January Wrap-up

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January has been to me a good month for reading, likely owing to the two weeks I was out of work recuperating from my fancy hospitalization late last year. I’ve closed 8 books this year, making me far ahead of the schedule in my goal of reading 30 books for 2016.

Here are my January reads:

1. Light by Rob Cham

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

3. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Recommended to me by Emily Blunt’s immaculate face who will be playing the eponymous character in an upcoming movie adaptation. This book is a fun, fast-paced thriller that is reminiscent of Gone Girl though not as masterfully made.

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Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Second favorite from the pile of books read in January (total population: 8, woo!). Amy Poehler is one of my favorite comedians. She’s funny and insightful and I am so happy for all the success she’s been getting. I am obviously a big fan of her and her brand of humor and this is probably why I enjoyed this book immensely.

As a fan of her, I loved this but as a fan of books, I felt like Yes, Please could’ve used a lot more editing. There are so many portions of the book that were all over the place.

Continue reading “Yes, Please by Amy Poehler”

Jane Eyre: A Book Review, Some Regrets, Fassbender’s Face, and a Short Feminist Rant

This book was a pleasure to read from start to finish. It’s a shame it took me so long to pick this up now knowing it has many things I would’ve liked to read while I was growing up. I’ve always enjoyed Gothic novels, delighted in opinionated female characters, and enjoyed beautiful, descriptive writing.

After finishing the book, I was browsing its Goodreads page to see what others thought of it, as I’ve been wont to do because I am nosy and enjoy mentally agreeing/disagreeing with other people’s judgments about things I like. A lot of people hated it, but many others loved it too, sometimes as much as I did though not in the same way. One very poignant review passionately pointed out that she “… could bang Mr. Rochester like a screen door ’till next Tuesday.” Interesting. In another review, Jane’s plainness and sob stories were found boring, and Rochester was found to be insufferable, immoral and uninteresting.

I never really viewed Jane Eyre as a romantic novel. I vehemently refuse to experience it as a love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester because Jane is so much more than her romantic relationships. I also think Rochester is gross, and her admiration for the man ludicrous.* I understand when people are put off by this romance because I hated it too. (Full disclosure: I’ve read Jean Rhys’ prequel Wide Sargasso Sea years back and thus have already formed negative opinions about Rochester before reading Jane Eyre).

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Just saw the 2011 adaptation and Fassbender made Rochester less gross (darnit, Fassbender!!), still old and intense though.

If you allow yourself to look past that ridiculous May-December love affair, you will appreciate Jane’s education – from her difficult time at the hands of the Reeds to her training at the Lowood Charity school, which fed her hunger for a life outside of those walls leading her to the most important part of her coming-of-age at Thornfield Hall. You will love her spunk, and you will enjoy her comebacks to people who did her wrong. You kind of expect Victorian ladies to be all coy and modest but not this Jane. I’ve done far too many mental hellsyeah! every time she tells people off. When her cruel aunt told her cousins to stay away and not associate with her as she is not worthy of notice, she remarks, “They are not fit to associate with me.

Continue reading “Jane Eyre: A Book Review, Some Regrets, Fassbender’s Face, and a Short Feminist Rant”

Light by Rob Cham; and Limbo by Playdead

Light is a worldless comic book created by Rob Cham and released by Anino in 2015. The pages are framed in black and features a backpack-toting, nameless fella that travels across different lands, and encounters and battles different monsters in his mysterious quest.

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His journey unfolds delightfully in pitch black backgrounds, with the occasional peppering of colors to signify a milestone. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in the limited color palette that Rob Cham chooses and reminds me a lot of Limbo, a wordless puzzle-platform game made by independent Danish game developer Playdead.

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Both titles play around with black and white, they have beautiful visuals, and both tease their audiences with a mystery (What are these kids up to?) that makes us want to keep going til the very end.

Continue reading “Light by Rob Cham; and Limbo by Playdead”

The Selfish Gene

In the beginning was simplicity.

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The Selfish Gene made me feel funny feelings about being alive. It’s nice to think of yourself as a vehicle for a million-year old replicator gene to drive around in and I find the theory that we’ve arisen from such humble beginnings to such unthinkable complexity to be weirdly self-affirming.

We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators..

George Saunders once wrote that stories are black boxes where the reader enters in one state of mind and exits in another, and that rings true to me for The Selfish Gene. I didn’t think I would finish reading it, let alone learn so much out of it and enjoy that feeling that you’ve become a slightly different version of yourself after the fact. It’s very cool.

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.

This is all because of Richard Dawkins, of course. What a marvellous story-teller – he is wonderfully attuned to the voice and shape of his theories, and those of others which he built his gene-centric theory from. He writes with such cadence and uses accessible metaphors to teach laymen what we need to know, what we want to know and he makes each chapter truly a world in itself. I loved this book and can’t wait to read more non-fiction books that are as good as this.

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I’ve had this in my Drafts for about two years. I read this book in 2013.

Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid

Heavy Liquid is my second Paul Pope book after the thoroughly entertaining Battling Boy (which, I noticed, I have not written about lol), and I can see why my friend (i.e. Pope mega fanboy) kept noting about Pope’s self-indulgence in this book. I know that Paul Pope enjoys inking and there’s not a book that would attest to that as much as Heavy Liquid did.

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Heavy Liquid is a bizarre story about S (short for Stooge), and a heavy liquid – a mysterious, precious metal S has stolen from one of the clown gangs of the city. For a man who both writes and illustrates his books, Paul Pope did incredibly well with the dynamism and intensity of the story and the art was interesting with some gorgeous, gorgeous stand-alone pieces. I admit that it was a bit off-putting at first – I have not been exposed to art so inked that it was initially disconcerting but the visual noise Pope rendered fits very well with the cyber-punk, thriller setting.

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The story was also pretty entertaining – a scifi detective thriller in a future setting, with that insane clown posse with cubist masks; a hilarious cray cray girl gang; an art collector that reminds me of Mr. Motley; friends leaving; leaving friends; and a love lost, found and lost again.

The art fits the mood of the story so well too that reading it felt like reading a somber rock and roll song – heavy, fun, but sad.  Like, like… Interpol in graphic format.

I enjoyed this book very much and I’m glad to be exploring some new, fun, and good comic books. I can’t wait to read 100% after this.

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What are men to rocks and mountains?*

Ah, I’m still alive. February passed like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on** and I was still rushing through my deadlines when suddenly March comes rolling in with its new set of target dates and challenges and frivolities. The last month has been an arduous struggle in getting my groove back. I have become Andy Dwyer:

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… except that reading still interests me, though not as ardently as it did a few months ago. People have suggested a serious case of post-travel blues but I got back home from the great Malaysian mountain adventure on the 28th of January and a month of post-travel blues is simply ridiculous.  I blame the sluggishness on fairly recent tragedies which has made February a traumatic calendar event – it is my dead mother’s birthday month which coincides with my nephew’s death and THEN my uncle died. The meanest month my life ever did see. I hope March is gentler.

Oh well, regardless. I’m here and I’m still reading. Here are some of the books I finished last month:

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Maus I : A Survivor’s Tale : My Father Bleeds History
Maus, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began, both by Art Spiegelman

The Maus books is “a story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father’s story and history itself.”

The books were riveting and brutal, and savage and heartbreaking.Probably not the best companion books for an already-disheartening month but I was glad I read this important work. It was an excellent visual way of learning and understanding the terrible chapter of Jewish and world history.

I borrowed this from Shiela. Thanks!

The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve heard so much about this book and being a sucker for historical romances, I just cannot miss it (especially when it presented itself to me during one of my last hunting sprees at La Belle Aurore, which is now sadly closed :(). It is a fun book, much drama, such 15th century, many romance. Wow. It was a WHALE of a book though but the intricacies of Highlander politics and the culture and everydayness of Scotland in the 1700’s were well presented, well thought-out.

And hey, there’s a series from Starz to be premiered this year.

Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale

My first Laura Kinsale, also a bargain find. It was fun – the lady was a clumsy inventress, and the Duke was…well, a Duke and it was romantic and fun and light-hearted and yeah… I am not very good at reviewing books, why do I have a book blog.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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The Ocean… feels like a Pratchett novel without much of the typical Pratchettian silliness. Specifically, it feels like a Tiffany Aching book with a quirky witch girl and two elder witches. It’s been a long time since I read a Gaiman novel (probably because it HAS been a long time since he wrote a non-YA novel), but there’s always something so lukewarm about his works to me. Apart from the excellent Sandman series, his novels have always felt so trite and just okay

Just to clarify: this was a fun read and very entertaining towards the end, but it was just… fine. It was nowhere near as good as the standard I have for Gaiman.  I remember feeling the same way about his other works;  whenever I’m about to read one of his new novels, I wanted so much to like it. The certain hype that follows him around lends a gravitas to the expectations I have for him, and I (sadly) find myself repeatedly disappointed.

Oh wells, this has been a good read but not what I would recommend for someone looking to read their first Neil Gaiman.

Thanks, Odina!

* Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
** Jonathan Safran Foer

Wolf of the Steppes – For Madmen Only

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“There once was a man….called the Steppenwolf. He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the Steppes. He had learned a good deal of all that people of a good intelligence can, and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life…”

I am not quite sure what to feel about Hermann Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf (“the wolf of the steppes”). The language is beautiful, without a doubt, but it sometimes reeks of self-absorption. It’s very solipsistic and masturbatory and further reading into the author’s background while he was writing the book tells so much about his life crisis during that time.

Der Steppenwolf was the last book I read for 2013  in my fortress of solitude and while I was deeply enamored of the whole thing while reading it, it is a bit pretentious in retrospect.  Pretentious, not because it is elitist by nature, but because the character is too focused on identities – a very first world problem. No wonder kids fall over themselves for this book. Identity crises are issues of either teenagers or the privileged – something I find annoying now that I’m entering my late twenties and have no qualms rubbing my “wisdom” in other people’s faces. Oh, you’re not content with your life? Try not having enough money to buy food for you and your six children! Oh, having dejection issues? Try losing your home in a flood and seeing the rest of your family die a watery death!

