Friday, June 27, 2014

#bookaday Days 21 to 25


#21 Summer Read
My fave read this summer was Euphoria by Lily King. Three anthropologists caught in a love triangle in 1930s New Guinea.



#22 Out of print.
I loved Nancy Drew but I was also fond of the Dana Girls especially the older editions. This series is now sadly out of print.
 
 
#23 Made to read at school.
I didn't care for The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway the first time I read it but I loved it the second time around.
 
#24 Hooked me into reading.
I've been a bookworm ever since I started reading the Nancy Drew books at the age of eight.
 
 
 
 
#25 Never finished it.
Although I count The Secret History by Donna Tartt as one of my top three favorite novels, I just couldn't finish The Goldfinch. I made it to 40% before I decided I just didn't care about the characters or the plot.
 
 
 
 
 


Sunday, June 22, 2014

#bookaday Days 16-20

#16 Can't believe more people haven't read.
It may have been written in 1861 but East Lynne by Ellen Wood is a page-turner!


#17 Future classic.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.


#18 Bought on a recommendation.
A friend recommended these  two at a bookshop in Kowloon circa 2000. I've been a Paul Auster fan ever since.


#19 Still can't stop talking about it.
It's tough to choose one for this category but I'll have to go with this Pulitzer Prize winner just because of the story behind how the book got published and because there's never been a character in literature like Ignatius Reilly.


#20 Favorite cover.
The Go-Between by LP Hartley. The cover looks like a stack of love letters wrapped with a ribbon. It's a  perfect cover because it's about a young boy who delivers messages between two secret lovers leading to a terrible conculsion. Gorgeous and heartbreaking book!

Friday, June 20, 2014

#bookaday Days 11-15


#11  Second hand bookshop gem.
I found this at a second hand book shop in Holland. Link to my review .



#12  I pretend to have read it.
The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott. I loved the mini-series set in the British Raj but could never get into the book for some reason.


#13 Makes me laugh.
Wodehouse is fantastic! This hilarious madcap shipboard comedy of misunderstandings is really a gem.


#14 An old favorite
It's been about 20 years since I first read The Secret History by Donna Tartt but I still consider it one of my favorite books. Strangely enough, I didn't really care for her other two novels, The Little Friend and The Goldfinch.




#15 Favorite fictional father.
Mr.Bennett of course from Pride and Prejudice!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

#bookaday Days 6 to 10

#6 The one I always give as a gift. 
I can't imagine anyone not loving Wonder by RJ Palacio no matter what their tastes are in books or even if they're a non-reader.


#7 Forgot I owned it. 
A look through my shelves and I spot a book I totally forgot about, Armed with Madness by Mary Butts. It's a super weird book with a bizarre cover to boot.  I bought it in the late 90s just because I liked the blurb....

"In a remote house on the English Channel coast, a group of people, handsome and young are gathered: Scylla Taverner, sometimes a witch and sometimes a bitch, her potential lover Picus, her brother Felix and two other friends. Into their close circle comes Carston, an American curious to see something of England off the regulation road. But the discovery of an ancient jade cup ignites conflicting emotions and they embark on a mystical quest, full of heady promise and violent consequence."

Sounds interesting right? I don't remember finishing this one but maybe I should give it another go. Has anyone read it?



#8 Have more than one copy.
Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple. I have a first edition that's just falling apart in this tropical climate so I had a copy made. Here's a picture of both including the original's beautiful endpapers.



#9 Film or TV tie-in.
I don't usually buy books with film or TV tie-in covers. I didn't think I had any but I found one....The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.




#10 Reminds me of someone I love.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When I was eight years old, my grandmother gave me this copy of her favorite book, Jane Eyre. I tried it several times but I just couldn't get through the first few pages. I found the red room part so claustrophobic and scary. The language was also difficult for me. I think because of that experience I avoided it for so long. I finally read it at the late age of 29 or 30 when my grandmother was long gone. Of course, I ended up loving the book. I regret that she's not around so I can tell her it's now one of my favorite novels too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#bookaday Days 1 to 5



I'm late to the game but I really want to join the #bookaday meme from The Borough Press so to avoid clogging your feeds, I'll post five days in each post.

#1 Favorite book from childhood
It was tough to choose just one from the many I loved but I'm going to choose a Judy Blume novel and this one is my favorite. Here's the edition I read over and over again.



#2 Best Bargain
A recent bargain I found at the bookshop called BookSale is a childhood book I lost or misplaced long ago, Gnomes by Wil Huygen and illustrated by Rien Poortvliet. I got this pristine hardbound edition for just 400 pesos or roughly 10 dollars!

