Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In which I was blissfully lost in this novel's 700 pages

Ah, Gothic fiction! Just the fact that I am holding a Gothic novel is enough to call the experience orgasmic. If there's one particular subgenre that I particularly like, it's Gothic fiction, with its dark atmosphere, crazy nuns and monks, and subtle horror.

Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer is one novel that a lot of people feel is one of the (if not the) best Gothic novel ever written. Its doorstop proportion at 700 pages requires the stamina and focus from any reader.

So I pick it up thinking that I'll probably need a week at least to finish it. But hey, I finished it in 2 days. And in those 2 days, I felt that I was high on hallucinatory drugs. Maturin's narrative is so bleak, so riddled with stories within stories within stories that it's almost effortless to get lost in the story.

The wanderer in Melmoth the Wanderer is indeed the villain of this novel. Although, I felt I shouldn't disregard all the priests and monks who are so devious in their plans that it's second nature for them to engage in deception and mental and physical abuse. Like any Gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer provides a sharp criticism on the apparent excesses of the Catholic church. In Maturin's novel, the Inquisition figures prominently. Innocent characters are subjected to the brutal eyes and hands of the Inquisition upon the recommendation of the clergy.

Anyway, back to Melmoth. I'm not sure how I'd identify him. He's part devil, fantastic entity, specter, and seducer. He's been around for more than a hundred years after engaging in a satanic bargain. And this Melmoth now haunts troubled individuals, tempting them and granting them favors in exchange for his release.

The stories within stories with stories is where you'll see Melmoth's dealings through the years. A Spaniard gets washed ashore in Ireland, who recounts his story about how he was forced to become a monk by a religious superior. Then a character in a story then recounts another story set in another location (e.g., India). It can get confusing, especially with the time element as several years can pass in just a few sentences.

One thing I noticed about this novel is that it can get funny at times. One moment, Maturin describes a bleak scene and then he suddenly delivers a comical retort in another. In the first chapter, an elder Melmoth is just blabbering away while in his death bed, and then, just like that, Maturin writes off his character.
'They are robbing me, – robbing me in my last moments, – robbing a dying man. John, won't you assist me, – I shall die a beggar; they are taking my last shirt, – I shall die a beggar.' – And the miser died.
As a Gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer is very satisfying. You can cut the novel's dark tone with a knife. The scenes where characters are tortured and imprisoned in monasteries are textbook. Melmoth's apparitions in different places defy explanation. Although it may feel that Maturin is just all over the place with his story, I loved it. I loved how the characters go overboard with their melodrama. I loved the shifts in settings. I loved the long paragraphs and the seemingly rambling prose. I loved all its 700 pages.

Read this book if:

  1. You're into Gothic fiction.
  2. You're not intimidated by doorstops.
  3. You want to get lost yourself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hey, it's my most un-favorite sport!

If there's one sport that I don't feel passionately about, it's basketball. I  just don't get it. Considering that I'm from the Philippines, I'm in the minority. Everyone here is just gaga over this sport.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate basketball. Before, people naturally assume that with my height (I'm 5' 9" in a country where the average male height is a little over 5' 6"), I'd be into the sport. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I think I can count with my one hand the number of times I've held a basketball.

Rafe Bartholomew's nonfiction work, Pacific Rims, touches on this particular sport with verve. It's a book I picked up with trepidation. How can I be interested in this white American male's perspective on our unofficial national pastime?

Bartholomew, a basketball enthusiast even during his childhood, decides to check out the Philippines to find out why this third world country of mine is so into hoops, and what he has found out is at turns revealing and entertaining. Frankly, I'm a bit ashamed (and amused) that it took a foreigner to show me all about this sport in its full local color.

It seems that the Fulbright guys made the right decision when they gave a grant to Bartholomew to study the ins and outs of basketball in the Philippines. Pacific Rims is well researched. It chronicles the history of the sport in the country from the time when the sport was introduced to the country, the time when the Philippines started out as a 'basketball superpower' in Asia, and finally to the present status of the sport both in the professional and nonprofessional levels. All very fascinating reading, I tell you. Lots of colorful personalities—from visionaries to politicians who want to ride in on the popularity of the sport.

