May Book Haul & Wrap-Up

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – hence the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

May Book Haul 2014 - 1 (5)
Look at the beautiful spines!

May is the month I went crazy with acquiring new stories. You know the moment when you are suddenly gripped by the want – nay, need – to have oh-so-many books on your wishlist and GR TBR-list? Yep, May was such a moment. But I don’t regret one single purchase from this list. I’ve already read five out of these, and am looking forward to the rest!

May Book Haul 2014 - 1 (1) So the book that was meant to arrive in April arrived in early May instead, and its name is Curtsies & Conspiracies. It was SO much FUN, some mysteries are unveiled while others are beginning to shape. Some new characters – eh, I could have done without them but they kept the book entertaining. PLUS Prudence’s adoptive father makes an appearance (near the end)!! Read my spoiler-ish, somewhat incoherent review here.
The next batch was from Amazon and included Reflections & Dreams by Nora Roberts, containing two of her novels, Reflections and Dance of Dreams, both of which I read and enjoyed quite a lot. Link leads to my impressions. Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook was also in the package and yes, I’ve read it. Quite different from what I’d expected (from what my mother told me after she watched the movie) but more about that here (beware spoilers and italic paragraphs).

May Book Haul 2014 - 1 (2)Also included was Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, but since it had weird dark smudges especially in the back, I’d fully intended to send it back to Amazon. But they let me keep the “bad” copy (Since they could not re-sell it anyway, and wanted to save them the shipping cost. It was kind of risky for them to just trust me to say the truth, but all of it was truth, and nothing but truth.) while returning the full price. So yeah, I got it for free! (For free the black smudges are nothing.) Again, link leads to my batch review.
The next two books – Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson – were shipped way over from the U.S. because even including the shipping it was about 50% cheaper than here. I haven’t read them yet, though.

May Book Haul 2014 - 1 (3)Gah, I finally got (and read!) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. And you know what? I LOVED it. I might have loved it more had I read it about three to four years earlier. But still many parts resonated with me, and I even took out my highlighter to highlight passages and quotes. And you can see the little markers all over.
The next book, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, I am equally excited about but I’m afraid of it being dense and hard to get through. It sure looks interesting though, with all kinds of weird pictures. (Not Miss Peregrine’s way.)

May Book Haul 2014 - 1 (4)My final deliveries: Henry IV Part 1 and 2 by William Shakespeare, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

AHHH excitement! Although I probably won’t be reading Shakespeare anytime soon because I have hard time getting through them (still hung up on Measure for Measure). I am really excited about Aristotle & Dante, though.

Books I’ve read in May that were not part of the May Book Haul:

 

The Playboy Prince & Cordina's Crown Jewel Violet by DesignThe Named The Dark The Key Watch for Me By Moonlight Cranford & Other Stories

(Yep, I had a crazy reading month, too.)

The Named was the only re-read of the month. From Cranford & Other Stories, I have read Mr. Harrison’s Confessions and The Doom of Griffiths. (I’m currently reading Lois the Witch.)

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Batch Review #6

The NamedThe Named by Marianne Curley
Book No. 1 in The Guardians of Time trilogy – a re-read after two and a half years; written by an Australian author, and as such, a different feel in the language & atmosphere that is not American and not English. At first a bit frustrating to re-read esp. since I know all the nine members of Veridian and the matters of heart (pretty easy to figure out by the end of the first book); LOVE time-traveling and love Citadel; some issues are resolved quite easily, see conflict between Ethan and Shaun; LOVE Isabel’s character, so intelligent & courageous & sporty & honest with herself; grew to appreciate Ethan’s character as well, esp. for his sense of justice and impulsive actions; kind of wish Arkarian would remain mysterious with no POV from him but he gets one in The Dark (which I’m currently reading for the first time), but at least we keep Isabel’s POV. Wanted to punch Matt in the face for the first two-thirds of the book. Carter for the first third of the book. Someone else I wanted to punch? Mmm, I think not.

