Thursday, July 31, 2014

No, it's not about vampires

As I was surfing yesterday, I came across this interesting piece of news about Kevin Wilson's novel, The Family Fang. It's going to be turned into a movie! Woot!

I knew that I had a hardcover somewhere. I also recall R. giving me a copy for a special occasion a few years ago. My birthday, perhaps? But I found it, and I couldn't be happier.

Anyway, I'm enjoying this novel so much that I keep thinking, "They better not eff it up!" At least Jason Bateman is both directing and starring in it. Ah, Bateman, the stuff teenage dreams in the 80s are made of. And check out Nicole Kidman's costume in the movie below. She can play anything, yes?

Oh, and there's Christopher Walken! When I saw him dancing in the music video of Fatboy Slim's brilliant "Weapon of Choice," I was sold. The world needs more of Walken. Such an underrated actor.

Gone are the glamorous looks for Ms. Kidman in the movie.
In fact, she's hardly recognizable!
Source: Just Jared
There's something about knowing that a book is being adapted into the big screen that makes you want to just read the damn thing, no? Here's hoping that the movie won't be a big disappointment. We don't need another "The Great Gatsby."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Particularly endearing

Sometimes, I wish that I had super taste buds. You know, being able to detect the different ingredients that make up a dish, or being able to tell whether a specific fruit or vegetable has been farmed or grown organically. In Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, we meet one character who has an extraordinary ability—being able to taste the emotions of the people who cooked the food.

So Rose Edelstein discovers that she can find out her mother's emotions when she takes a bite of the lemon cake her mother baked for her ninth birthday. In that instant, Rose detected a hollowness, a loneliness, in the lemon cake. Eventually, as she learns to come to grips with her particular gift, she soon finds out that these "tastes" are actually the feelings that the persons have at the time they make the dish.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a novel that touches heavily on the family. And the Edelsteins make up a family that's unbearably sad. Rose's mother carries on an affair that lasts for years, even though she puts up this cheery veneer every time she's home. Rose's father can't seem to bear to go to hospitals, and seems oblivious to his wife's affair. Through the different emotions that Rose encounters during family meals, she gets to discover all the painful words left unsaid, the missed connections, and the frustrations of her family.

Apparently, it's not just Rose who is blessed/cursed with a gift. Her brother, Joseph, can make himself disappear for several months, eventually coming back looking tired, dehydrated, and basically clinging to life. Joseph's sadness is one that's not very easy to read. He was the one who supposedly had the brains in the family. But his potential is not realized, beginning with the fact that he failed to secure a spot at Cal Tech.

Rose doesn't fully learn to appreciate her extraordinary ability. For her, every meal taken at home is torture. She becomes obsessed with the vending machine in her school, who dispenses factory-made junk food. I can empathize. I'd rather eat a Twinkie than have a home-made omelet wherein I can taste all the sadness that goes with it. So yes, for me, Rose's ability is in fact a curse.

Bender writes beautifully. Her prose is lyrical without being too cloying. In a way, the reader can "taste" the sadness in her prose, the emptiness that clings to the Edelsteins. And I find it very apt that food is used as the conduit for the emotions. One can't just say that her or she is feeling unhappy; that person has to find a way to make the other person feel his unhappiness. What better way than to let that person consumer your emotions. Call it transference, if you will.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake looks like a very light read. Well, it is, at around 200 pages. But it's dense with drama and its characters fully realized. You feel sad for Rose, Joseph, their parents. You want to reach the end to find out if everything goes well with each of them. It's a heartbreaking novel, this one. But you'll still be happy that you finish it.

Read this book if:
  1. You value the importance of shared meal times.
  2. You're super picky with your food.
  3. You love lemon cakes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Of citrus fruits and new author discoveries

I know, I'm holding a grapefruit and not a lemon.
Still feeling particularly sad though,
as I really am craving a lemon cake.
One weekday, I felt like going to my favorite bargain bin bookstore near our office. I wasn't really particularly feeling hungry despite it being lunch time. But I am always in the mood for a book hunt, no matter the weather. I recall that it was raining intermittently that day.

Anyway, I spotted Aimee Bender's novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake at the bookstore. I decided to buy it, as Bender seems to be one of those talked about contemporary fiction writers these days. Besides, I couldn't resist a book with this title.

As it was a rainy day, it could only mean one thing—traffic will be horrible. And it was! I have no qualms about reading on the road, especially if the vehicle is moving at a snail's pace, which is what happens to Manila's highways every time it rains. Well-lighted buses are perfect for reading!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake did help me pass the time. One minute I just pulled it out of my bag and turned to the first page, the next I'm on page 150 and almost near my house! It's really good! The following day I read another 100 pages on the bus as well.