Of course, there has to be a focus that will tie all the elements that Bartholomew presents. And this is achieved when Bartholomew is invited to tag along with a local professional team during the start of a season until its eventual win in the finals. The team's win is where I'd like to believe that Bartholomew is their lucky charm, for the team has a shameful track record lately.

I believe that Pacific Rims would appeal to both Filipino and international readers. It provides glimpses on Philippine society in general using the sport as a vehicle. Bartholomew is one very observant guy, and he seems to sense the spirit of the sport even in the most mundane environments. Of course, it helps that he appears to be very congenial, being friendly with his neighbors, the people he just met on the street, celebrities, and basketball players.

Bartholomew can get technical with his description of the different elements of the game. And these are the parts where my eyes simply glazed over. But I think these couldn't be helped but be included though, as these pedantic descriptions established how the sport is played differently in the Philippines. It also showed the level of knowledge of the writer on the sport. Oy, Bartholomew's expertise on the sport is certainly impressive.

Pacific Rims, while it comes off as a charming work of nonfiction, is one of those rare works that is extremely academic and wonderfully entertaining at the same time. Even I, who would flee at the mere mention of the sport, had a jolly good time reading it.

Read this book if:

  1. You can't get enough of basketball.
  2. You're curious as to why Filipinos are so in love with this sport.
  3. You know that white guys can jump, and if they don't, they just write one helluva book.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Going loco over this local detective novel

I keep hearing the fact that there are no serial killers in the Philippines. "It's just not in our nature," my fellow Filipinos would say. But here's the thing: perhaps we just don't have enough data, and people haven't made the connections among the murders to conclude that there are indeed serial killers here in the country. Of course, I would like to believe there aren't any, but I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong.

In F. H. Batacan's novel Smaller and Smaller Circles, the premise is that a serial killer is preying on 12- to 13-year-old boys residing in a notorious dumpsite, and that the killings happen every 1st Saturday of the month. As if the thought isn't chilling enough, the bodies are found with their faces, genitals, and hearts missing. None of the boys though appear to have been sexually abused.

There are some elements in Batacan's work that makes it an unconventional detective novel. The detectives are 2 Jesuit priests, who really are very streetsmart despite having come from upper class families. The dynamic between these two men of the cloth is something we've seen before though. The older one was the former teacher of the younger. One is refined and reserved, and the other a bit brash and outspoken. But their partnership works. Batacan didn't litter her chapters with overboard scenes on how these two different personalities complement one another.

Another thing that makes this unconventional is the setting, which is a locale in a third world country with hardly any high-tech forensic equipment. The novel really becomes centered on the abilities of the two lovable Jesuits, who somehow discover the identity of the killer nowhere near the end of the novel. The last few chapters of Smaller and Smaller Circles deal with the eventual capture of the killer, which I think is a bit anticlimatic. I was hoping for a twist though, something along the lines of the movie 'The Silence of the Lambs', but it wasn't meant to be.

Batacan's award-winning novel was published 10 years ago, and I feel a small tinge of guilt for not having heard of it before. Thank goodness that one of the book clubs featured this short novel last weekend during the ReaderCon. I just had to get a copy after hearing good things about it.

Read this book if:
  1. You like your detective novels unconventional.
  2. You'll read anything that's won a Palanca.
  3. You're a sucker for word-of-mouth publicity.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Behind the scenes at the ReaderCon

All events happened on Saturday, 18 August 2012

4:30 am   Holy s**t! I remembered setting my alarm at 4:00 am, since I do like to take my sweet time in the shower. What the hell happened? Hmmmm... must remember to turn the alarm volume in full. Okay, showered in 10 minutes, got dressed in 15.

Venue for this year's ReaderCon

5:45 am   Arrived at Filipinas Heritage Library. I'm 15 minutes early for the set time for the Registration Committee, which I'm heading this year. Guard is still sleepy but lets me in. Two things I noticed when I stepped in—I'm the first one at the venue and it's unbearably hot. No airconditioning yet! I can't be sweating like a pig at 6 am. Sheesh! I'm wearing white!

