Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Importance of the About Me Page

This is me being creepy on the internet.

I’m going to admit to some of my slightly stalkerish tendencies here.

Whenever I stumble across a new (to me, at least) book blog, I always visit the About Me page first if there is one.

No, I don’t look for addresses, pictures of firstborns, or blackmail material. I usually look at the blogger's favorite books (dearsweetjesus, please don't say Twilight/Fallen) and why they started a book blog (on a quest to read books in the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels List? to stay sane? to have a creative outlet?). Knowing the little details, like his or her favorite book is Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, makes reading posts a little more personal, like you’re communicating with a real person instead of a computer screen.

For me, The About Me page sets the tone for the actual blog. When I read a short bio on a book blogger’s About Me page, I can start to tell if they blog with a humorous, completely serious, or warm voice. I get a handle of what the rest of the blog is like.

Since About Me pages fascinate me so much, I wondered how I come across when people read my About Me page (which, I assure you, isn’t often). Slightly deranged might be the answer to that, but that’s just me. On a serious, however, I did try to sound like myself on my About Me page, including smalls details like my fascination with Ryan’s Goslings abs or how much I love The Great Gatsby. Those are just tiny things that don't sum up who I am, but I hope they make people feel like we could  be friends in, like, real life.

So, do you think About Me pages make the whole blogging experience a little more personal? Do you also check out the About Me pages of other bloggers or am I just really, really nosy?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thoughts: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is slowly becoming one of my favorite fictional characters.

Like, ever.

When I read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, I thought, “Nothing really sets Sherlock Holmes apart from other characters I’ve read about before. Sure, he’s kind of a nut, but there are TONS of nuts in classic literature.”

I was wrong.

I realized that little factoid right after I finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. The book is a collection of short stories (cases?) all featuring Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Watson. The cases are all very interesting—ranging from incriminating photos of royalty to an engineer’s severed thumb—and you get the feeling that only Sherlock Holmes can possibly solve them.

I always thought Sherlock Holmes was a flat character, a mystery-solving machine with very little personality. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sherlock Holmes is brilliant, arrogant, and, even if he’ll never admit it in a million years, he does have a heart. In The Copper Beeches, for example, one of his clients goes to work as a governess for a strange family. Holmes keeps thinking about her, and I like to think it’s because he’s worried about her, not just because he’s hankering after another case to solve.

Believe it or not, Holmes can also be very funny. His sense of humor comes out in the most unexpected of times. In this scene, for example, Holmes is being threatened by Dr. Grimesby Roylott, and he decides to be a smart ass:

“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step forward and shaking his hunting-crop. “I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.”

My friend smiled.

“Holmes, the busybody!”

His smile broadened.

“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”

Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation is most entertaining,” said he. “When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught.”

This book proved a lot of my preconceptions regarding Sherlock Holmes wrong. I always thought he was brutally honest, ready to spill out his thoughts at any moment. It never occurred to me that he could also be brutal but in a completely subtle way. In this scene, Holmes coolly takes his arrogant client a notch down or two:

“A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of society.”

“No, I am descending.”

“I beg pardon.”

“My last client of the sort was a king.”

Oh, before I forget, I just want to say I loved how Arthur Conan Doyle portrayed female characters, especially Irene Adler (also known as The Woman). The fact that the only person who managed to beat Sherlock Holmes was a woman earned Arthur Conan Doyle a ton of cool points in my book. Let me just say that Irene Adler beat Sherlock Holmes not because of her looks or her hot body. She managed to beat him by using her BRAINS. Now, that’s someone the females of today can look up to.

I loved The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. When I finished it, I immediately started reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (the next book in the canon if you go by publishing date), because I could not get enough of the brilliant detective.

I am definitely turning into a Sherlockian or whatever you call it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch—two actors I would not hesitate to fangirl over any day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I've always viewed Rudyard Kipling with a somewhat suspicious eye, mainly because of The White Man's Burden and partly because I hated The Jungle Book when I first saw it as a kid.

So, I dived into The Jungle Book with little or no expectations at all, and I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I started reading about Mowgli and the wolves, I forgot about Rudyard Kipling and the literary baggage that he came with. It was just me, The Jungle Book, and the wonderful characters inside it.

Mowgli's stories were funny and kind of sad at the same time. His adventures with Baloo and Bagheera were hilarious, but there was always an undercurrent of something rotten beneath the surface. When Mowgli finally has to live in an actual, human village, we see the all-too human struggle to fit in, to belong somewhere. Mowgli didn't fit in with the wolves because he was too human, and he didn't fit in with humans because he was too much of a wolf. In the end, he ends up a nomad, stuck between the two worlds.

There were other stories too, like The White Seal (about an almost mythical white seal who leads other seals to safety), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (about a mongoose who has to fight a cobra couple--I'm not kidding), and Toomai of the Elephants (about a boy who is allowed entrance into the elephants' ballroom).

I didn't like these stories as much as Mowgli's, but, through them, I saw how Rudyard Kipling loved and understood animals. I'm not saying that all his portrayals of animals were accurate, but you get the impression that he knows a thing or two about the heart of the jungle and how it beats.

This reading experience taught me that, sometimes, not knowing anything about a writer can help you enjoy his work more. I avoided reading anything by Rudyard Kipling for so long because of his beliefs that I almost missed out on something as amazing as The Jungle Book.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thoughts: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

But, mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I saw downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.

I first read this book two years ago, and I managed to unearth my thoughts from my old Tumblr account. Here they are:

When the novel starts, Charlie is fifteen and about to embark on his freshman year in high school. He has the whole world ahead of him, and he’s only beginning to shape his life. I’m now a college senior, and I miss the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me, ready to start a brand-new adventure. Charlie’s innocence made me realize that I started the said adventure years ago, and that I might have screwed it up.

After reading this, I wanted to smack my ninteen-year-old self on the back of the head. How could I possibly think that my adventure was over? I was nineteen, about to graduate from college and about to embark on a completely new adventure with new faces and new rules. How dare I even think such a thing?

I finished rereading The Perks of Being a Wallflower a few days ago, and I was amazed to find that I have more in common with Charlie at 21 than I did at 19. Two years ago, I thought I was perfectly normal (doing all the normal college things like getting drunk with friends and trying not to flunk any of my classes), but, now, I've come to realize that I have a tendency to hide behind books, to not participate.

And participating in life? It's pretty damn important.

When I get invited to parties or any other social event, most of the time, I'd rather stay home and dive into another classic (most likely another Sherlock Holmes book). There's nothing wrong with that, but, sometimes, it wouldn't hurt it if I decide to get up, make an effort to look nice, and actually interact with other people, to experience new things.

That, I think, is the main point of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yes, there's something to be said about stepping back and merely examining people's motives--the things that drive them--but stepping up to the plate and doing something, going after the things you want, is important, too.

On the surface, The Perks of Being a Wallflower seems like your typical coming-of-age novel, but it is so much more than that. It's about living in the moment, not worrying about the future or carrying baggage from the past around. It's focusing on where you are right now, at this very moment, and feeling infinite.

- - -

I know that this has been made into a movie starring Logan Lerman as Charlie, Emma Watson as Sam, and Paul Rudd as Bill (Charlie's teacher), and I'm very excited to see it.

When I read this book two years ago, I actually imagined Logan Lerman as Charlie. I always thought he would be perfect for it, and you can't imagine my delight when I found out he had been cast. And Emma Watson? I always imagined someone with a wilder image as Sam, but I'm sure she'll do a great job (I guess I'll always have a soft sport for Hermione Granger).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Does your significant other have to love books as much as you do?

While trolling through the Internet, I came across nerimon's video entitled Nerdy Personal Ads. The video is composed of personal ads contributed by nerds from all over the world, and one of them, in particular, caught my attention. Must value book space over living space.

