Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in Books

This End of 2010 Survey is being hosted by the Perpetual Page-Turner. I read a lot of great stuff this year, and discovered a ton of new (to me, at least) writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Green.

I also started my blog this December. My blog isn't even a month old, but I've interacted with a lot of wonderful bloggers who are as crazy about books as me, if not more so. So, hopefully, I'll get to do this survey or something like it in this blog in the coming years.

1. Best book of 2010?

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Hands down. We were supposed to read it in class two semesters ago, but I cheated and looked up the summary and chapter analyses on Sparknotes. *Please don’t hurl tomatoes at me.* A decision which I now fully regret. The Great Gatsby was completely amazing. I never knew the English language could be so beautiful.

2. Worst book of 2010?

The Perfect Wife by Lynsay Sands. This book bombed. Bombed, I tell you!

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?

The 5th Witch by Graham Masterton. I was expecting something entertaining, at the very least, from this book, but, once again, it bombed. Things were too easy for the main character, and I never felt that he was in any real danger. With five horrid witches running all over the place, I was supposed to feel somewhat concerned. Blagh.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. I saw this book on bestseller lists everywhere, but I didn’t think it was for me. Finally, an aunt sent it to me as a present and—surprise, surprise!—I couldn’t put it down.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?

This is hard. Just one? No, I can’t do it. I’ll have to settle for two. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Looking for Alaska by John Green. Both YA. Both amazing writing with a bit of philosophy thrown in.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?

The Hunger Games series. I completely fell for The Boy With the Bread. I'd also recommend The Percy Jackson series for people who've finished Harry Potter, and want something to tide their reading appetite over. The movie version wasn't so good, but the books are really fun to read.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?

Another hard one. I became more adventurous when it came to book-buying this year, and I discovered a lot of new authors. F. Scott Fitzgerald is my new favorite author of all time. The new authors I discovered this year include: Rick Riordan, Cassandra Clare, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Junot Diaz, Orson Scott Card, Stephen Chbosky, Jonathan Tropper, J.M. Barrie, Suzanne Collins, Miguel Syjuco and John Green.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding. The first one was pretty funny, too.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. No contest. I simply could not put the book down.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?

I can’t say I was “waiting” for one book in particular. I usually buy secondhand books, so there’s no room for anticipation.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?

I love the cover The Umbrella Man and Other Stories by Roald Dahl. I’m a lover of all things vintage, and the book cover had vintage down pat.

12. Most memorable character in 2010?

Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. He showed me what ambition can do to a person, and how blind love can really be.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?

It wasn’t written in 2010, but I read it in 2010… Once again, The Great Gatsby.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?

You tired of hearing it yet? LOL. The Great Gatsby. After I finished reading it, I thought about it for weeks, months even.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?

And I’m back where I started. The Great Gatsby. Why did I wait so long? You were available at National Bookstore for PHP 99! Why?!?

What books made a mark on you this 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Part Une

Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme previously hosted by The Story Siren, has now moved to Let Them Read Books. It "is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!"

I have to admit it. I’m an addict. My last acquisitions for the year include:
  1. The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin - I've heard a lot of good things about The Awakening from fellow book bloggers, so, when I saw a copy at the used bookstore, I immediately snatched it up. We'll see.
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Originally, I downloaded an e-book from and read it on my phone. After I finished it, I was seized with a severe case of book lust, and went in search of my own real copy.
  3. A Plea for Eros by Siri Hustvedt
  4. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
  6. New Women and New Fiction: Short Stories Since the Sixties Edited by Susan Cahill
  7. Writing A Woman’s Life by Carolyn Heilbrun
  8. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
  9. Clear by Nicola Barker
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Look, guys, I finally got a copy!
I’ve been hankering after a copy of The Book Thief, but, at PHP 435, I found the book too expensive. Clearly, I’m a miser.

An aunt gave me money for Christmas, and, of course, National Bookstore became my first destination—Book Sale being the second. When I got to the bookstore, I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, and I ended up feeling like the world was mocking me. Why, Fate, did you allow my eyes to wander all over the cover of The Book thief when my pocket was empty and now…?