I know, I know. Depression is a serious mental health illness but to read a fantastical book and identify yourself with a character that incessantly questions the meaning of life because he gets a weekly allowance and doesn’t have to think about his next meal is clearly teenage.  Oh so you’re destined to be alone? Nobody understands you? Nothing in this world interests you and you’d be better off dead? GET A BLOODY GRIP, STEPPENWOLF!

BLEAARGGGHH.

I know I am waving my prejudices out in the open, my ageism especially, but this book gets really rambly for so many pages and for so long. It was beautiful rambling, mind you, but rambling is rambling. Shit also gets weird towards the end, especially the bit on the Magic Theater (For Madmen Only) where everything suddenly becomes trippy, Burtonian. I expected Johnny Depp in a funny hat to appear any second. This is a huge contrast to the wallowing, maudlin ramblings of yester-chapters so I don’t know what to make of the whole thing apart from Hesse’s interpretation of Harry Haller (der Steppenwolf) descending from mild depression masquerading as identity crisis to a full-blown mental breakdown.

Hesse did commented on hope – that this book has been misinterpreted by many and while agonizing, this book should ultimately give us hope. Hmm. Hope for… misanthropes? For suicides? For killing beautiful things? For dancing? For people who wish to find their inner woman?

Bah, I wish I was 16 again. Or maybe 55.

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by Dem Iam
by De Gust
by De Gust

“The banished sun circles the earth, like a grieving mother with a lamp.”

The Road
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The Road is a profoundly moving story of a post-apocalyptic journey to a desecrated future where no hope remains, but in which a father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love, by their own versions of faith in a greater good.  And in a fire that keeps burning amidst the dark, gray, and dreary earth.  The Road is a harrowing story about fatherhood, love, and hope, and everything is sad and beautiful, and everything hurts.

This is my first Cormac McCarthy and his literary style of reductive sentences and sparse vocabulary best suits his philosophical pessimism and the thin plot he lays out. The story is single-layered and it is McCarthy’s beautiful writing that carries the novel through the bleakness and despair. The scant sentence fragments strung together create a sense of danger and desperation that the Father and the Son live through everyday – a life so devoid of simple human pleasures that only the perpetuation of self and human goodness defines them as being alive.

Their conversations have a silence to it – a silence especially boosted by the lack of marks that evokes the lullness of the world itself.

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I am very sad after reading the book, and the gloomy weather compounded my feeling of desolation but  ultimately, as with all books I’ve read, I am glad that I found the courage to read it.  It is dismal, yes, but it is also filled with hope and the contrast of the ashen Earth of The Road made me grateful for this tiny island that I live in, for the love of family I enjoyed all through the years, for what I am, and for what I have to give.

Absolutely sparse and bleak and beautiful, I recommend this book to everyone.

Do you think I should watch the movie?

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Excitatory Amphigorey

Last weekend was Arch Con X, a now-annual event that was flooded by geeks from Cebu and the nearby islands. No earthquake or aftershock could stop people from flocking over at Ayala Center; the place was packed! A friend and I were exchanging morbid jokes about how every Cebuano geek dies if an earthquake strikes and decimates the mall during the event. Okay, maybe not all but A LOT of nerds will perish – in fancy-shmancy costumes too (or holding a comic book, or an MTG card, or an action figure – whatever floats your nerdy boat.)  I didn’t participate because, *cough cough* I insist that I am not that geeky.

I did manage to land a pic with this lovely lad.

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“Life’s a bowl of cherries and this is the pits.”

More importantly, Saturday found me at Fullybooked’s graphic book and comics sale, an event I gladly participated by buying Amphigorey Again. I really didn’t want to drop by because I am working on my maturity and EQ levels but a little peek won’t hurt, would it? Well, that little peek found me this book which I am proud to say that I resisted – for a while. I mean, I did manage to get past about 20 meters from the store, bought coffee, sat down, mulled things over before getting horrified by the thought of an undeserving man getting this book instead of me (the more deserving reader, obviously).

The five minutes that passed between me seeing this Gorey collection suddenly made me NEED this book, so I snatched it up. My EQ and maturity levels might have crashed but my soul was soaring. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve bought this year.

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Amphigorey Again is the fourth collection of Gorey’s previously uncollected works after Amphigorey: Fifteen Books, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Also. All are perfectly awesome books, I am certain, and I need them to be in my collection as well.

There is something uniquely engrossing with Gorey’s works. I was having attention span issues the last few days but Amphigorey Again just got me hook, line and sinker. What a wonderful collection of absurd, morbidly funny, and beautiful stories and illustrations.

Since I don’t have the time (and the attention span) to take good photos of the book right now, here are some phone pictures I instagramm’d the frak out of to tide you over.

I’m definitely a wee bit poorer now but everything is beautiful and nothing hurt.