This led me to wonder: Do bookworms search for fellow bookworms as life partners?

Personally, I don't think I could ever date someone whose reading diet is composed solely of Maxim magazine, someone who thinks the Harry Potter series is composed of eight books just because there were eight movies. I shudder at the thought of ending up with someone who does not understand why my bookshelf is bursting with unread books, and why I keep lugging two books around in my purse, even if I barely have time to read them.

I do, however, see myself with someone who has a soft spot for Rudyard Kipling or maybe even Neil Gaiman, and someone who understands why the name F. Scott Fitzgerald itself is simply epic. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere? J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit? Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet? My ideal life partner has probably read them all (I know I sound completely idealistic).

In a nutshell (before I start rambling again), it would be great if the person I end up with in the future loves books as much as I do, but it's not a necessity. I'm only 21, and I have all the time in the world to figure out what I want. My priorities may change, and, someday, I might rank 'not bald' higher than 'reads books' in the list of qualities I want in a life partner. Nothing is set in stone for me yet.

But what about my fellow bookworms? If you're single, do you think finding someone who loves books as much as you do is very important? If you're married, does your husband/wife like to read, too?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thoughts: The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

"Just a month from this day, on September 20, 1850, I shall be sitting in this chair, in this study, at ten o’clock at night, longing to die, weary of incessant insight and foresight, without delusions and without hope."

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot begins when Latimer, the protagonist, tells us about the day of his death. He even gives us specifics, like the exact date and the fact that he’s going to die of angina pectoris (had to look that one up). He then continues to tell us about his “gift” of foresight, and how it affected his life.

The only thing I’ve read by George Eliot is Silas Marner (because I’m lazy like that), so I’m really no expert on her style and common themes. However, I can say that no two works could be more different from each other than Silas Marner and The Lifted Veil. Silas Marner made me feel like I was sitting by the hearth, a warm fire merrily burning away. The Lifted Veil, on the other hand, made me think of candlelight, dark hallways, and mad scientists—a bit like Frankenstein, to be honest.

The book made me wonder about the effect knowing the future would have on my life. What if I saw how relationships would end before they even began? Would I be brave enough to risk getting hurt or would I run like hell? It’s hard to tell. Latimer is actually kind of fascinating that way. He saw how he was going to end up, but he still, excuse the cliché, went for broke. The crazy bastard.

Ergo, the lifted veil.

The veil was lifted for Latimer. He didn’t attempt to change things (which, I think, was admirable and stupid at the same time), but he became obsessed with his visions, especially when he found out he was getting what he wanted. He ended up living in his foreshadowed future more than the present.

This is basically what I learned from this book: No matter how hard we try, we can’t lift the veil, which is actually a good thing. We can stay focused on the present, and realize how important every single moment is. Why worry about a future you can’t control, when you can sing along to Katy Perry’s The One that Got Away?

To end this post, I’m going to quote my fifteen-year-old hipster cousin: YOLO. You only live once. So, go do something stupid now. Like tell your co-worker you think he’s one sexy beast or book that flight to the exotic country (Thailand? Sweden? Panama?) you’ve always wanted to see. YOLO.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thoughts: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

While typing this post, I am simultaneously shoving rocky road ice cream down my throat. Ice cream is the only thing right now that can possibly put me in the right frame of mind to write about this book.

Kate, the protagonist of The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, loses her job and home in the middle of the recession. To make matters worse, Kate is still single at forty (horror of horrors!). Still reeling from the loss of her childhood home, Kate accepts a freelance job where she has to write an article proving that, in today’s time, a rich man is the only must-have accessory. Just like in Jane Austen’s time!

I usually have difficulty saying this about books written by writers who are still alive (what if they somehow unbelievably stumble across this blog, read my post, and decide to hunt me down with a butcher knife?), but I’m going to go right ahead and say it. I thought The Jane Austen Marriage Manual was awful. *Warily looks around.*

Kate is supposed to be a gorgeous forty-year-old woman fully capable of catching a billionaire, but she felt paper-thin to me. There was a lot of backstory about her mother and grandmother’s marriages which made sense in the context of the book, but didn’t really seem necessary. The fact that Kate lost her job and home all in the same month tells us why she’s so eager to get a rich husband. We don’t need to find out how her mother and grandmother depended on men financially.

All the things that happened to Kate felt forced. For example, Kate meets this guy she supposedly has an amazing connection with. I’m a romantic, I could believe in that kind of chemistry. I just didn’t find it between the two characters. The book went on and on about how Kate and Griff were building this so-called connection, and the effect he had on her. I couldn’t see it, because, cliché as this may sound, the book was telling me, not showing me.

Seriously, I don’t want to read about how his touch made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. I wanted to see it in my head. Where did he touch her? Did he have calluses on his hands or were they baby-smooth? I wanted details, mostly because I like seeing things unfold in my mind like a movie and partly because I have a dirty mind.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you probably know that I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Mansfield Park is the only novel of hers that I haven’t read and reread yet, so I’m a little worried about finally running out of things to read by one of my favorite writers. Like, ever. That’s probably why I’ve been reading Austen-inspired novels.

I really should have learned my lesson from Alexandra Potter’s Me and Mr. Darcy. The book tried to make me believe that a modern man with a paunch can possibly surpass Mr. Darcy.


Like that’s really possible.

Don’t get me wrong, and start thinking that I hate The Jane Austen Marriage Manual because I’m a snob and only like classics, and blah, blah, blah. I love chick lit. Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, and Jill Mansell write great books that are fun, and their heroines don’t make me want to bang my head on a desk for the sake of womankind.

Alas, The Jane Austen Marriage Manual did not transport me to fabulous places like New York or Palm Beach. It merely made me want to do violent things like step on the grass in the park, right in front of the ‘Do not step on the grass’ sign. Badass things like that.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Intimidating Authors

Literary fiction has always terrified me.

This all started when I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami in college. One of my literature classmates said IT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER, and threw around words like ‘metafiction’ and ‘postmodernism’ to describe how amazing it was. I immediately got my hands on a copy of the book and started reading it.

Guess what?

I didn't understand a thing. What the hell does this little cottage in the middle of the mother effing woods stand for? Is this woman his sister, his cousin, or his three-headed mother-in-law? I could not grasp what Murakami was trying to tell me. Since I’ve always thought of myself as pretty smart, this was a huge blow to my ego.

Never wanting to feel stupid again, I simply decided to stay away from literary fiction (or maybe just Haruki Murakami, I’m not sure).

I guess my decision wasn’t that firm, because literary fiction novels seem to have accumulated in my shelves. I’ve got The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (who is gorgeous, by the way), Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’m sure these books will be filled with awesome but hard-to-comprehend ideas, and I’m preparing myself for unexpected things galore.

I’ve always been comfortable with the classics, because these books have already been dissected and discussed by other people (some of these people even had PhDs). Every time I can’t figure something out by myself, there will always be another book or another article to turn to enlighten me.

Literary fiction is completely different. These books are filled with ideas from people living and breathing at this very moment. Yes, people have also dissected these books, but, most of the time, I will have to comprehend the themes by myself. So, I’m going to buckle up and finish The New York Trilogy and all the other literary fiction novels I own, because it’s time for me to stop being scared of my own ideas, of looking stupid because I might’ve interpreted something wrong.

What about you? Which literary fiction authors do you find intimidating?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A New Look: (Literally and Figuratively)

I’m almost ashamed to post this after more than two months of absence.

This is the part where I should start making excuses, but I don’t want to go there. I could say I was busy with school, but I’m not actually a student anymore. I could say I was busy with work, but who isn’t?

I guess I started hating this blog, because it turned something I loved (reading) into an obligation. I became obsessed with writing, at least, three reviews every week. I sped through books, so I could write a review or a post about it.