The DarkThe Dark by Marianne Curley
More time-travels. More cruelty. Tensiiiiion is in the air. Neriah makes an appearance. Rochelle makes a re-appearance. The ending made me go all mushy inside.

 

 

 

The KeyThe Key by Marianne Curley
(a note about cover: That arrow, though. I hate that arrow.)
Even though I was prepared, even though the author kept giving us hints (and hopes), I am too stunned and heart-broken to do much of anything. (And I keep thinking how much I would have liked to see one more appearance of Matt’s father.) It’s so unfair, it’s outrageous.
Because I am being petty, I will also mention that Ethan’s family situation has completely dropped out of focus, just like Isabel’s mom and Neriah’s, too, after a certain event. Also, Dillon is being extremely annoying. Matt is like a transformed person after his visit to his dad, which oddly suits him.
The only thing I have left is the consolation that even Dartemis will be with his soul-mate eventually (which leads me to believe that he won’t come down to Athens, after all), so the same thing should happen to our brave young warrior who loses his heart to death. Ahhhh WHY Marianne Curley, WHY!?!?!!!

Classics Club Challenge #3: “Mr. Harrison’s Confessions”

Cranford & Other Stories

Mr. Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell
originally published in 1851

first read on May 22nd 2014

The arrival of a bachelor doctor in the small town Duncombe causes for an internal uproar for its inhabitants – it seems young ladies find themselves more frequently sick now that they have a new doctor in town. Matrons are keeping a sharp eye out for a possible match with their young female charge and/or sharp ears out for possible gossip. What Mr. Harrison does not expect is that every gesture he makes and every word he says will be carefully analyzed and carelessly blown out of their proportion. Generally understood as Cranford in miniature or a prequel to Cranford (although the characters and settings are in no way related to each other), Mr. Harrison’s Confessions is a delightful story – sometimes funny, sometimes poignant (as the narrator is a doctor, and he can’t cure everything) – that captures the comings and goings of a small town in a witty and exaggerated way.

I have to confess I am not a lover of short stories. I prefer full-length novel to 20-page short story out of various reasons, one of which is that 20 pages (or 30, or 40) are way too short for me to get acquainted with, and attached to, the characters. Also, reading one short story after another will inevitably cause the effect of you scratching your head at the end of the day, wondering what exactly happened in this story, and did this detail belong to that one?
These were the reasons why I was wary of reading the six short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell that are contained in this volume (Mr. Harrison’s Confessions being the first of the lot). But I have to say I am pleasantly surprised! It played in my favor that Mr. Harrison’s Confessions is categorized as novella and not short story regarding the length (on Wikipedia, anyway; also, compared to the next story, The Doom of the Griffiths), allowing me the room and time to get to know the narrator, Will/Frank Harrison (in the first page it’s Will, then all throughout the novella Frank), and the “secondary” characters – Mr. Morgan, Mrs. Rose, Miss Caroline, Miss Sophy, the Bullocks, Miss Horseman, Mrs. Munton, and so on.

The story is told in retrospective; Mr. Harrison, now married to someone whose name is not revealed (yet), and with a baby, is entertaining his friend Charles, who asks Mr. Harrison to pray tell how he got himself such a pretty wife and domestic bliss? So Mr. Harrison starts his narration, which does have a feel of “story within the story” if it weren’t for the occasional reference to the presence. The ending is rather abrupt although everything is wrapped up, as his narration stops once his wife comes back from having put the baby to sleep (which took awfully long if you consider Mr. Harrison had about 70 pages to tell his story).

I can see why this novella is compared to Cranford – small town, fast spreading rumors, female population in abundance etc. – but I rather delighted in the different details that Mr. Harrison’s Confessions had that Cranford didn’t. For one, we have a male narrator who is rather dense and insensitive, yet not boring in narration. His colleague/supervisor/advisor Mr. Morgan made also a welcome addition that sometimes fueled the conflict and other times soothed Mr. Harrison. Jack, who caused most of the strife in the short amount of time of his visit, I still remember with fondness, even though if he did the same thing to me, I wouldn’t be as forgiving.