5:50 am   Checked the registration kits to see if they're numbered correctly. Yes. Thank goodness for Joko, Shani, and Iya who went yesterday to help assemble them. Peered at the contents. Program, check. Stubs, check.

6:00 am   I see Iya's car in the driveway. Good, she's on time. Ever dependable Iya, who's heading the Logistics Committee this year. Why is she in white? Then it hits me, we all agreed to come in white to make it easier for us to spot one another.

6:10 am   Joko, Angus, and Jason arrive. Now it gets tricky, I think. I didn't require the Registration Team to meet prior to the event and most of these guys don't know one another. It was also my first time to meet Angus and Monique, another volunteer who's coming in the afternoon. Made quick introductions and hopes that everyone remembers one another's name. It'll be really ironic if we, the ones who keep track of the names of the people coming in, won't be able to remember our team mates' names, no?

6:15 am   Gave Jason and Angus a quick tour of the venue. We all head out for breakfast at McDonald's. Victor (a fellow book club member) and Verne (from FHL) follow us at around 6:45 am.

7:00 am   Back at venue. Took out the registration folders that I prepared days before and showed them to the team. "People sign here, and then here and here and another time here." The team's undermanned. Had to quickly resort to plan B, which basically means that all of us do double tasks. Had to rearrange the registration setup as well. Feels like a headache is coming.

7:20 am   Another round of briefing. Seems like everyone gets their tasks. Headache appears to be going away.

7:30 am   First participant arrives! It's a girl! Volunteers swarm her. No, no, no! Had to literally brush some people off so that girl can register in peace.

8:30 am   Registration now in full swing. Everything seems to be going as planned. Not much human traffic. I'm in the sidelines observing everything. Thinking I haven't had my caffeine fix yet. The Coke I had for breakfast does not count.

9:00 am   Finally getting my 1st cup of coffee. The coffee from Amici, one of the sponsors, is good! I have 3 more cups.

10:00 am   At the sidelines again. Observing, herding people in, doing some ushering. Angus appears to know everyone. He's so cheery with his "Hello." I actually thought that he knows these people personally. I can't imagine myself being that cheery for several hours. Jason is doing a superb job at ushering. He's very personable. Must get him again for next year.

10:30 am    Registration storm seems to have passed. We've survived! Idle talk with my team mates. Idle talk with fellow book club members. Idle talk with some of the vendors. Checked out a couple of booths selling books. Bought 3. Angus gave me a book as well. Thanks!

11:00 am    I see Bebang Siy! Fanboy moment! Asked R to take my picture with her. And then I got my book signed quickly and covertly as well.

12:15 pm   One of the sessions running late. Headache! And some people are registering for the afternoon sessions. We still charge the full fee. Surprisingly, they don't complain. I gather the first batch of volunteers for lunch.

12:20 pm   Eating my McDonald's lunch and then momentarily stopped when I noticed that there were just a couple of packed lunches left. Oh dear. I think there must be more than 10 volunteers who have still yet to have lunch. Found the guy at FHL and told him we need to buy more food. Got back to the pantry and hurriedly finished eating. Talked to the other volunteers if they'd just wait for a few more minutes for the food to arrive. Was kinda expecting bloodshed when delivering this news.

1:10 pm   People are arriving for the afternoon sessions in trickles. In my mind: "Look at the program, people! It says 1:00!" I usher them in and suggest to the Program Committee volunteers to might as well start. Punctuality is the politeness of kings! The people from my book club are getting fidgety for their sessions at 2 pm.

1:45 pm   Quick photo with the Registration Committee while we're still complete. Had to temporarily drag R away from his photographer duties to take our picture. They are all so awesome!

This year's Registration Team
We all look so wholesome in white, no?

2:20 pm   Extremely late start for the book discussion, which should've started at 2 pm. But no worries. We have a live chat with the author, Rafe Bartholomew, who's in New York. Goodness, he's such a looker. Screaming girls (and a few boys) everywhere! I feel like I'm in a rock band concert. Checked out the other book club discussion below. That one's eerily quiet.