When I disappeared from Your Move, Dickens, I had no intention of coming back. Don’t get me wrong. I will always treasure the people I met through this blog, but I simply wanted to get away from it. The obsessing over the number of daily page visits. The counting of followers. I knew that book blogging was about more than that, but I couldn’t get a grip on myself.

I read a lot of old posts last week. I cringed over the number of typos (sometimes, I typed ‘warm’ instead of ‘warmth’ which made me look like an idiot), but, overall, I realized how much I missed babbling over books, how I can’t shake this blog off no matter what I do.

So, I’ve decided to revive this blog. For good, I think.

Here are some things I’ve decided to change:
  • Unless it’s really necessary, I won’t post pictures from other sources. Most, if not all, of the photos you’re going to see on this blog from now on will be my own.
  • I will respond to five comments from other bloggers per day. I was really bad at returning comments before, but I hope to improve on this.
  • I won’t pressure myself to review something if I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about it.
In order to make this whole ‘revival’ thing seem even more concrete in my mind, I created a new layout. My old one was a bit harsh on the eyes. This one is simpler, and easier to navigate (I think).

Basically, I’m back. Prepare yourselves for more snarky/sappy posts about the classics.

How about you? What’s going in your blog right now?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Want to know how this book starts? I don’t think you can guess, unless you’ve already read it.

In the first page of the book, Arthur Conan Doyle describes how Sherlock Holmes happily shoots cocaine up his veins.

Now, that’s what I call an eye-opening experience.

At this point, I know I’m supposed to write about the mystery and what the hell the sign of four is, but I’m going to skip all that. See, it’s best to go into a Sherlock Holmes novel or story knowing virtually nothing about it. It keeps you guessing, on your toes so to speak. I’m just going to say that, like with A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle used flashbacks to pile a whole lot of backstory on the reader, but I think he’s the only writer I’ve ever encountered who can do it without seeming like a bore.

In A Study in Scarlet, we’re just getting to know Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but, in The Sign of Four, we become more intimate with them. Exhibit A: We become aware of Sherlock Holmes’ cocaine habit. Exhibit B: We discover that Dr. Watson has a heart, and also happens to be a bit of a romantic.

In The Sign of Four, we meet Mary Morstan who might or might not be an heiress. I have to applaud Arthur Conan Doyle for his portrayal of her, because she’s not just another piece of fluff. She’s level-headed, and doesn’t faint at the slightest hint of murder. I can actually see why Watson likes her so much.

Meeting Mary Morstan actually made me more excited about meeting Irene Adler (no, I’m not talking about Rachel McAdams). Irene Adler is The Woman, the person said to be Sherlock Holmes’ equal in brains and cunning. I can’t wait to see how Arthur Conan Doyle portrays her.

Arthur Conan Doyle, methinks you might be a feminist.

Overall, I didn’t like the mystery that much, but I loved the more personal look at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Friday, April 27, 2012

On Losing and Gaining Interest

This April, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I intend to do with this blog. I had reached a point where blogging and even reading stopped being fun.

I blame George Orwell’s 1984.

My blogging and reading block started when I reached the middle of the book. I thought it was pretty good, until I realized there was a thesis on economic quality right smack in the middle of it. The semi-not-really thesis I’m talking about is thirty pages long, and the main character is supposed to be reading it. Well, guess what, Orwell? Your hipster-rebel character might have to read that stupid-thesis-but-not-really, but I don’t. I get what you’re saying about the unfairness of it all, but you don’t have to stuff your beliefs down my throat. I hate it when authors are this manipulative. *Shakes fist at Orwell.*

I also won’t hesitate to point a finger at George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the book. All the characters are so wonderfully fleshed out with believable flaws and perfectly logical motives—so rare these days. I just keep putting it down, because I’m afraid one of the characters I love so much (Forget Sansa. I love Jon Snow, Eddard Stark, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister.) will be killed off or something. If you’re wondering, I haven’t seen a single episode of the HBO series yet.

However, I am thankful for The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Before I read the book, I was getting really antsy, not to mention depressed. I was reading 1984 by George Orwell, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and A Few Green Leaves by Barbara Pym, and I couldn’t finish a single one of them. It was so frustrating, and not finishing a single book also meant that I didn’t have anything to blog about. The Princess Bride was the perfect book for my mindset at the time. I finished it in a couple of hours, and, in the end, I wanted to babble about it (through my blog, of course). I might have forgotten how much I love reading, but The Princess Bride definitely made me remember.

I can’t believe I actually thought of writing a farewell post for this blog. I can’t do that. I just celebrated my first bloggiversary a couple of months ago, and I just turned twenty-one. This blog has become a huge part of my life, and I’ve written about all the important things in my life here.

So, believe it or not, you will still be seeing (or reading?) me

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How I Became a Nerd

Being called a nerd used to hurt me, like nerd was on the same level as “moron” or “bad person.” In the small microcosm of high school, it meant that you participated in activities that were not socially acceptable—like fighting with someone because they got the names of the Hogwarts founders wrong or joining The Booklovers Club when all the popular girls joined The Dance Club. It meant that you were strange, different, and were not likely to receive heart-shaped cards on Valentine’s Day.

Throughout the years, I’ve come to terms with my nerdiness, and have even come to embrace it. While the popular girls in high school gyrated to the latest dance remixes, the world of the Lord of the Rings enveloped me. Now, I know that both activities can be equally fun, but, almost five years later, I think they’ve forgotten the names of the songs they danced to, while I’m looking forward to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit like nobody’s business.

So, I’m writing this post to somehow chart my path into nerdom.

I think it all started in third grade, when someone—I forgot who—but me a bunch of Nancy Drew novels. I don’t know anything about the Nancy Drew novels of today, but the Nancy Drew of my youth was no literary giant. The books were entertaining, but they stereotyped Asians, women, practically everybody, and could sometimes be very, very offensive. Nonetheless, I devoured them like Chiclets.

The reign of Nancy Drew ended when my father took me to the bookstore on one of our rare outings together. I was supposed to buy another Nancy Drew book, but the book with the boy on a broomstick on the cover caught my eye.

The era of Harry Potter started, and it still hasn’t ended. I became obsessed with Harry Potter throughout most of my elementary and high school years. I wore oversized Harry Potter t-shirts to every important school function, had a Harry Potter notebook I wouldn’t let anyone else touch, and made myself a wand using a barbecue stick.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found Harry Potter at that time in life. My parents were still in the middle of a bitter separation at the time, and I just wanted to float away into a world where squabbling parents and terms like ‘legal custody’ did not exist. But, then, here was a boy who was even more miserable than I was. Both of his parents were dead, and his aunt and uncle gave him socks for Christmas. At least, I got awesome presents like toys and books.

When I reached the ninth grade, Stephen King took over my reading diet for a while. I started with Misery which I absolutely loved, and ended with Dreamcatcher which I will always refer to as DA BOMB. I loved some others like The Green Mile and Room 308. I haven’t touched his works in years, because I got distracted by other writers. There were just so many I hadn’t discovered and read yet that I could focus on one writer, even if I wanted to.

My obsession with classics started about two years ago when I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d read a smattering of classics before the like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Jane Austen books, but The Great Gatsby became my gateway book to the classics. I could get a lot of them at my favorite secondhand bookstore, and, if I could get my hands on a paper copy, I could easily download an e-book from Project Gutenberg for free. I was addicted.

Books have been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember. They helped my nine-year-old self escape to the magical world that was Hogwarts, and they opened my eyes to the mysteries of human nature when I got hooked on classics like The Great Gatsby. Yes, I’m a gigantic literature nerd, and I’m proud of it.