It was also very fascinating to observe – and confirm my observations of real life – how being told that someone is in love with us changes our opinion of that person. Like, you might think you are just very fond of this person, but once another person tells you – mumble mumble mumble – that s_he is sure that that person is in love with you, your opinion of that person changes. First you are flattered (it might stop there, but it rarely does in my limited experience of the world), then you become flustered until you’ve convinced yourself in love with that person also. Fortunately, once the (in this case) the mistaken information is corrected, you huff and puff for a while and then calm down. *Wink* I’m looking at you, Mrs. Rose. Although not only you, to be fair.

Read the Books You Buy (2)

I totally missed this one out in April because, you know, BUSY and some other shittin’ excuses, but for whatever worth, here you go.

The deadline for my March books is approaching with blinding speed, and I haven’t finished a single one of them – except for Etiquette & Espionage.

March books -> due May 31st
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Etiquette & Espionage -> finished in March
The Castle of Otranto/Vathek/Nightmare Abbey
Best Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
Marmee and Louisa
The Wordsworth Collection of Classic Short Stories

April books -> due June 30th
Jane Austen: A Life
The Manual of Aeronautics -> finished in April
Romeo and Juliet

May books -> due July 31st
Curtsies & Conspiracies -> finished in May
Reflections & Dreams -> finished in May
The Silver Linings Playbook -> finished in May
The Name of the Star -> finished in May
The Perks of Being a Wallflower -> finished in May
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Madness Underneath
Shadow and Bone
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

At this rate, there won’t be a June Book Haul, eh? *wink*

Violet by Design

Violet by DesignViolet by Design by Melissa Walker
#2 in Violet series
published in March 2008
by Berkley JAM

In this second installment of the Violet trilogy, Violet Greenfield returns to her modeling career after what was planned as a one-time stunt in São Paulo – she is wildly in demand, which takes her to Spain and other European countries. Or at least it would have taken her to other European countries had it not been for her MySpace blog and her entries about the crazy obsession over weight in the fashion world.

In the whole course of the book, Violet is a living embodiment of conflicting emotions, values, and wants. On the one hand she loves her family, her friends and her tranquil life. But she also revels in the glitz and excitement of the modeling world – seeing other countries, living in luxurious hotels, meeting designers and wearing gorgeous clothes and seeing the huge crowd watching her on runways. Violet knows this. She also knows what a hypocrite it makes her and the people from fashion industry when they say they support the “natural looks” of women and how starving for runways and photo shoots is sick, but once they have said goodbye to the press people, they immediately start talking about how Violet needs to lose five pounds in three days (five pounds are like, 2.5 kg). Violet, while angry and ashamed, agrees. Her friend Roger is totally frustrated at the way Violet seemingly isn’t able to make up her mind, and plays the role of “the voice of reason”, which can be harsh at times. In fact, Roger is one who doesn’t seem to have problems following his principles, it’s almost not human.
I was really glad that Violet had support of both Veronica and Sam in this book, because this time she wasn’t on her home turf with her aunt or other members of her family. Julie also plays small role here compared to Violet on the Runway.
Although it was kind of frustrating to go through the crap Violet had to face, I’m glad she made the decisions she did and finally started figuring out what kind of person she wants to be.
Oh, but could someone please explain to me how a high school graduate doesn’t spend a minute thinking about the fact that abandoning a campaign in the middle of it is breaking the friggin’ contract, which her employer totally can sue her of? And they would for sure win, which means, since the jurisdiction lies in the States, Violet would have to pay huge amount of money as damages. Like, thank you, Veronica, for stepping in. Still not quite sure how shifting the contract to Double V will solve all problems, but whatevs.

Batch Review #5

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I can’t talk about this book right now. I think this should count as a first impression in its own way.