 
 
#3 One with a blue cover
Scanned my shelves and this is what I found which also happens to be a book I love, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier.
 
 
 
 
#4 Least Favorite book by a favorite author
Love most of Margaret Atwood's novels but this one was just ok.
 
 
#5 Doesn't belong to me
I borrowed this years ago from my brother but I haven't read it yet.
 
 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best Books of 2013


I had a terrible blogging year having only posted 11 times! No excuses other than being generally busy with life and two kids (ages 8 and 2). Thanks to those of you who still drop by once in a while to read what I have to say. I do read every comment and I do follow the links to your own blogs. When I started blogging in 2009 there actually weren't that many book blogs but the market has since exploded with new ones everyday.  After four years, I can honestly say that I still visit my favorite blogs (see my blog roll) as often as I can and still think highly of their book recommendations. I hope to blog more often in 2014 so do stay tuned.

So here it is - my ten best of 2013. In this list, there are two non-fiction books (one about parenting and one about a true crime), three classics, two young adult novels, a comedy, two novels by two Nobel prize winners and two books released in 2013. All in all it's been a pretty good reading year. Although I always wish I'd read more. Again they are in no particular order, however the first five were the best among the ten. Happy New Year and see you all in 2014!

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
I never thought I would like Franzen's novels so I never read one till this year. I loved, loved Freedom. I know this is a book people either love or hate. It's flawed and imperfect but maybe that's why I found it endearing. Loved his writing, the dialogue, the myriad plot and the journey and growth of his dysfunctional characters. For me this was a rich and rewarding read.

Crossing to a Safety by Wallace Stegner - I absolutely loved the perfectly written Crossing to Safety, our book club read for May. Though not much happens in this novel of two couples who meet during the Depression and form an instant and lifelong friendship, it's actually quite deep. The book resulted in a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion. For a quiet and gentle novel about ordinary lives, there was surprisingly so much to talk about. 

Wonder by RJ Palacio - This is truly a rare and unexpected gem, one that reminds us once again of what it is to be human. August Pullman is 10-years-old and has had 27 surgeries in his young life to correct his facial defect.  The book begins when Auggie enters middle school after being home schooled for most of his life. Here, Auggie comes face to face with the beauty and sometimes ugliness of his peers. A truly moving book that transcends genres.

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi - Horrifying, fascinating and completely absorbing in ways I never imagined. This certainly doesn't glorify the killers at all but is an interesting first hand account by the prosecuting attorney of the search for the killers, their arrest and trials. What I found compelling is how this terrible man was able to influence these young middle-class youngsters to just do his bidding. 


East of Eden by John Steinbeck - As a teenager I loved the James Dean movie so I was afraid to touch the book. I never knew that Elia Kazan's film is based only on the latter part of this story that covers three generations. I loved this book all the way through till the last portion. Somehow the part of the book covered in the film was done better than in the book...or maybe it was just Dean's outstanding performance as Cal. James Dean was Cal Trask and no amount of imagination while reading the book could beat that. But still East of Eden is a powerful and beautiful novel and I'm so glad I finally read it.

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing - My first book by Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing. Brilliantly wtitten, horrific and disturbing. This isn't a horror novel in the supernatural sense at all. It's about a perfect family who's fifth child turns out to be strange and without empathy and how this ultimately breaks the family apart.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Solomon writes about real families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, prodigies, children conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. This is an important book, one that enlightens us on how these parents cope daily and as time passes with a special needs child. 

Where'd You Go Bernadette? By Maria Semple - I totally loved this! This was such a breath of fresh air. It is a quirky story with kooky characters. Bee's mother, Bernadette, has disappeared so Bee sets out to find her using letters, blog posts, emails, FBI documents, etcetera. I don't think I've ever read anything like this before and I wish there were more books of Bernadette and her family. Nothing really deep here just fun, fun, fun!

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham - Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence. Beautifully written. No wonder it's a classic. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Sweet, simple, and lovely. This is exactly what I needed after reading about the Manson family. Eleanor and Park are two sixteen-year-olds in 1986 from different backgrounds who fall in love while riding the bus to and from school. They exchange mixed-tapes, X-men and Watchmen comic books and gradually fall in love.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Books Read in 2013



These are the books I read in 2013. Forty-seven books so far so that's four more than last year. I've included children's books I read aloud to Lucas, my eldest son, rereads, nonfiction and a graphic novel. The ratings are based on my ratings in Goodreads. Stay tuned for my top list of 2013.