What about you? How did you become a nerd?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thoughts: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. - via Goodreads

Oh, God, where do I even begin talking about this book? I finished it only a couple of minutes ago, and I just wiped away big, fat tears with the back of my hand. I’m writing this, because I want to remember how I feel about this book at this exact moment in time.

Before I graduated from college, I had these big, unbelievably optimistic dreams. I was going to do something amazing with my life. Maybe I was going to be a world-famous novelist with internationally best-selling books, or maybe I was going to be a screenwriter whose movies garnered praise from the likes of Roger Ebert and simply picked up awards at Cannes. The world was my oyster.

I graduated from college a year ago, and I’ve come to realize that the world is not my oyster. Well, maybe it is, but it’s turning out to be a very bleak, unpromising oyster from my almost twenty-one-year-old eyes. I’ve come to realize that I, like the majority of the world’s population, will probably not achieve the fantastically ambitious goals I set for myself when I was seventeen. A sense of resignation that I can’t fight no matter what is starting to take over.

And I’m really grateful that I read The Fault in Our Stars at this point in my life.

There’s a part in the book where Augustus Water laments not being or doing something ‘significant,’ and Hazel tells him:
"This can never be enough for you. But this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I’m sorry if it sucks. But you’re not going to be the first man on Mars, and you’re not going to be an NBA star, and you’re not going to hunt Nazis."
At first glance, what Hazel says to Augustus seems very disheartening, but it’s not. She’s actually asking him to wake up, and grab life by the throat or by the balls (whichever floats your imaginary boat). The quote reminds me of George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life or Carl from Pixar’s Up. These characters, like the rest of us, want something from life, something so fantastic it’s almost unreal (for George and Carl it’s traveling the world and for Augustus it’s living or dying for a great cause), but they have to realize that this is it. We’re living our lives at this very moment, and we have to make the most out of it.

This is probably going to sound like a total cliché, but The Fault in Our Stars taught me that we’re the ones who decide how meaningful our lives are supposed to be. I infuse my life with meaning everyday through the books I read, the movies I see, or the people I talk to. I just have to realize that. The universe demands to be noticed, and all I have to do is appreciate the blueness of the sky, the shape of my shadow on the concrete, or the crunchiness of leaves as I step on them.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Classics Club

So, Jillian over at A Room of One’s Own officially founded The Classics Club, and it’s safe to say the club has gone viral. Bloggers from all over the world have joined, and The Classics Club has kind of, you know, taken over Goodreads. (I’m not exaggerating, I swear.)

Basically, here are the rules:

  • You must have a blog.
  • You must post a list of classics that you intend to read. The list can be composed of 50, 200, or 1057465465 books. It’s your choice.
  • You must set a deadline for yourself to complete all the books in your list.
  • You must choose a prize to reward yourself with once you actually read everything.

I think The Classics Club is going to bring a sense of focus to my reading. I have a very short attention span, and get distracted by new (to me, at least) books easily. For example, I’d already laid out a plan to read all the books in my TBR pile, but I kept on discovering awesome classics on Project Gutenberg. It’s a vicious cycle, I know.

Anywho, here’s my list (in no particular order):

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  7. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  8. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  9. The Man in the Iron Maske by Alexandre Dumas
  10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  11. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  12. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  13. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  14. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  15. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  16. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  17. Sula by Toni Morrison
  18. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  19. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  20. Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
  21. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  22. One Day in the Life of Ivan Desinovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  23. Cyrando de Bergerac by Rostand
  24. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  25. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  26. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  27. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  29. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  30. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  31. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  32. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
  33. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  34. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  35. McTeague by Frank Norris
  36. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  37. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  38. The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  39. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  40. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  41. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  43. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  44. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  45. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  46. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
  47. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  48. Middlesex by Jefrrey Eugenides
  49. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  50. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
  51. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

My list is mostly novels with a single nonfiction work (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou), and I hope to finish it before the May 11, 2014. I finish around 110 books (more or less) per year, so I think two years gives me enough to finish all the books in my list AND explore other books I might be interested in, just in case I get antsy.

And the reward?

I’m still thinking about that. I want to reward myself with something luxurious, but I'm not making myself any promises right now.

If you want to join The Classics Club, you can sign up here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blog Tag: 11 Facts and 11 Questions

Meg from The Terrible Desire actually tagged me about a month, but I've been terribly lazy and I had a bit of difficulty thinking of answers that actually sounded sane.

Here are the rules:
1. Post rules.
2. Post 11 fun facts about yourself.
3. Answer questions from the person who tagged you.
4. Make up 11 questions for people you tag.
5. Tag 11 people.
6. Let them know they've been tagged.

11 Fun Facts About Me
1. I was traumatized by the movie The Bone Collector.
In the movie, the serial killer poses as a taxi driver, locks his passengers inside his cab, and brutally murders them. I have been afraid of getting into a taxi by myself since.

2. People say I look like Violet from The Incredibles.
This does not offend me in any way, because I loved The Incredibles. And, sometimes, when I'm in a good mood, I like to think I can see the resemblance.

3. Hitler and I share the same birthday.
This makes me very uncomfortable.

4. I've written two three young adult novels that will never see the light of day.
Lot of drama, lots of cliches, all horrible.

5. Mulan and Belle are my favorite Disney princesses.
Mulan kicked butt, and, despite Belle's debatable case of Stockholm syndrome, she loved books and she fell for the Beast even if he, you know, looked like a beast.

6. It took me four years to finish the Lord of the Rings.
That's why I'm a bit hesitant to reread the trilogy.

7. I went through a Stephen King phase in high school.
I wouldn't touch it unless it was written by The King. Stephen King wrote some pretty awful stuff, but Dreamcatchers will always be DA BOMB for me.

8. I'm fascinated with French movies.
A Very Long Engagement is one of my favorite movies of all time. Also, French movies are always a feast for the eyes, and are often populated by quirky characters who ask deep questions about life and love.

9. I thought Evelyn Waugh was a woman.
That officially makes me a Philistine, I know.

10. I am hopeless when it comes to make up.
I am such a sad excuse for a girl.

11. Lastly, I am currently obsessed with the British boyband One Direction.
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I can't stop listening to their songs, particularly What Makes You Beautiful. Also, they're always in wonderfully color-coordinated outfits.

Meg's Questions
1. Are you a city mouse or a country mouse?
A little bit of both. I live in the country, but I work in the city. The country gives me the peace and quiet I need, while the city provides excitement when the country becomes boring.

2. Where in the world would you live if you had the choice?
I would probably want to live in London. So many authors lived in the place and set their work there. London's history is so rich, and there will be so many new things to see and experience.

3. Zombies are attacking, what one book do you take with you when you flee into the wilderness?
Persuasion by Jane Austen. I thought about taking Pride and Prejudice with me, but I've read it about fifteen times already. On the other hand, I've only read Persuasion twice, which isn't enough. When I first read it, I was sucked in by the love story between and Anne and Captain Wentworth, and, the second time, I fell in love with the secondary characters. I'm sure I'll discover something new when I reread it for the third time.

4. Do you have any unusual hobbies (e.g., collecting butterflies, building model cars, searching for Big Foot)?
I'm a twenty-year-old who only reads classics. Does that count?

5. What's your favorite book of those you own, based on cover design only?
I usually hate movie tie-in covers, but I love the movie tie-in cover of Atonement simply because James McAvoy is on the cover. I'm going to think of a logical explanation for this later, I swear, but, right now, I can only say that he's so preeeeeetty.

6. What's your favorite Disney character (come on, everyone has one)?
Check out Fun Fact About Me #5.

7. What's your favorite comic book character?
Manga characters count, right? I love Kyo from Fruits Basket. He's a redhead, turns into a cat when hugged by a member of the opposite sex, and has a temper. Enough said.