 

 

 

 

Watch for Me By MoonlightWatch for me by Moonlight by Jacquelyn Mitchard
The weakest in the trilogy, especially the ending. Why all of sudden would Merry end up with Drew, and not Mally? I thought the latter really did love him, or at least that’s how it came across towards the end.
Also, the problem with Kim and her family is neatly brushed aside in the beginning – everything wrapped up with a bow thanks to the adoption of a baby boy!
During the last three chapters or so, I was like Are you serious and I think I’m still a little bit mad.

 

The Name of the StarThe Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I’ve come a long way from deciding to read the book, promising to read the book, to actually reading the book.
Excellent setting, another main character I like, BOARDING SCHOOL. Typical snort-out-loud MJ humor got less frequent as it got more serious.
It sure was a surprise as to the fact that Jo poofed.
And the last scene certainly invites trou-ble. And I hope Rory’s parents have bigger roles to play in Madness Underneath (scheduled to arrive late May ugh) than to just pluck her out of Wexford and plant her in Bristol. Will Rory ever go back to London? Will Jazza and Jerome and Stephen, Cullum and Boo visit her? Speaking of Jerome, their relationship felt more and more forced as time went on. I mean, they have this huge thing between them, so that’s understandable, but hopefully the romance angle will be less enforced in the future books?
By the way, when does Shadow Cabinet come out again?

The Silver Linings Playbook

Reading the book was weird because my mom has watched the movie and told me all about it; so I had a pretty vivid picture in my mind about how it would play out, especially Tiffany because that’s who my mom talked most about (and how, while she found Jennifer Lawrence’s acting impressive, did not deem it Oscar-worthy).

The book was very different from what I’d imagined. The narrator is Pat Peoples, portrayed by Bradley Cooper if I’m not mistaken, who is in his thirties, just out of a mental facility, and determined to get his wife back, from whom he is spending an “apart time”.
Pat is rather an unreliable narrator; he tells it the way he sees it, which is, especially at first, NOT at all like a grown-up man who used to teach history and be PE coach at high school. Speaking of which, there were football references and games and metaphors involving football everywhere. I understood the gist, but did not get any of the inside jokes and references and while I understood the passion, I did not share it with the people from the book. Sorry, Pat. It seems the author is a life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan as well, so, sorry Matthew Quick.

But your aim was not to recruit more people to become Eagles fan, was it.
Pat is a man of routine, so his daily life is pretty much working out, jogging with Tiffany on his heels, seeing his new therapist every Friday, receiving support from his mother and grunts from his father, doing stuff with his brother and best friend. It should have been tedious, perhaps, but it wasn’t. Pat’s way of looking at things is annoying at first, because he is always trying to work towards the happy ending of the movie that is his life by trying to become the man he thinks his wife, Nikki, will like. So he works out, burns away fat like a madman, reads classics because Nikki is an English teacher and she used to tease him about not knowing anything about serious literature, tries to be “kind rather than right” not because he believes that to be his new philosophy but because he thinks Nikki will like it. He remembers things from their marriage that he regrets having done – being absent a lot, scoffing when Nikki worried about her life, not complimenting her, etc. And yet he thinks that the next time he sees her and she worries about her weight, he will tell her that it’s okay because he prefers “women looking like women and not like “Ms. Six O’Clock – straight up, straight down” (p. 25), which I found really really offensive because now it was about
him again, and it was not him accepting her however she may look like.
But it becomes clear to the readers relatively early on that Pat has some issues, and they are not just being too optimistic and hating people who are not optimistic. In fact, I’d not call it “optimism” but rather a movie-happy-ending-syndrome because he does bring that simile up a lot. Pat’s way of thinking, conducting and perceiving did not feel like that of a man who is in his thirties. We do not know whether he had similar problems before he went to the mental hospital although it is hinted that he did have a violent tendency. But the Pat we see in the majority of the book has the voice of a child, a confused teenager with a touch of Asperger’s. I say the latter because his narrative reminded me a bit of Christopher from “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”. With Pat it is of course linked to his traumatic event that he keeps under wraps – from himself – from which he got his scar. That being said, Pat can be found to contradict himself from one chapter to another, from being “realistic” to being movie-happy-ending-optimistic again. It is only after he has revived the trauma and beat through it that he starts seeing more clearly. His voice changes gradually, too, to keep up with his mental state. Argh, I do not know how to write this and still sound politically correct. Let me just state for the record that I don’t think there is anything
wrong with mental illnesses. I actually hate the word mental illness, it sounds so final and depressing, but I just can’t think of its synonyms right now. I myself have battled with bursts of depression and nihilism. I read many posts by wonderful people – wonderful writers, who wrote about their battles, triumphs and relapses. I read about depression, social anxiety, postpartum depression, and other forms of the head-thing where your body itself is healthy (maybe not your various hormone levels) but you just can’t drag yourself away from bed to do what should be the easiest thing. You become paralyzed, and it is of no use sometimes how much you scream and shout and beat against the invisible walls. It’s an internal struggle, and the best thing the people who love you can do for you to do whatever you need them to do for you. It’s hard. It’s so fucking hard, like Tiffany would say. So I don’t blame Pat or anything. It was just very weird to read his words and think that an adult man wrote them (I mean Pat, not Matthew Quick – although the words are Quick’s, I feel as if they are Pat’s, just the way it should be if it’s a very good book. So The Silver Linings Playbook was a very good book.), not because the head-things happen only to teenagers, but because Pat sounded so young and confused and vulnerable. Oh, and can I just state how much I love his one-year-younger brother Jack and their brotherly relationship. And how much I admire Pat’s mother, who is patient and loving and soft and strong. 