After hyperventilating, I decided to ask for assistance, and a sales clerk—a very, very beautiful clerk in my eyes—led me to a shelf where, funny enough, the last two copies of The Book Thief were sandwiched between Twilight and a novel about fallen angels. As Tom Felton so blithely says, boo yeah!

Why, yes, I’m a dork.

A broke dork.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Literary Blog Hop #1

Literary Blog Hop

Welcome to the Literary Blog Hop which is hosted by The Blue Bookcase. This is my first time to participate and this week's question is:

What literary title (fiction or non-fiction) do you love that has been under-appreciated? We all know about the latest Dan Brown, and James Patterson isn't hurting for publicity. What quiet masterpiece do you want more readers to know?

This Side of Paradise, the book I'm currently reading, is widely considered F. Scott Fitzgerald's "lesser novel," somewhere beneath The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. It was the novel that catapulted him to literary fame and led the way to his financial success.

I admit I don't think This Side of Paradise is as beautifully written as The Great Gatsby, but it's a lighter work. It revolves around Amory Blaine, a Princeton student, and vaguely reminded me of today's preppy college boys. Also, the novel is said to be autobiographical, so I think it grants us a closer look into the inner workings Fitzgerald's mind.

What about you? Do you have any under-appreciated masterpieces to recommend?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thoughts: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My first Dickens! *Starts jumping up and down.*

Okay, I'm going to calm down.



So, who hasn’t heard of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens? The novella has spawned countless movie and TV adaptations, and is known all throughout the world, especially during Christmas. The funny thing is, I’ve known about A Christmas Carol since I was little, but I never actually read it.

The novella revolves around Scrooge, a stingy, horrid old man who says, “Bah! Humbug!” every time someone brings up Christmas. On Christmas eve, he is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley—dead these seven years, sorry, couldn’t help myself—and warned that three ghosts will visit him, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Well, what can I say about A Christmas Carol that hasn’t been said more eloquently by a million others before me? That is why I’m going to keep this short.

A Christmas Carol was a charming novella that ended too soon. I enjoyed every single moment of it, and I feel very lucky to have read it with Christmas looming in the horizon.

Sometimes, Dickens strayed from the narrative and started talking directly to the reader. By the end of the book, I felt like we were old chums. I love how he uses language. He plays around with it, and ends up with most unexpected but humorous results.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned–they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides–excuse me–I don’t know that.”
Yes, Scrooge is a miser, but he’s a very witty miser. I chortled—chortled!—loudly at some of his outrageous statements.

Overall, A Christmas Carol is a very charming book, and I think that a lot of people would agree with me when I say that the film versions failed to capture the full essence of Dickens’s wit.

Rating: 5/5

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thoughts: The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
Before reading The Great Gatsby, I never knew the English language could be so beautiful. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist, meets the love of his life, Daisy, as a soldier, but loses her to a wealthier rival named Tom Buchanan who happens to be a Class A arschloch, as the Germans would say. Gatsby strives to be as rich as Tom in order to win Daisy back, but he doesn’t realize that, maybe, it’s too late.

The Great Gatsby’s beauty lies in its execution. Fitzgerald’s prose is whimsical and surreal. It conjured gentle but dark images in my mind.

The novel is pervaded with an impending sense of doom. I knew that something awful was going to happen, but it still shocked me nonetheless—even if the events flawlessly came together in a figurative train wreck.

I marveled at the unfairness of it all. I’ve been taught from a very young age that if I work hard I’ll eventually be rewarded. The opposite happened to the protagonist Jay Gatsby. It broke my heart because I realized that it could happen to me too.

But that’s not the only reason why I felt sorry for Jay Gatsby. The other reason’s name is Daisy Buchanan. While reading, I kept thinking, “No, Daisy, you skanky ho without a backbone. No.” At the end of the novel, I wanted to throttle her. My figurative feminist hackles were supposed to rise up, because there were no decent female characters in The Greay Gatsby (we discussed it in class, yawn), but I didn’t care.

In essence, The Great Gatsby spoke the truth and broke down all my optimistic ideals about life. What is life, after all? A brief moment that passes us by because we’re too caught up in the past? The Great Gatsby left that question imprinted in my brain.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love is so short, forgetting is so long...