8. What is your dream car, and what would you name it?
It's not fancy or anything, but I really, really want a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. I don't know what to name it, but maybe something cheesy like Bumblebee.

9. Team Edward or Team Jacob? JUST KIDDING. More seriously, Team Angel or Team Spike?
Spike with his British accent, hands down.

10. What is your favorite piece of artwork (you don't have to own it)?
My favorite painting is Fall of Icarus by Breughel. I discovered the painting when we studied W.H. Auden's poem Musee des Beaux Arts which was inspired by the painting. It's called Fall of Icarus, but you have to look for Icarus really hard in the painting. Basically, it tells you that, no matter how big your problems seem, life always goes on. Losing your job, for instance, can seem monumental to you, but, in the grand scheme of things, it's just another event, and bigger things are happening all around you. It's a very sobering thought.

11. Have you ever performed anything in front of an audience?
No, and, hopefully, I will never have to. I have a severe case of stage fright.

Here are my questions:
1. Did you become obsessed with a boyband in your teen years? If yes, which boyband?
2. Who is your favorite Austen hero and why?
3. What is the weirdest thing about you?
4. What is your dayjob? (You don't have to answer if you think this is too personal.)
5. What is your favorite poem?
6. Why did you start blogging?
7. Who is your favorite Disney princess?
8. Who is your favorite actor/actress?
9. What is your favorite film genre?
10. Which Pixar movie do you like best?
11. The BONUS QUESTION: Answer any question that you really, really, really want people to ask you.

I'm tagging:
Allie from A Literary Odyssey
Jillian from A Room of One's Own
Cassandra from Literary Stars
Sam from Tiny Library

(I know I'm cheating since you have to tag 11 people.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Not Finishing Books

I’ve always been the kind of reader who finds it difficult to NOT finish books I’ve started.

Not finishing a book always felt like a (this is going to sound like an exaggeration) a crime to me. This is how I looked at things: I bought the book, so, therefore I HAD to finish it. I thought about books the same way I think about food. Not finishing it would be a waste. I thought that way, because I didn’t have much money to spend on books when I was still in school. I had to dig around in my favourite secondhand bookstore until I found something I liked and could afford.

Lately, my views on not finishing books have changed. This change started around the time I started blogging, when I discovered so many books I’d never heard of before and discovered new ways of getting them (downloading them from Project Gutenberg, for example). There were so many books I wanted to read that I didn’t want to waste my time forcing myself to finish something I didn’t even

However, there’s always the chance that a book might grow on you. This happened to me with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When I first started reading Fellowship, I kept on falling asleep, and I just wanted to start reading something else. For some reason, though, I didn’t, and I actually finished reading the entire trilogy. Guess what? I loved it.

I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post that I used to think not finishing books was a waste of money, but I don’t actually think that anymore. When I set a book aside, I try to think that I’m only saving it for later when I’m ready for it. For example, I tried to Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier tons of times when I was eighteen, but I kept falling asleep and eventually gave up on it. At the time, I wasn’t really into classics. I’d only read Jane Austen novels and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I read it again last year when I was twenty, and I completely fell in love with it. I didn’t have the patience to appreciate it at eighteen. When I read it last year, I had already started blogging about classics, and had read more classics than I could count on both fingers. I realized how great Rebecca was, because I’d already gain the experience and the patience to fully appreciate it.

On a different note, I just want to say that, yes, there are definitely some craptastic books out there. I recently bought a novel which shall remain nameless in this post, and it drove me insane. Bad writing and paper-thin characters. I want to say that it’s possible I might not be ready to fully appreciate it yet, but I don’t think I ever will be.

What about you? What are your thoughts on NOT FINISHING?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thoughts: The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but, for the sake of bringing all readers up to speed, I’m going to mention it again. I have this silly goal where I want to read a huge portion of the books from the Modern’s Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of all Time. Personally, I think the list is too focused on works by white, male authors, but, on the other hand, I think there’s a reason why the books made it into the list.

The Good Soldier is arguably one of the most accessible books in that list. You can legally download a free copy from Project Gutenberg, which I did months ago. I’ve been putting it off, because I thought the book would be boring. Alas, I was being an idiot again. I’ve been writing about the classics for more than a year, and I should have learned my lesson by now. The books I think are boring are often the ones that completely blow me away.

In a nutshell, The Good Soldier is about two married couples, Edward and Leonora Ashburnham and John and Florence Dowell. The Ashburnhams and the Dowells meet in a retreat for sick people in Nauheim, and become friends for the next decade or so. John Dowell, the narrator, thinks everyone around him is a good person, and remains blind to the deceptions and manipulations of those around him.

First of all, I have to say it’s a shame that Ford Madox Ford isn’t as well-known as Hemingway or Faulkner or any of those great writers. He’s just as innovative as the rest of them. This is basically what I want you to do right now: Buy or download a copy of The Good Soldier. You won’t regret it, I swear.

Anton Chekhov said that, when you mention a gun in one scene, you’re going to have to use it in a later scene. Ford Madox Ford was a master that. He mentioned all these seemingly insignificant people and conversations in some scenes, and, later on, you realize that they play an important part in the novel. These small details come together to form one breathtakingly beautiful picture.

The Good Soldier is like a fabulous read and a writing lesson put together. You want to know how to push the boundaries of plot in fiction? Then, read this novel. At first glance, the chronology of events seems so convoluted that it doesn’t make sense, but, once you analyse the novel, all the seemingly random events come together perfectly. For example, the narrator mentions one conversation early in the novel then he discusses something else. He expounds on that conversation later, like whetted your appetite for it early on, and you gladly eat up all the little details.

And the narrator. Ohmygod, where do I even begin talking about him? John Dowell is so naïve, so full of bullshit that you have to filter everything he says through your own eyes. You are left to fend for yourself, because the narrator is so freaking untrustworthy. He basically screws with your mind, because you have no idea what to think. Was Edward Ashburnham really ‘a good soldier’ or was he just a useless philanderer? You have to decide for yourself, because John Dowell, after everything, thinks he’s a good man.

This made me think about the way every single one of us sees the world. I think I once read somewhere (I forget where) that every person thinks of himself or herself as the leading man/lady of the movie of his/her life. It sounds like a cheesy analogy, but bear with me here. From our points-of-view, the world revolves around us, and the minute details of our lives are important to us, even if they’re not important to other people. John Dowell thought Edward Ashburnham was a good man. I can argue with him until I turn blue, but that won’t change anything. He saw things through his own unique filter, and it doesn’t matter if that filter is different from the rest of the population.

The Good Soldier is a brilliant book that reminded me why I love fiction so much. There are so many things that can be done with it, and so many avenues to explore. Ford Madox Ford simply experimented with narration, and I’m left breathless at the thought of what he could have done with the other elements of fiction.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monthly Wrap Up: February 2012

February has been crazy.

In terms of my personal life: I got a promotion, experienced an earthquake, and went on vacation. It’s been a pretty crazy month with a lot of ups and downs, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

I didn’t really talk about my promotion, because this blog is kind of my escape from all the stressful a.k.a work-related things in my life. I guess I just have to talk about it today. The promotion is cool because I got it after six months at the company, and not cool because it is so unbelievably stressful. After work today, I went to a local fastfood restaurant just to unwind, and decimated a burger, French fries, and a large Coke.

There was a burger, but I kind of, you know, ate it already.

On my way home, I decided to look around me, and realized how great my city is. Most of the time, I think the city is too small, and the place is pretty much dead after eight in the evening. Despite the small-towness of my so-called city, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Sure, I want to go to New York, Paris, Tokyo, London, and all those other big cities, but only one place will ever be home to me.

In terms of reading and blogging, I only read four books this month. Also, I’ve been a little lazy when it comes to blogging, but I have excuses for that—the earthquake and my vacation. This blog will definitely be more active in March. I feel fresh now, and I’m definitely brimming with ideas for posts.