I think Bender's novel would be the first book I read entirely on the bus within a few days. The writing has a melancholic tinge. I have a full review coming up on this novel, dear reader. But for the meantime, here's hoping that I find another Bender work soon. Or at least a delicious slice of lemon cake.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The book club goes to the circus

Last weekend, the book club held our monthly book discussion on Erin Morgenstern's magical debut novel, The Night Circus. I read the book back in 2011 when it first came out. When I reread it last week, it hasn't lost any of its magic. Most of the members liked The Night Circus, and it was interesting to hear their thoughts about it.

I haven't attended the last 3 discussions held by the book club, so I was really looking forward to this one. These people have become close friends, and to say that I miss them would be an understatement. As always, I had a grand time last Saturday. And as always, we ended up talking to each other until late in the evening.

I'm sharing pics that R. took last Saturday, dear reader. You can click on each one to enlarge. Thanks, R., for taking these beautiful photos.

The bookmark
That's me in the background.
Who looks awkward in a red scarf? Yeah, me.
Lia and Anne: the very capable moderators.
They asked us to come in black or white, with a red accent or accessory.
Props to you, Lia and Anne! It was a great discussion!
The candy buffet supplied by Ella, one of the members
At the far left are the loot bags, which had chocolates and other sweet stuff.
Unfortunately, as I swore off sweets altogether, I had to give mine to R.
With my good friend, Jan
I believe Jan helped spruce up the room to get that circus-y feel.
Don't you love Jan's black-and-white ensemble?
Lia and Anne prepared slides for the discussion. Talk about being prepared!
I had fun answering most of the questions they posed to the group,
although I did get a few details incorrectly. Argh! I'm really getting old!
My requisite shot with the book
My book is the international edition of a hardback.
No mass markets yet when I bought it in 2011.
From topleft going clockwise: Haze, Jewel, Doc Cecille, and Michelle
Michelle absolutely loved The Night Circus, giving it a 5/5 rating.
I love Doc Cecille's expression! So fierce!
With Marie, another good friend from the club
Marie brought 2 of her friends to the discussion.
I hope I see them in the next few months.
Sana with her new hair-do
I love Sana's red accessory.
Although, we couldn't remember what exactly it is called!
That's Sheila, and that's me talking to Kelly at the back.
I love Sheila's new figure!
We at the book club believe that she has no pores too.
Pretty ladies: Jan, Marie, and Ajie
Marie makes hats, and Ajie is a craft goddess.
The book club has gorgeous members, yes?
Kelly, R., and me
It was Kelly's first time to attend a discussion.
I'm glad I finally met her! Oh, she's also a book blogger.
All the happy faces!
I believe most of the members gave the book a rating of 3/5 or higher.
Well, who doesn't love the circus?
Post-Its galore!
I forget whose book this was. So OC!
I can't imagine myself ever putting Post-Its on my books.
Me and R.
He's the default photographer of the book club.
And my favorite person in the whole world!
Darwin brought his 8-month-old niece to the discussion.
So well-behaved, the little girl was.
I sure hope that she grows up to be a bookworm like his uncle.
The book that's always in my weekend tote bag
I just came from my Italian class that day.
My Italian teacher has no love for this book though. He thinks it's cheating!
We ended up in a Thai restaurant after the discussion.
Here we are joined by Jeeves and Joko (far right).
Yes, I know, we eat out a lot.
Happy stuffed people
We're the group that ordered 6 different kinds of Thai dishes.
As I'm on a strict meal plan, I had to exercise some restraint and do portion control.

Friday, July 18, 2014

In love with fabulist books

After reading this list of wonderful fabulist books from Flavorwire, I realized that I'm a huge fan of this genre. Yes, I know that what makes a book a fabulist one isn't clear cut. Are all fantasy books fabulist novels? How about sci-fi? And what about those with magical realism?

I guess these categories all come down to the reader, yes? As for me, I consider novels to be fabulist if they have a touch of magic, with a bit of a whimsical element in the writing. Eric Morgenstern's The Night Circus is a good example; the book is also our selection for the month, and we're discussing it this weekend.

I read The Night Circus almost 3 years ago, and I even posted an entry about it. I remember being captivated by the unconventional love story. It was a magical experience, reading Morgenstern's debut novel. And when I reread it this week, the book has not lost its magic. The fantastical story lines still enthrall, the mysterious characters still captivate.

I'm still craving for more fabulist reads as of the moment. If you have other recommendations that are not on Flavorwire's list, do let me know. I'll be sure to check them out. Right now, I have Helene Wecker's beautiful fabulist debut, The Golem and the Jinni, in my hands. It has Jewish and Persian mythologies, magic, the immigrant experience, and, quite possibly, a love story in its pages. (I'm still just a quarter of the way in!)