Now let me come to Tiffany, the main reason I wanted to read the book in the first place, if you will. Even though I knew the book was told from the male character’s POV, I’d expected to be more pages with Tiffany in them, and not just as a silent jogger. Pat meets Tiffany fairly early in the book through his best friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica, who is Tiffany’s sister. After the rather unusual meeting, Tiffany assumes the role of a mostly silent bystander for the next chunk of the novel, even though there must be a lot of inner turmoil going on in her mind. She gets a more active voice once she convinces Pat to join her in the dance contest Dance Away Depression, which doesn’t start until we are at page 180 (out of 289). Hundred pages aren’t a lot, people, especially if you have a character like Tiffany lurking around, waiting to slip in her own voice. I wish we have had more of it but what we did have was impressive. Tiffany’s problems are not unlike Pat’s, although they manifested in different ways for both of them. I’d actually love to see Jennifer act this one out although I’m afraid that’s going to ruin a part of the reading experience from today. Her last letter to Pat was only seven pages long, and only about four or five of them are about herself, but there was so much to be gained from it that you start seeing Tiffany under a different light. I really really wish the ending might have been less abrupt and the inner conflict Tiffany was going through shown more – I don’t care whether through direct speech or letters or songs or whatever. Just more words from Tiffany, please. I wish I could hug her and talk to her and just be there for her. Isn’t it funny how I kept rooting for Tiffany more than I did for Pat. And by “rooting” I don’t mean in the shipping way. Just I thought more of Tiffany and wanted her to be happy than I did with Pat.

I loved the letters. All of them. I also really love the montage chapter. And how the workout and jogging scenes keep repeating every once in a while because I could totally picture that as movie scenes, and I loved it.

Incidentally, I haven’t been able to stop listening to Naughty Boy’s LaLaLa because the song has the line “I can’t find your silver lining” and whenever I see the book, I have to think automatically of the song.

Altogether a memorable reading experience, and I love it that it made me write all those wrong paragraphs because it means the book made me think, and made me feel, and it especially made me think and feel hard enough to not ignore my compulsion to write the words down. I deleted almost no words in this post because I wanted my first impression to be as honest and freshly vivid as I can. I am in the head-zone now where nothing exists but for the sense of not being there. Does it make sense? Probably not.