What about you? How was your February?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This book sat on my shelf for almost a year, before I even had the courage to pick it up. Its sheer length intimidate me, and, to be honest, I kind of turned up my nose at it. Since the James Frey fiasco, I've been wary of books with Oprah's seal of approval on the cover.
Needless to say, I was just being stupid.

I finished this book weeks ago, and I didn't write anything about it until today. There are so many things I want to say about its scope, its characters, its emotional depth, and, lastly, its complete magnificence. I wanted to set my thoughts straigh before unleashing them into the Internet, afraid that I might miss something.

Nathan Price is basically a mashochistic and chauvinist preacer hellbent on spreading God's word to the people on the Congo. He, his wife, and their four daughters head to Africa, and find themselves in the village of Kilanga. To quote Rachel Price, one if Nathan's daughters, they thought they would run the village, but it's clear they're not in charge of a thing. Not even themselves. The book follows the lives of the Prices over the course of 30 years.

In Kikongo, the language of the people of Kilanga, the world bangala can mean two things depending on how you pronounce it--the beloved Jesus or the poisonwood tree. I think we all know who Jesus is, but the poisonwood, on the other hand, is a tree you should stay far, far away from. If you get close to it, rashes will show up on your entire body.

While preaching, Nathan repeatedly says poisonwood instead of Jesus, and the entire congregation just listens on, openmouthed. Nathan might be an assole, but his intentions are good. He wants to save the Africans, but he ends up poisoning their minds against the one he wants them to love. God.

If there's one thing that metaphor taught me, it's tolerance. You don't have to agree with or like another person's political or religious beliefs, but you have to let them believe in it anyway. We all have the right to choose, and no one should ever take that away from us. Just because the Africans believe in the powers of witch doctors and their ancestors doesn't mean that Nathan has to stuff his beliefs down their throats.

The book also touched on something I've been wondering about for a while. One of the Price daughters (I forgot which) stated that religion is just a matter of chance. For example, a boy is born in a Catholic country, and was baptized a Catholic before he even knew what it meant. This other kid, however, was born in Kilanga and witnessed the rituals of his village while growing up. Which one of them is right? Personally, as long as you respect yourself and other people, I think you're going to turn out fine.

Also, I know The Poisonwood Bible is mostly about imperialism and the aftereffects of colionialism, but the plight of the people of the Congo made me think of my country. I live in the Philippines, and it's a third world country. There's no nice way to say it, so I'm just going to throw it out there.

When I was still in school, I never thought twice about taxes and where they went. Now that I'm an employed so-called adult who pays taxes, I've started watching the news, and, for the first time in my life, I've started to care. I know what I'm contributing isn't much, but it can be comforting at night to think that a portion of my salary is helping kids get new textbooks. Then, I turn on the TV, and hear all about these assholes/government officials who have dollar accounts/multi-billion condominiums/plantations/all of the above, and it just makes me so angry.

I can see myself in the people in The Poisonwood Bible with Mobutu and his crazy mansions, because I see the same thing in the news practically every night. It’s just so frustrating because you have no idea what you can do about it. You can sign petitions and go on rallies, but what’s that really going to do? The shanties made from bits of corrugated iron and wood will still be there.

But moving on.

I highly recommend The Poisonwood Bible, and, if you can get your hands on a copy, please read it. I’ve already said this much about it, but I don’t think I’m done yet.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thoughts: The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

This is one of those books you should read in a bar with cigarette smoke rising in the background, and an icy glass of scotch on the rocks in front of you. Just for the sake of it.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is so fast-paced. The novel is over before you can even say the entire title, but it leaves you with one hell of a punch in the gut. Frank walks into the Greek’s restaurant, and never looks back once he lays eyes on the Greek’s wife, Cora—the ultimate femme fatale. The events of the book flew past my eyes, and I could barely catch my breath.

There’s something so raw, so fresh, just so alive about the characters, especially Frank and Cora. They rampage through life, trying to get the most out of it before it’s over. They give their all to everything—to love, to murder, to hate. The pure vitality of their feelings can make any hot-blooded person envious. Reading about these people almost made me wish that I had half their passion.

Also, I can’t believe that this book was published in the 1930s. There’s a certain freshness to it, and I really enjoyed the concept of the ‘perfect murder’ before Hollywood beat it to death. Pun not intended.

Read this for the Smooth Criminals Challenge hosted by Dead End Follies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thoughts: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Valancy Stirling is basically an old maid whose entire clan—including her overbearing mother—either ignore or walk all over her. When Valancy learns that she has only a year to live because of a heart ailment, she decides to finally grab life by its throat, and becomes the person she was always meant to be.

There are so many things a modern reader wouldn’t like about this book. You can see how the story will end from miles away, and that supposed twist in the end? It’s not a twist at all, because modern readers have probably seen it thousands of times.

With that said, it was virtually impossible for me NOT to love this book.

Valancy is beyond annoying in the beginning of the book. She wallows in self-pity and basically lays herself on the floor so the beautiful Olive and the other Stirlings can walk all over her. After learning that she has a severe heart ailment, she feels comfortable in her own skin, and unleashes all the venom she’s been storing inside her for the past twenty years or so. And all that venom was pretty freaking hilarious.

Don’t even get me started on L.M. Montgomery’s descriptions of Muskoka and Deerwood. The descriptions are so lush and vivid that I wanted to get on the first plane to Canada. *Sighs.*

And the mysterious Barney Snaith? The romance between him and Valancy was delicious to watch, and problematic at the same time. When Valancy has nowhere else to go, she turns to Barney Snaith, and he becomes her salvation. It’s cool that she’s striving to make a path for herself, but must the way to freedom always involve a man? Don’t get me wrong. I think Barney Snaith is worthy of Valancy in every sense of the word, but I just wanted to see her get together with him after she figured things out on her own.

On a somewhat different note, have you heard of The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough? The plot is really similar to The Blue Castle. Some might even call The Ladies of Missalonghi an Australianized version of The Blue Castle. I don’t want to jump on a pulpit and scream ‘plagiarism’ outright, but I think this should be a topic for discussion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So... I Kind of Went on Vacation

I went away for a few days to unwind.

In fact, I went to Boracay Island for a couple of days. I'm not sure if you've heard of the place, but it's one of the biggest tourist destinations here in my country. With its white beaches and almost crystal-clear water, it's easy to see why tourists from all over the world flock to the island every year.

The whole experience was completely amazing. Everywhere I turned, someone was speaking a different language--Korean, English, Filipino, etc--and it was almost dizzying. Also, the beach is beyond amazing. Swimming in the beaches in Boracay puts a whole new meaning to the term 'swimming with the fishes,' because you literally swim with schools of fish. The water is that clean and clear.

So, basically, I disappeared because I spent a couple of days swimming, sightseeing, getting drunk, eating seafood, and having the time of my life. I've gotten back to work and everything, but I don't think I've recovered from Boracay yet. Every time I go to sleep, I still dream about the place.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thoughts: Billy Budd by Herman Melville

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has been languishing in my shelves for the past couple of months. The sheer length of the book intimidates me, and I’ve been eyeing it warily, waiting for the right opportunity to tackle it. I thought reading one of Melville’s shorter works might prepare me, give me a taste of what his writing is like, so to speak.

Billy Budd is, well, about an archetypal Handsome Sailor named Billy Budd. Right after two momentous mutinies, Billy Budd is impressed to serve on a Royal Navy ship. When a person is impressed, that basically means he’s taken right out of the commercial ship he’s on, and forced to serve in the navy. He doesn’t have any choice in the matter. Once on Bellipotent, Billy Budd makes friends with the other sailors, and, for some unexplained reason, makes an enemy out of the Master-at-Arms, John Claggart.