Books Read in 2013
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)  *****
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck *****
  3. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce ***
  4. Where'd you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple *****
  5. The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer **
  6. Wonder by R.J. Palacio *****
  7. Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger ***
  8. The Melt Method by Sue Hitzmann ****
  9. It by Stephen King ***
  10. Never Mind by Edward St, Aubyn ****
  11. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter *****
  12. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson *****
  13. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett ****
  14. The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1) by Megan Whalen Turner ****
  15. Wool by Hugh Howey ***
  16. Bad News by Edward St. Aubyn *
  17. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe ****
  18. More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl **
  19. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid **
  20. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner *****
  21. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster *****
  22. Anne Hereford by Mrs. Henry Wood ****
  23. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser ***
  24. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell ***
  25. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani **
  26. In the Woods by Tana French (reread) *****
  27. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi *****
  28. Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary  ***
  29. Otherwise Known as Shiela the Great by Judy Blume (reread) ****
  30. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell ****
  31. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe **
  32. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen *****
  33. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ***
  34. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ****
  35. The Never List by Koethi Zan **
  36. Everyday by David Levithan ***
  37. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan **
  38. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ****
  39. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling *****
  40. Night Film By Marisha Pessl ****
  41. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon ****
  42. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple *****
  43. Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman ****
  44. Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham *****
  45. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion ****
  46. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing ****
  47. Heartburn by Nora Ephron ***

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Neil Gaiman: Let children read the books they love

Lucas reading R.L. Stine

When my almost 8-year-old son chose R.L. Stine's Weirdo Halloween at the bookstore the other day, I hesitated for a milisecond but bought it anyway. The cover is freaky but it looked like fun and after all we are right smack in the middle of the Halloween season. Why not? He devoured it in two days. I asked him what he thought of it and he said, "It was a little bit scary but very exciting!" He gave the book a full five stars.

It's interesting that reading this book coincided with Neil Gaiman's brilliant lecture on why our future depends on reading, libraries and daydreaming. At one point, Gaiman said, "I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children." Every now and again there was a fashion for saying that Enid Blyton or RL Stine was a bad author or that comics fostered illiteracy. It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness."

He added: "Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like – the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian 'improving' literature – you'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant."  I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you Neil Gaiman for this wonderful speech!

For an edited version of Gaiman's lecture click here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

12 Short Books for Book Clubs


My book club has decided to choose a short book for our December meeting so I've been having fun searching the net looking for just the right book. There's surprisingly a lot of brilliant classics just under 250 pages. I've picked twelve books here only because twelve images fit in my collage. I've only read three from my list - Bonjour Tristesse (link to my review here), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Turn of the Screw - all good. I'd love to hear your recommendations for short novels from any genre so do leave a comment below.

Here's the list: 

Balzac, Honore de - Eugenia Grandet
Eugenie, a beautiful flower in a garden of miserliness and cunning, falls in love with Charles. But her father will not allow a marriage with the son of a ruined man. (238 pages)

Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Fireman Guy Montag burns books to keep society happy. But then he starts hoarding and reading books himself, until he is turned in. (183 pages)

Fox, Paula - Desperate Characters
The Bentwoods live childless in a renovated Brooklyn brownstone. But after Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a half-starved neighborhood cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague their lives. The fault lines of their marriage are revealed — echoing the fractures of society around them, slowly wrenching itself apart. (180 pages)

Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
A group of schoolboys struggle to survive on an island after their plane crashes. After a while, they’re not only hunting wild boar, they’re hunting each other. (182 pages)

James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
A young governess must battle evil ghosts to save the souls of children in her care. (165 pages)

Kawabata, Yasunari - Snow Country
Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece: a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan. (193 pages)

Maugham, Somerset - Up at the Villa
Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence, as she calmly contemplates her disastrous marriage. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence that shatters her serenity. (225 pages)

McCullers, Carson - Member of the Wedding
Twelve-year old Frankie’s brother is getting married, and she decides to join the new couple on their honeymoon. (118 pages)

O'Hara, John - Appointment in Samarra
In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction. (237 pages)

Sagan, Francoise - 
Bonjour Tristesse
The story of a jealous, sophisticated 17-year-old girl whose meddling in her father's impending remarriage leads to tragic consequences. (160 pages)

Spark, Muriel - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Miss Brodie has a tremendous influence over her students, but eventually one turns on her and brings about her dismissal; a story of hero-worship and treachery. (187 pages)

Wiesel, Elie - Night
A candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. (148 pages)





Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars Movie


 John Green, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff and Shailene Woodley.