Fabulist . . . . Even that very word connotes something special. It reminds me of "fabulous," even though I know that it's root comes from "fable." We need more fables in our lives, yes? We need more people to weave stories that transcend realities of this harsh world we live in. It's precisely one of the reasons why I think I read books. If I want reality, I could just turn on the TV to watch the news.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Everyone's supposedly talking about this book

Apparently, E. Lockhart's novel, We Were Liars, is the hot ticket this season. It took me a while to get my hands on a copy, as bookstores can't seem to replenish their stocks fast enough. We Were Liars is a quick read, something that you can read to pass a lazy weekend afternoon.

What's it about? Well, WASPs. How waspy can you get when a family, the Sinclair family to be specific, spends summers in their private island in Cape Cod. They all have trust funds and have their own huge houses on the private island. Goodness, give me that kind of life now!

Anyway, the Liars referred to in the novel are four teenagers who seem to be inseparable every time they summer together. Cadence, Johnny, Gat, and Mirren form a very tight bond, and it's this tight bond that makes them believe that they can do anything. We Were Liars somewhat touches on a mystery, and that mystery focuses on Cadence, our main character.

One summer, on her fifteenth year, Cadence wakes up on the beach with absolutely no memory of what happened to her. Her mother makes it a point to shield Cadence from remembering the terrible thing that occurred on that fateful night. Was Cadence raped? Did she play a role in burning the house of their grandfather, the head of the Sinclair clan? What made the rest of the Liars seem changed after that summer?

I don't want to give away the mystery, as there's this big reveal at the end about Cadence and the Liars. I, myself, was even surprised at the ending. It's like a punch in the gut, that reveal.

We Were Liars touches on the hurt, the frustration, and the sadness that family members inflict on one another. Most of the Sinclair women are divorced, and they can throw barbed words at one another. Cadence's grandfather has been threatening to donate a substantial amount of money to Harvard. And Cadence is, well, a mess.

The novel's very entertaining. The mystery motivates you to keep on reading. Also, Cadence's voice, providing the novel's point-of-view, is very candid and touching. You just want to make sure that she'll be all right. By the novel's end though, you know that she'll pull through.

Read this book if:
  1. You know that family is important, no matter how eccentric and sharp-tongued they can be.
  2. You looked forward to spending your summers away from home.
  3. You miss your childhood friends.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Checking out a local bestseller

This weekend, I decided to go local with my reading. Considering that stories originally published in Wattpad are all the rave, I checked out the grandmama of them—Bianca Bernardino's She's Dating the Gangster. Bernardino's online novel has found its way to print, and I've heard that it's even going to be adapted to the big screen. So I'm curious.

My curiosity eventually becomes a huge disappointment as I turned the final page. I had high hopes for She's Dating the Gangster. But it's confusing, infuriating, frustrating, and tiring. Is this what young people these days are reading? Shallow drivel. If this novel began the trend of new adult novels in the country, then I shiver at the thought of reading the countless stories it has spawned.

Bernardino's novel starts interestingly enough. Kenji, the high school heartthrob, missends a text message to Athena, who he thinks is his ex-girlfriend, who is also named Athena. The ex is later called Abigail, probably to avoid confusion. I think that the ex can be called anything, as she has absolutely no character at all. It would even have helped it she'd have been nameless. (I think the same is true for the supporting characters. They're cookie cutter characters without any distinct voice.)

Anyway, Kenji is hellbent on getting back with Abigail, so he strikes a deal with Athena. All Athena has to do is to pretend that she's now Kenji's girlfriend. Hopefully, Abigail will see them all lovey-dovey and become jealous. (Yes, the novel somehow makes you think that jealousy leads to exes getting back. Warped thinking, if I may say.)

All the clich├ęs are here. Good girl eventually falls for the bad boy. Female character gets sick and dies, but not before male character proposes marriage. Video footage being played that shows the dead character's stupid message to the one left behind. Screaming, lovesick teenage girls squeal a lot and defend the high school gangster. This is so unintentionally funny because they would even gang up on the girl they're jealous of.

I find no redeeming quality to She's Dating a Gangster. There's a pretentious allusion to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but it just leads to even more stupidity. When Athena dies and leaves Kenji still a mess (even if one year has already passed), Kenji decides to take his own life by swallowing pills. By dying, he thinks that Athena and he will never be apart anymore. Whatever.  I'd rather have a root canal than read this pointless story again.

I'm glad that more and more people are reading though. And that a lot of them are coming up with stories that other people read. I only hope that these readers develop a hunger, a craving for something more satisfying. And that our local writers recognize this craving and answer it by telling stories with more substance.

Read this novel if:
  1. This is the last book on earth.
  2. You have no qualms about two sweethearts calling each other Sexylove and Lovebabe.
  3. Oh, don't bother.