I was struck by John Claggart’s intense dislike for Billy Budd. The narrator points out that his dislike is more monstrous than anything Anne Radcliffe could have dreamed up in The Mysteries of Udolpho, because it is sudden and unexplainable. In fiction, a character always has to have a motive for everything he does, and Melville blurs the lines between reality and fiction by saying that he just can’t explain Claggart’s hatred, making it even more realistic.

I hate to say this, but, in real life, there are just people we don’t like on sight. Maybe they remind us of someone we hate, or maybe they have an annoying quirk. You can’t just pin down your dislike on a single thing, and, when you’re asked to explain yourself, you have no words. You just can’t elaborate on the fact that you do not like that person.

Billy Budd still makes me wonder until now. He is like a blank state, a character who lets you shape him depending on your own life experiences. His thoughts are never revealed, and you are just left guessing. Did he mean to do this or was it just an accident? Melville lets me decide a lot of things for myself.

Also, I just want to say that I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone even remotely like Melville, which is surprising considering that nothing seems new these days. He writes likes he’s telling you, just you, the story with a lot of digressions, and with tons of missing details. Due to these missing details, he’s really good at making the reader question previous assumptions about John Claggart, Billy Budd, and even the honorable Captain Vere.

The novella made me think about the true meaning of innocence, and how subjective deciding a person’s innocence can be. There really are certain situations where there is no black or white, and you’re left standing in an expanse of gray area. The characters in the book stick to the black and white rules. Melville leaves you to ponder their decisions in the end.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Latest Acquisitions: The Mini-Haul

I’ve been pretty good about book-buying lately. Can you believe I’ve only bought two books since my last Latest Acquisitions post (Jan. 6, 2012)? Shocker, I know.

I haven’t stayed away from the bookstores. Not at all. It’s just that I’ve been disheartened by the utter lack of classics in our local bookstores. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck? North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Lady Chatterley’s *Ahem* Lover by D.H. Lawrence? Not a single one out of the three titles can be found in our biggest bookstore chain. If I’m lucky, I can find a battered copy at the second bookstore.

With that said, let us move on to my finds.

  1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - I found this lovely edition at my favorite secondhand bookstore (as usual). I don’t really like series or movie tie-in covers, but this one has Jeremy Irons on the cover and a great 1940s feel. To be honest, I have no idea what the book is about, but, while I was looking up some information about Graham Greene, I learned that Evelyn Waugh was commonly branded a ‘Catholic’ novelist. I don’t know how he felt about that, but I’m eager to see why he was given that label.
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck - Even if I know that the film is completely different from the book, I’ve wanted to read this book since I saw the James Dean movie a couple of years ago. I got the Cain-and-Abel-sibling-rivalry bit, but I missed a ton of things. So, I really hope I like this book more if not as much as the movie.
What about you? Have you gone on any book-buying sprees lately?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why I Forgot to Post About Dickens' 200th Birthday

I actually wanted to write something commemorating Dickens’ 200th birthday (my blog is named after the guy, after all), but something happened that pushed all thoughts of him out of my mind.

Last February 6, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 shook my little corner of the world. A couple of hours before the earthquake, I fell asleep while reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. The book is about a missionary who goes with his family to the Belgian Congo, and the culture of the Congolese—particularly the way they send messages from village to village using drums—is detailed in the book.

When I woke up, my bed and bookshelf were shaking, and, for five unbelievably long seconds, I thought I was dreaming about drums in the Congo. After my brain processed that, yes, our entire house was really shaking, I ran out of the house as quickly as I could. I hugged myself by our gate, wishing the earthquake would stop soon.

It was terrifying, and we are still feeling the aftershocks of the earthquake. In fact, while typing this post, another aftershock shook the sofa I’m sitting on.

I haven’t slept very well since the earthquake, because I keep waking up every thirty minutes or so. I can never be sure if I wake up because the earth is really shaking again, or if it’s just my imagination.

I know a lot of people went through worse things than I did. Some people even died because of the landslides caused by the earthquake, and a lot of people’s properties were damaged. I didn’t lose anyone or anything, and that really put how lucky I was into perspective. If fate had decided otherwise, I could have easily been in those other peoples’ shoes.

So, I’m posting this here, just in case I forget in the future and wonder why I didn’t say anything about Dickens’ 200th birthday (which I think is a completely important event). I didn’t post anything, because I got distracted by the shaking of the earth.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thoughts: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Part Two)


After I finished rereading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, I put the book down and stared into space for a couple of seconds.

Saying the book is brilliant would be quite brilliant, but I’m just going to pop that sentiment in here for the sake of posterity. There are so many things I loved about it now that I didn’t even notice before. The way it can endure multiple rereadings, for example. Every time I reread Pride and Prejudice, I never fail to discover something new to love about it or to think about it. I believe that’s the one thing only a true classic can achieve.

Delusional as this may sound, Mr. Darcy didn’t just feel like a fictional character on this reread. He seemed like an actual fully fleshed out human being with various dimensions. Also, he’s still pretty hot. But I digress. By the end of the novel, I felt like I knew him well enough to predict his actions. For example, when Elizabeth receives the letter informing her of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham and Darcy shows up, you just know he’s going to do something about it. I knew and hoped (with both fingers crossed, of course) that he would show up at Longbourn sooner or later.

And that scene where he asks Elizabeth to meet his sister? It’s a pretty suspenseful situation, because, after she rejected him in Rosings, the reader has no idea how Mr. Darcy feels about Elizabeth now. Mr. Darcy’s request for Elizabeth to meet Georgiana Darcy clears up all of the reader’s doubt, and tells you that, yes, Mr. Darcy is still very much in love with Elizabeth Bennet. I think my heart just fluttered a little there.
``There is also one other person in the party,'' he continued after a pause, ``who more particularly wishes to be known to you, -- Will you allow me, or do I ask too much, to introduce my sister to your acquaintance during your stay at Lambton?''
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too great for her to know in what manner she acceded to it. She immediately felt that whatever desire Miss Darcy might have of being acquainted with her must be the work of her brother, and without looking farther, it was satisfactory; it was gratifying to know that his resentment had not made him think really ill of her.
This whole exchange made me wonder about what Mr. Darcy could have possibly told his sister about Elizabeth Bennet. Did he praise her in such glowing terms? Did he share his feelings? Did he give her hope that she might soon have a sister?

In my first post about Pride and Prejudice, I said that I kind of saw things through Mrs. Bennet’s eyes. I take that back now. The only character who could possibly be more annoying than her is Lydia who remains unchanged until the end of the novel. I was amazed by her behavior when she went to visit her family after she married Wickham. The fact that she was even able to show off her ring just makes me wants to smack her.

I don’t think I’ll be able to end this without taking about Miss Bingley. She is spiteful, and jealous, doing everything in her power to diminish Elizabeth Bennet’s charms in Mr. Darcy’s eyes. Needless to say, her backstabbing never worked, and she only ended up hurting herself and looking petty. Like in this scene:
He was resolutely silent however; and, from a determination of making him speak she continued,
``I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been dining at Netherfield, "She a beauty! -- I should as soon call her mother a wit." But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time.''
``Yes,'' replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, ``but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.''
He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.
Bitch, I think you just got owned. 'Nough said.

One of the greatest appeals of Jane Austen’s books is that they are populated by characters who remind us of people we could encounter today. Miss Bingley, for example, reminded me of some girls from high school, and, unfortunately, from college as well. I also know certain girls who are as vain and silly as Lydia Benneth. My only regret is I don’t know a single guy who could even be remotely compared to Mr. Darcy. Like before, I still believe that he stands in a class of his own.