I've been following John Green on Facebook for a while and lately he's been posting status updates while on the film set of The Fault in Our Stars. Yes, there's a movie in the works! And the casting looks perfect - to name a few, Ansel Elgort as Augustus, Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Laura Dern as Hazel's mom. I'm usually not excited about seeing adaptations of books I've read but I'm thrilled about this one. But then maybe it's because I just love John Green.

It's heartwarming to read his status updates and see how happy and giddy he is with the film. It is his baby after all. It's his first book to be made into a movie and I'm sure it won't be his last.

Here are some of his updates:


"This is my chair on The Fault in Our Stars movie set.
I can’t believe this is happening, but cameras just started rolling.
I want you to know that everyone—and there are like a hundred people here—is working very hard to make this a great movie.
Yay wow yay wow."


"Third day of shooting #tflosmovie. Every day is more fun than the last. I still kind of can't believe this is happening."

"In the #tflosmovie, most of the support group extras are teen cancer survivors. It's been so wonderful to meet them and I'm grateful to them for sharing their experiences and talents with the cast and crew."

"From dinner with Ansel last night."



To follow John Green on Facebook click here: John Green fans on Facebook



Friday, August 9, 2013

My Reading Slump Cure


 “You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.” 

I recently had a reading slump after reading Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi. That book was fascinating and completely absorbing in ways I never imagined. Maybe I'll write about it sometime but oh, where to start? Not a single book held my interest after that until I stumbled upon Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Sweet, simple, lovely and completely different. This is exactly what I needed after reading about the Manson family.

Eleanor and Park are two sixteen-year-olds in 1986 from different backgrounds who fall in love while riding the bus to and from school. They exchange mixed-tapes, X-men and Watchmen comic books and gradually fall in love.


“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner




I absolutely loved Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. This was our book club read for May and I'm so glad it was chosen. (Thanks Monica!) Its been on my radar for years, popping up on book lists that included books I love. I'm sure I made a mental note of it but never really picked it up. Sometimes it takes a book club to finally make you read that book. Can I tell you again why book clubs are marvelous even for us picky readers? We come upon unexpected gems (The Book Thief, Persuasion). We reread books we didn't think much of the first time and then unexpectedly love the second time around (The Great Gatsby, Never Let Me Go). We discuss the lives of the characters we read then digress to our own lives. It's a wonderful experience to be part of such a group. Crossing to Safety resulted in a very interesting and thought-provoking book club discussion. For a quiet novel about ordinary lives, there was surprisingly so much to talk about. Our meeting was last Monday and the conversation is over but I'm still thinking about this lovely, gentle novel.






Thursday, February 28, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man


This week the Oscar for Best Documentary went to Searching for Sugar Man, a film I'd never heard of. But then again, I hadn't heard of the other films on the list. I always enjoy watching good documentaries so I decided to try this one and I was so pleasantly surprised. Rodriguez was a Detroit based folk singer and songwriter who released two albums in the early 70s both of which flopped in the United States. He never knew that halfway around the world in South Africa he became a household name, more popular than Elvis and The Beatles. It's an amazing story and heartwarming as well. Rodriguez's music is actually very good. Why didn't this guy ever make it in the US?  I guarantee this film will bring a smile to your face. It just shows it's never too late to be what you might have been.

Here's the official trailer for the film:


Monday, February 25, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio



I read a lot of good books but only once in a while does a book come along that I want to share with everyone I know. A book that transcends genres and literary tastes. A book everyone should love unless they have a heart of stone. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book.

If you've been to a book store in the last six months then I'm sure you've seen this striking cover. I read the blurb but I never picked it up because I'd never heard of the author and I wondered if the story would somehow be like that 80s movie Mask with Eric Stoltz and Cher. It was a good film but I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about a child with a facial deformity. In the first chapter of the book, little Auggie writes, "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

Well during a book slump, it's always good to pick up a simple book and YA novels usually make the cut so I downloaded Wonder on my Kindle. I wasn't expecting to love it but I did. This is truly a rare and unexpected gem. Immediately after reading it, I wanted to purchase a hardbound copy to have in my library  just so my kids could read it one day, with me and without me. This is a special book, one that reminds us once again of what it is to be human.

August Pullman is 10-years-old and has had 27 surgeries in his young life. The book begins when Auggie enters middle school after being home schooled for most of his life. Here, Auggie comes face to face with the beauty and sometimes ugliness of his peers. I don't want to give too much away but this was truly a moving book. Loved it!

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

 “Kinder than is necessary. Because it's not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

“No, no, it's not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.” 

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