Batch Review #4

The Playboy Prince & Cordina's Crown JewelCordina’s Crown Jewel by Nora Roberts
And when I thought I’d never see the rest of the royal family again… Really enjoyed the Maine part, snorted over the Lord part, sighed at the Cordina part. A fairy tale ending to a series that is more edgy than flashy. Delaney Caine is like Grant Campbell from One Man’s Art but snarlier, I think. Mash Grant with Dashiell from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Crown Jewel is a lot more breezy than its previous Deboque-tension filled books and I like Camilla’s feisty & confident self. 3/5

 

 

Curtsies & ConspiraciesCurtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Oh, no. What will we do without Monique and Vieve and possibly Professor Braithwope in future books?
I admire Sophronia’s ability to see things from different perspectives and her busy brain. The romantic angle was laid a bit too thick, but as long as her priority remains being an intelligencer, no complaints from me.
Vampire politics. Science, and lots of it. Quite some blood here and there. Pro and anti-supernatural (the latter aka Picklemen). Sidheag sloooowly getting warm-ish with her future husband. Oh, so much fun and such a delicious world to live in! And will Sophronia precede Alexia as Lord Dama’s female friend? 4.5/5

 

 

2013 cover edition
2013 cover edition

Reflections by Nora Roberts
Rich description & feelings, rather thin plot. Esp. the two-page solution to Andy/Monica problem was ridiculous. Lindsay is a very open person, so absorbing and giving. It was quite interesting that we did not have a single POV from Seth Bannion. Maybe Nora Roberts wanted to guard his personality still, long after the book’s done. But I for my part found it hard to connect with him because I couldn’t know what he was feeling, what he was thinking.
I wonder how many years after Reflections the sequel-ish Dance of Dreams will take place. By the way, Nick is an intriguing character; so passionate, so confident, so harsh when dancing. 3.5/5

Dance of Dreams by Nora Roberts
Five years have passed since Ruth Bannion arrived in NYC, wide-eyed and flushed, hopeful and hard-working. Now she is the best ballerina at her company, and with Nick Davidov as her instructor.
Ah ah ah, how much potential was wasted by squeezing these two amaazingly beautiful stories into category romances! I wish they had been full-length duology, 300+ pages for each. There was so much more to these two pairs – Ruth and Nikolai in this one, Lindsay and Seth in the other – that could have been brought out in flesh and color.
I was so dazzled by the world of ballet, even more so than with Reflections or Dance to the Piper. Ruth is a unique combination of shy and confident, of reserved and passionate. Nikolai is all of the gruesome instructor we got a glimpse of at the end of Reflections and a passionate lover and an affectionate friend. Did their age-gap (10 years, with Ruth being 22 in Dreams) bother me? Not as much now, especially the world of Ballet and Dancing works differently – as Nick always keeps saying: “[They] are artists. [They] are temperamental.” Yes, temperamental and disciplined and passionate. They grow up differently, with rigid schedules and hard lessons every day, with bleeding feet and cramped toes, with quivering muscles and rather lonely states. Anyway, the age gap per se did not bother me, although it did a little when we found out that Nick’s desire started way back when they first met. Um, 17 and 27 is a bit much, yes?
Lindsay and Seth got more cameo time than other Nora characters who have had their happy-ever-after. Still no Seth POV, though. 4/5

April Book Haul & Wrap-Up

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – thus the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

April Book Haul

April Book Haul 2014

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
  • The Manual of Aeronautics: An Illustrated Guide to the Leviathan Series by Keith Thompson (illustrator) & Scott Westerfeld (author)
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

April Wrap-Up

I started off the month with The Manual of Aeronautics, which has beautiful illustrations and small insider information here and there. Wouldn’t recommend it buying it for full-price, though. Then, in the middle of unpacking ten boxes (!) full of books, I read a chapter here and there of, and eventually finished, Rapture in Death. I then had the fortune of reading Fangirl, which was delightful and happy and nostalgic and I was a puddle of sappy, happy mess. On a roll, I then re-read both Ceremony in Death and Vengeance in Death. Then more than a week of no reading because the second term of university had started, but after a week, I gave in and started Fire Study, and after that I devoured the online short stories Power Study and Ice Study as well.