In a nutshell, I love this book as much as ever. It’s not my only favorite now, because it’s tied with Austen’s Persuasion, but I don’t regret that I claimed it as my favorite book for years and years. This book will always be a part of me. The characters, Netherfield, Longbourn, and, of course, Pemberley. I will keep coming back to these people and to these places as often as I can spare the time.

P.S: I just realized that Elizabeth and I are the same age (20). I don’t know whether to be depressed or amused by this realization.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Part One)

This is going to sound like a cliché, and I’m probably the millionth person who’s going to say this. Pride and Prejudice and I have such history. I know it sounds presumptuous to make such a possessive claim over a book that was already around long before I was born, and will continue to be loved long after I’m gone. I can’t hide it, though. Every time I look at my much-abused copy of Pride and Prejudice, a flood of memories overcomes me, and I just realize that, yes, the book really is a part of me.

I first read it when I was in the seventh grade. I’m almost twenty-one now, so do the math. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, ignored my Algebra homework, and concentrated instead on the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

Compared to the pimply boys in my grade who could only talk about Counter Strike or World of Warcraft, Mr. Darcy was perfection. He was brooding but deeply intelligent, arrogant but with a sensitive side, and, of course, there was the added charm of Pemberley. If we put all those other amiable qualities aside, I couldn’t help but wonder at the fact that he didn’t fall for Jane, the beautiful sister, and fell for Elizabeth, the sassy smart-ass, instead. Perfection, indeed.

Over the years, every time I was asked about my favorite book, my steady answer (aside from Harry Potter, of course) was always Pride and Prejudice. I read it over and over again, especially the parts with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. The barbs. The passion simmering under the surface. I ate it all up.

I’m ashamed to say the genius of Jane Austen’s language flew past my head, and I completely swooned over Mr. Darcy.

Since I started this blog, though, I realized that I did what I often called ‘my favorite book’ a great disservice. I treated it as a mere love story, when it could offer so much more. Also, the last time I read it must’ve been two or three years ago, and I felt like a phony, claiming it as a favorite book when I didn’t really remember it anymore.

So, in order to fully appreciate and reacquaint myself with my so-called favorite book, I decided to reread it. Boy, I was in for an eye-opening experience.

The little witticisms I didn’t notice before were now laid bare before my eyes. I stopped focusing so much on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and realized how rich the secondary characters were.

I discovered nothing new about Mr. Bennet, but Mrs. Bennet, who had always been a source of great irritation, didn’t seem so desperate to hook any man for her daughters anymore. I saw things through her eyes for a brief moment, and realized that, twisted as it may sound, she was just being a good mother. Choices were a bit limited for women during Jane Austen’s time, and their only salvation from poverty was marrying. No wonder Mrs. Bennet made man-hunting her lifelong goal. The woman had five daughters she needed to marry off.

And Jane Bennet. Oh, how I misunderstood you. I always liked to think of myself as more like Elizabeth, but, lately, I’ve come to realize that I have more in common with Jane Bennet (if you push aside her great beauty, of course). Elizabeth is the one with easy, frank manners, but Jane is the mystery. Due to her beauty, Jane has always been the center of attention, but, beyond that, people have no idea what’s going on inside that head of hers. They don’t know what or how she really feels inside. I always thought she was dull, but she was never dull. She was just brilliant at hiding or not showing her emotions.

I don’t think I can possibly end this, without talking about Charlotte Lucas. I used to think of her as the sensible but not really attractive friend, but I’ve come to realize that she’s so much more than that. Charlotte Lucas is a bit sad. In one scene, she tells Elizabeth, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home…” I think she represents a lot of women in Jane Austen’s time who didn’t have a choice, who were forced to settle for a man who was ‘good enough.’

I once read somewhere that Jane Austen accepted a proposal from a man of extensive property, but took it back the next day. More than once, I’ve wondered about Austen’s decision. I like to think that she chose to be alone, rather than settle for a life with the wrong man.

At the ripe old age of 20, I can never be sure, but I think I’d rather end up like Jane Austen instead of Charlotte Lucas. Unlike Charlotte, I am a self-proclaimed romantic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hoping for a Mr. Darcy, just someone who can watch Vampire Diaries with me, someone who’s going to help me look for that Thomas Hardy novel at the secondhand bookstore even if it’s going to take hours. As great as a comfortable home sounds, I think I’d rather be with someone who feels right.

To be continued once I actually finish rereading Pride and Prejudice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quick Thoughts: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon // Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
I read this book while I was absent from work, because I was sick. Apart from the fact that it had been featured on some reading list I found while trolling through the Internet, I knew absolutely nothing about it.

Being sick and all, I didn’t want to think too hard, and I just wanted something that would cheer me up. The back blurbs all said that the book was hilarious, and I, stupid I, believed them.

I should’ve known better than to believe blurbs. Back or front, it doesn’t matter.

You want to know why?

This book made me bawl like Bella Swan after Edward disappears in New Moon. And I was sick. Imagine how pretty that looks. It just knows the most vulnerable spot in your heart, and tugs at it. Hard.

There is one back blurb that I do agree with, though. a back blurb by a certain Ian McEwan says that the book is a study in empathy, and I completely agree with that. The protagonist of the book is an autistic boy named Christopher who is a genius at numbers, but is clueless when it comes to human emotions. You have to spell out for him that you’re angry and why. He has no concept of empathy at all, and, sometimes, even has difficulty sorting out his own feelings (but, hey, we all do).

Mark Haddon, the author, just fully steps into Christopher’s shoes, and walks around in it. He completely empathizes with not being able to empathize, if that makes any sense.

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter
Why I hated this book:
  1. It has such a brilliant premise that ultimately ends up in flames.
  2. The main character is supposed to be American, but she sounds British. When she says that she doesn’t understand what ‘snogging’ or ‘loo’ means, I kind of just want to smack her. Woman, have you never seen a single Harry Potter movie?!?!?!
  3. The protagonist is supposed to be an intelligent well-read character, but, again, she has no idea what ‘loo’ means. I CANNOT GET OVER THIS. I am from the freaking tropics, and I know what a loo is.
Why I liked this book:
  1. Reminded me how great the original Pride and Prejudice is, and made me pick up the aforementioned novel as soon as possible.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monthly Wrap Up: January 2012

I don’t usually do these monthly wrap up posts. Actually, I never do these monthly wrap up posts, but I was feeling introspective. Also, a monthly wrap up post seems like a great way to review all the stuff I did this month (well, duh), and to examine how I’m fulfilling my 2012 Blogging and Reading Plans.

For reading, I only set two major goals for myself this year:
  1. Reread a bunch of old favorites. – I’m actually doing pretty good on this one. I reread Persuasion earlier this month, which I absolutely loved. I’m currently rereading Pride and Prejudice, which you can expect to hear about soon. After rereading most of my Austen novels, I’m going to crack my knuckles, and get started on the Harry Potter series. I’ve also created a page called Projects to track my progress. It’s pretty empty at the moment, but I hope to fill it up with things (I don’t know what kinds of things) soon.
  2. Read more books from the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list. – I kind of failed on this goal this month, but, what the hell, I have 11 months more in front of me.
For blogging, here are my 2012 goals:
  1. Post more often. – This is my thirteenth and last post for the month, same as December, so I think I’ve finally figured out a steady posting schedule—one that fits my lifestyle and one I can keep up with.
  2. Get more personal. – I can pat myself on the back for this one, because I’ve gotten EXTREMELY personal on some posts—even to the point of word vomiting.
  3. Host an event. – Epic fail on this one. I haven’t even brainstormed an idea for a blogging/bookish event. I’m kind of hoping the intrawebz will forget I ever posted such foolishness, but, alas, I must man up and pull up my britches.
What about you? How are you doing with your reading or blogging goals and plans?


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