3:00 pm   We close registration and pack up everything. Dropped by at the discussion for Fifty Shades of Grey. People are giggly and appear to be having fun. Good! Also checked out the discussion for The Little Prince. Very formal discussion, I must say.

3:30 pm   Suddenly remembered to finalize my writeup for the Readers' Choice Awards. I'm a judge for the essay anthology category and all I have for the citation is a draft in my head. Wrote something within 15 minutes. Hope this is good enough. I don't want to sound amateur-ish in front of Bebang Siy and all these people.

4:45 pm   Awards ceremony in full swing. Went to the podium and announced the winner and read my citation. They seem to find it funny, thank God.

5:30 pm   I am hungry. So hungry that I queued 3 times for the heavy snack of pasta, kani sandwiches, and chicken lollipops.

6:00 pm   Everyone had fun at the socials. But I'm just tired. It's been a long day, but it certainly was fun! The ReaderCon is one of the few events in the metro where readers, book bloggers, book lovers, writers, and publishers come together. I definitely am looking forward to next year's.

Thank you, Scholastic Philippines, Lampara BooksMcDonald’sFlipreadsAnvil Publishing, IncHachette PhilippinesAmici PhilippinesOMF Literature, Inc, and Adarna House for sponsoring this very book-ish event!

And thanks, R, for taking these wonderful pictures!

R in red during the ReaderCon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Judging the essay anthologies

Last month, I was invited to be one of the judges for the essay anthologies nominated for the 1st Readers' Choice Awards. Hmmm... Maybe I can finally put my opinionated book-ish thoughts to good use. Still, I had  my apprehensions, as I've never judged anything literary before. Well, except for student essays and papers.

Dear reader, I'm so glad I accepted, as the three anthologies were a joy to read. They couldn't be very similar with one another. Reading each book was definitely a rewarding experience.

Tweet Sering's Astigirl chronicled the events of one woman's life as she decides to be more in control of her life. Ambeth Ocampo's Chulalongkorn's Elephants collects his scholarly yet readable essays on Philippine history in the context of Asia. Finally, Bebang Siy's humorous It's a Mens World features essays that are so hysterically funny.

All the nominated writers made it a point to make the essays very personal, especially those of Sering and Siy. But even Ocampo made his book personal by recounting his travel experiences in various Asian cities.

So if you're looking for a different kind of reading material, why not try these three superb collections? And I hope you love reading them as much as I did.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Filipino Friday (5): Celebrating the Best

Hello, dear readers! It's the last Filipino Friday! I am sure to miss this meme, as it's been really fun connecting with other Filipino bloggers, readers, and fellow book lovers through the posts. And I'm so excited for tomorrow, which is ReaderCon 2012!

This week, it's all about the best reads so far in 2012. Hmmmm... tough question, as I usually make my best and worst reads list at year end. However, since I already read 63 books this year, I'll try to come up with a simple list and one focusing on debut fiction.

What are your favorite books in 2012 so far? 
This year, I've read a lot of debut fiction which have turned out to be some of my favorite reads. Just click on the links for my review.
I'm currently reading another debut novel by Maria Semple entitled Where'd You Go, Bernadette? And it's one very funny novel. Very postmodern narrative, if I must say.

Have you read any awesome Filipino books in the year?
Unfortunately, I've read just a few Filipino books so far. But I did enjoy most of them. In fact, I think I'll come up with a separate post for that. I don't want to preempt the event tomorrow at ReaderCon, where the 1st Readers' Choice Awards will be held.

So that's it for Filipino Fridays. I can't wait for next year already! And see you tomorrow at the ReaderCon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I've read the 1st book, so I might as well...

...read the 2nd novel, Fifty Shades Darker by E L James. Well, it's as if I have a choice on this matter. I don't. See, I'm participating in a read-along of this trilogy with other members of the book club. Thank heavens it's a closed group. Our comments in the threads are very, well, not particularly wholesome.

Okay, the word 'darker' in the title looks promising. After having been sorely disappointed by the utter lack of BDSM elements in the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm now readying myself for some serious kink. Bring on the whipping and caning! Let's see some flesh turning pink!