While having coffee earlier today, my friend Donna mentioned a couple of poems, namely Frost’s My November Guest, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 40, and Neruda’s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines. The aforementioned poems all seemed to fit the current romantic situations of a couple of our friends. To be honest, poetry and I have a somewhat strained relationship, mostly because I detest it with every envious fiber of my being.

The truth is this: I can’t write a decent poem to save my life. Lyrical words strain to leave my consciousness every time I attempt to write a poem, and I’m left with what my poetry professor would call absolute crap. Poetry demands a certain level of honesty that my insecurity-ridden self can’t reach no matter how hard I try. Perhaps, that is why I prefer to write fiction.

So, my hackles rose up the second the word poem was dropped into the conversation. I previously studied Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 in my Poetry class. On the other hand, I first read Neruda’s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines when I was in seventh grade and promptly forgot about it.

Hence, I decide to give poetry another chance and looked up the three poems on the Internet.

Let me begin with Frost’s My November Guest. The first stanza:
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Ah, the power of love to transform ugliness into beauty. Such poignant, universal lines. When we’re in love, we think all the things that remind us of our beloved are beautiful.

I’m sad to say Shakespeare’s Sonnet 40—take all my loves, my love; yea, take them all, the usual stuff—didn’t affect me quite as much. Maybe because I’m not in love at the moment?

But Neruda’s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines broke my heart. The poem affected me now in a way it never could have affected me at twelve. I’ve had my heart broken, bruised, and set on fire. I finally understand what Neruda—dear Pablo, we’re buddies now—was talking about when he said he could finally write the saddest lines.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voide. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Oh, the confusion. The seemingly never-ending torment. Love is so short, forgetting is so long. Such simple but wonderfully loaded words. Damn it, Pablo Neruda. Why are you so awesome?

So, yes, I’m glad I gave poetry another chance, despite not being able to write a decent poem myself. If you have any heart-wrenching or heartbreaking poems to recommend, feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The New Mission Statement

Hi, everybody!

I'm Darlyn and this is my book blog. Before the clock struck 12 yesterday, I took one last look at my bookshelf, and came face-to-face with, well, reality. Staring back at me were five unread classics, books I’d had for years but never finished or forgot about completely.
  1. The Call of the Wild and Selected Stories by Jack London – This book originally belonged to my grandfather who passed away two years ago. Reading this will be a nice way to remember him.
  2. McTeague by Frank Norris – Stephen King mentioned this book in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and, upon seeing it at the used bookstore for PHP 10, I immediately snatched it up.
  3. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – Bought, read, and finished this book when I fifteen. I didn’t really understand it, so I think a reread is necessary.
  4. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce – Bought, started, and did not finish this book when I was seventeen. The stream-of-consciousness made my head hurt, but I think it’s time to give it another try.
  5. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane – Bought this book for PHP 25 at a used bookstore, and never got past the first chapter. Once again, I’m willing to give it another try.
  6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – I was halfway through this book when I stopped reading it, for some reason, Perhaps, my attention span which is similar to that of six-year-old’s is explanation enough. The edition I own is about fifty years old. The pages are yellow, and it smells great. Sorry, I got carried away.
  7. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – We meet again, Verne. I’ve had this book since I was in elementary school, and I still haven’t read it. This year, Verne. This year.
I’m a literature major, a—I’m ashamed to say—grossly under-read one when it comes to classics. Before I decided to embark on this literary journey, my reading diet consisted mainly of paperback books with the words # 1 New York Times Bestseller embossed on the cover. And, yes, I’ve read The Da Vince Code and all four Twilight books.

The damage has been done.

But, hopefully, the damage isn’t irrevocable.

I’ve decided to conquer authors I previously found intimidating, to say the least, like Hemingway, Faulkner, Dickens, Wharton, etc. I’m proud to say I’ve read my first Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Don’t laugh. I already know I’m a pansy by starting with a novella.

My decision to steer this blog into the direction of the classic niche has been a long time coming. Blogs like A Room of One’s Own and Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature inspired me to come up with a, shall we say, focused blog.

So, join me on my quest to inject a little more substance into my reading diet.


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