But does this book deliver? Hell, no. Fifty Shades Darker is anything but dark. In fact, this is even more 'un-BDSM' than the first. Goodness, it's so twee.

However, I found myself liking this book more than the first. Maybe because E L James devoted more page real estate to the minor characters. Taylor, Christian Grey's all-around man, has more face time in FSD. Mrs Elena Lincoln, the one that Ana hates so much in the first book, gets real lines in this novel. That scene where Elena confronts Ana and Christian in their engagement party is pure camp.

So what happens in FSD? Lots and lots of vanilla sex between Ana and Christian. Predictable much? Very. Cloying? Definitely. Will I read the 3rd book? You bet. Laters, baby!

Read this book if:

  1. You're a completist.
  2. Your favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla.
  3. You have nothing else to do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The bookshelf project #35

It seems that I haven't done a post on my bookshelf project lately. And I was scouring through my inbox when I remember the pictures my good friend Don sent me. How could I have missed these pictures!

Don sent me a picture of his workspace at home, which incorporates bookshelves. The rolling bookcases are just brilliant, don't you think? You can always do a quick redesign!

Don's workspace
If this were my workspace, I wouldn't mind working all day! (Not!) 
And the wood panels on the floor are just too beautiful.

A closer look
As Don is one heck of a finance guy, it's but natural to see lots of business books in his shelves.

I spy some good titles here.
Woot woot for The Hunger Games trilogy!
That novel by Matt Beaumont, e2, is one of the funniest novels ever.

What do you think of Don's workspace, dear reader? I haven't even been to his flat in San Francisco, and yet I think that I would feel right at home there.

Also, if you do have pictures of your bookshelves, then why not throw them my way?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Filipino Friday (4): Books and Friends

Well hello there, fellow book lover! The ReaderCon is almost upon us! I do hope that you join us next Saturday, 18 August, for this annual book-ish get-together. It's one of the few events in the metro where you get the chance to mingle with other bibliophiles! 

Anyway, I'm doing this weekly meme a day early as I suddenly found myself with a pocket of free time tonight. This week, it's all about book clubs!

Are you a part of a book club? If yes, what made you join one?
Yes, I am! Actually, I'm a member of 2 book clubs. The first one, Flips Flipping Pages (FFP), is one that I'm a member of since 2009. It's a Shelfari-based book club. I think I've been a member since 2007, lurking in the threads and then finally deciding to attend their meetups. It's a very active group, with the members participating in online discussions and then meeting every month to discuss a specific book. 

The other book club is a new one, which was started by Orly, a good friend who's also a member of FFP. It's so new that it doesn't even have an official name yet. So far, I've attended two discussions—one on a Shakespeare work ('The Taming of the Shrew') and another on a biography of a former first lady (The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos). You can click on the titles for my posts about these meetups. 

FFP is much bigger than the other book club. Some of FFP's meetups can pull in as many as 30+ members. So the monthly meetups can be a riot! The other book club, since it's a new one after all, holds more intimate discussions, allowing ample time for the members to interact. Nevertheless, the meetups of both book clubs are not to be missed! They're just so fun!

What’s your favorite activity that you have with them?
Why, the monthly meetups of course! With FFP, you just don't know what to expect in a book discussion. It's always interesting to hear everyone's thoughts on a book. Most of the time, the assigned moderators even come up with pre-discussion activities in line with the book. During the first time that I moderated (The Hunger Games), I had the attendees participate in a game of paintball.

There are also lots of non-book-ish events at FFP. To name a few: bowling night, food trips, surprise parties, beach outings. If you want to check out FFP events for 2011, click here. For 2012, I've posted some of the pics below from our past events.

FFP book-ish events
 The first month of the year is when FFP members discuss their best and worst reads for last year.
Here I am with Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, my best read for 2011.

That's Gege, the founder of FFP.

This month is all about George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones
Me, hamming it up again

A pre-discussion game with my team mates
By our reactions, you just know that we're winning. LOL!

I moderated Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth during my birth month.
 It's the perfect book to discuss over high tea!

Me, explaining the details of a card game for the book swap

This month is all about graphic novels, as we discussed Craig Thompson's Habibi.

 Honey, the moderator, showing how to make your own comic strip

This month is all about Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss.
Here's the group about to do a meditation exercise before the discussion. 

A poolside discussion! Woot woot!

Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo was the book of the month.

 During the discussion

Wayfarer-ed members during the discussion of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One

With R, who moderated the discussion
Best photographer and moderator ever IMHO
Thanks for some of the pics I used in this post, specifically the ones with myself in them.

FFP non-book-ish events
January (1)
The kids of ATD during our outreach program
We brought them to Museo Pambata.

Sana, one of the admins of FFP, holding that awesome book that she authored
Each of the kids got a copy! Thank you, Sana!

January (2)
Bowling night!

Don't let this pic fool you.
I'm no good at bowling.

Pampanga food trip!
A whole day of eating and eating and eating

Of course, we have to find the time to visit a bookstore.

We attended a surprise birthday party for Iya.
Just look at Iya's book-ish birthday cake! Love!

Some of the FFP peeps with the birthday girl.
Effortlessly fabulous Iya is the one standing in the middle.

April (1)
A lot of FFP members are creative, often participating in bazaars and flea markets around the metro to showcase their products.
Shani makes these wonderful solid perfumes. Look closely; some are quite book-ish!
My favorites are Sherlock, Everdeen, and Arrakis.

Marie sold her wonderful handmade hats during the same event.

April (2)
An impromptu out-of-town trip
Here's the gang at Gege's fabulous Bali-inspired summer house.

The requisite jump shot at the beach with some of the peeps
It looks like I was sucker punched!
(Picture courtesy of Dianne)

Oh my! It seems that I've uploaded tons of pictures already! And I haven't even mentioned the several instances of casual meetups. What can I say? Book clubs are a whole lotta fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Saying good-bye to Mr Melrose

When I turned the last page of the Edward St. Aubyn's last novel of the Patrick Melrose cycle, At Last, I breathed a sigh of relief. It's been one helluva ride, with events that I wouldn't want to happen to me nor to any of my friends for that matter.

I'd recommend all 5 of the Patrick Melrose novels to everyone. Here's a chronicle of a life, despite one of the upperclass English, that spiraled to hell and back.

In the early novels, we see Patrick as a victim of sexual abuse during his childhood. In the next 3 novels, we see him bury his father who molested him, be an alcoholic, get married, commit adultery, and basically throw his life away.

In the last novel, we at least see a process of healing. In At Last, Eleanor, Patrick's mother, has passed away. Could this be the answer to all of Patrick's unresolved issues? Maybe. I'm not sure the novel points to a direct answer, but I'd like to believe that Patrick is free at last of his parents who have subjected him to sexual and psychological abuse.

At Last is very redeeming. We see Patrick finally coming to terms with his own family: his two boys whom he seem to have neglected and his estranged wife, who left him because of his adulterous relationships, his drinking, and whatnot. At the end of the novel, Patrick realizes that maybe all is not lost and that, finally, he'd get the love that seemed to be rather elusive during his lifetime.

Edward St. Aubyn's prose is beautiful and effortlessly switches from acerbic humor to melancholic thoughts. The writing is very controlled, with the shifts in points of view so seamless that you can't help but get carried away with it. His humor reminds me of Evelyn Waugh, his drama of Julian Barnes and Graham Greene sometimes.

I hope that St. Aubyn comes up with another novel soon. I'll read anything he'd write. The Patrick Melrose novels, perhaps because of their semi-autobiographical nature, have a bittersweet tinge to them. But that's real life, no? We can't have everything all sugar and spice.

Read this book if:

  1. You're into short but pithy novels.
  2. You know that semi-autobiographical novels are usually great works of fiction.
  3. You have a love-hate relationship with Patrick Melrose.

Monday, August 6, 2012

This needs more kink

Okay, let's get a few things out of the way. Yes, the writing's bad. Yes, there are a few phrases that can boggle the imagination (e.g., Laters, baby.). Yes, I fell into the hype. With that being said, let's focus on other things about Fifty Shades of Grey, shall we?

There's Christian Grey. One word—hot. But this hotness has its caveat, for Christian has this Red Room of Pain. The RRP is where he unleashes all his carnal desires on women (all of them brunettes) in BDSM scenarios. He's also filthy rich. You can't get wrong with hot and rich, no?

There's Anastasia Steele. One word—bland. Well, she appears bland in the first few chapters but somehow finds her own spirit at the latter half of the book. I find it unbelievable that she finds herself not good looking. After all, two apparently hunky guys have the hots for her.

So these two engage in a contract, where Ana becomes Christian's submissive. All subs need to sign a non-disclosure agreement. That's romance for you! A good chunk of Fifty Shades of Grey is about Ana's negotiations with Christian. The BDSM newbie will learn a lot here. Safewords, soft and hard limits, vaginal fisting, whatnot.

It is this contract which I find problematic, something that steers the reader toward a disappointment. With all the funky details in the contract, I was expecting something more, well, graphic and intense. I love vanilla. But I would really like to read BDSM, especially if the reader has been primed for it. But E L James holds out on the kink. The scenes are not just too kinky enough.

I've been restraining myself from counting all the sex scenes in FSoG and then categorizing them as vanilla or BDSM. But a quick scan through the pages made me think that, for all its hype, the book is rather tame. Women, you don't need your tissues.

So that's my main beef against this book. I wanted my kink! I wanted to read about Ana being slapped, whipped, and poked with toys. I wanted scenarios where Ana will scream the safeword. I wanted Christian to be uninhinbited.

I had no issues with what kind of relationship these two are in. Goodness, they've entered into a 'legal' agreement! I don't get why people are calling Ana a disgrace to women. Ana's intelligent. She's an adult who knows what she's getting into. She has spunk. In a way, she's with the man of her deepest desires.

All in all, I did find Fifty Shades of Grey rather entertaining. And I do get the hype. If you're prepared to not take particular attention to the narrative, you'll definitely be entertained to. Let's face it—sex sells, no matter how badly it is written.

Read this book if:
  1. You want to find out what all the fuss is about.
  2. You love your vanilla, but you crave for rocky road sometimes.
  3. You have no problems with "Laters, baby."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My book-ish weekend (part 2)

I read Ernest Cline's superb novel, Ready Player One, almost one year ago. When the book club (Flips Flipping Pages) chose it for its July book discussion, naturally, I was excited. So the RPO discussion is the 2nd part of my book-ish weekend last week, and boy was it fun!

My good friend, R, was the moderator, and I was the designated photographer of the day. We decided to have the book discussion at an '80s-themed restaurant in line with the themes of the sci-fi novel which had a lot of 80s references.

The discussion started at around 2 pm and finished by 5.30. Of course, we need to have dinner somewhere (even though we have been eating the whole time during the discussion). After dinner, there's the obligatory coffee and conversation, which lasted until almost midnight.

Here are some pics of the discussion, dear readers.

Me with my almost-yellowing RPO hardback.
The Wayfarers were part of R's giveaways.
Contrary to what my T-shirt says, I was never big on video games.

That's R, busy with the preparations for the discussion.
He went all out for the event!

The interior of Cafe 80s had a lot of 80s memorabilia.
That gigantic Rubiks cube was made by the owners.
And you gotta love that bike with E.T.!

This Pac-Man wallpaper was just too cute. I want it for my room!

Some members even came in costume for the discussion.
That's my good friend Fredda. Her pink socks are love, no?

Would you believe that these members are actually moms?
I'll say it again: FFP members are just too gorgeous!

One of those hot moms in the picture, Iya, gave me a bunch of books during the discussion.
She knows of my fascination with all things Penguin.
So she also gave me this Penguin mouse pad!

 The requisite group shot
Woot woot! I think I counted more than 30 attendees!

And here I am hamming it up with Orly.
What can I say? I just love the 80s!
Those cool glasses are just one of R's props for the discussion.

At the end, each member got 3 bookmarks.
I was fortunate enough to get the complete set of 24!
Aren't these bookmarks awesome?