Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
I am glad to announce that I have finally completed this year’s Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! Whee. My previous update was last 8 October 2016, and for the record, I technically finished everything last 3 December – so here marks my final post on the only reading challenge we joined this year.
The Ask And The Answer
A Novel by: Patrick Ness
Published by: Walker Books, 2009 ISBN: 1406310263 (ISBN13: 9781406310269). Literary Awards: Costa Book Award for Children’s Book (2009), Carnegie Medal Nominee (2010)
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.
My daughter and I started reading this second book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy early this year (having completed the first book last year). It was very slow-going for us, since we can only read a few pages each night (if at all) – given the demands of her secondary school. And so when the school year ended during the last week of October and the end-of-year exams are over and done with, we really got down to business and read several chapters a night.
I reviewed this series a few years back (see here) with my review centred on Mistress Coyle who I found fascinating, at the time. My daughter could not help but associate some links as well to The Hunger Games and draw parallels between Coyle and President Coin, and the Governor in The Walking Dead with Mayor Prentiss.
We do movie casting in our heads, yes, as we read the books aloud. The Ask And The Answer is as fast-paced as I remembered it to be, not to mention multi-faceted with notions of terrorism tangled along with heroism and righteous justifications of war and all that it entails (very timely, I thought). When we reached the middle part when the Spackles were being tagged and numbered (and inevitably eliminated), it brought to mind my daughter’s experience when she visited the Dachau Concentration Camp in Munich early this year with her father (I went to the place last year and was not too keen on doing a repeat).
What my daughter couldn’t fathom was the Spackle tagged 1017’s utter dislike for Todd, after the latter has saved him repeatedly from being killed. It makes one reflect on the gradations of culpability – and actions that are perceived to be more damning than others, what it means to simply be following orders in a numbed, indifferent, unthinking fashion – and what that does to one’s soul.
Despite the fact that this book is a re-read for me, it still managed to make me think very deeply about how these kinds of events – while crafted in a dystopian universe with multiple moons – seem so achingly real, because people never really learn, until they do, until it’s too late, until damage is irrevocable and there is no turning back any longer. I also found it interesting how my 14 year old girl felt immensely impatient with both Viola and Todd – she claims she hates all of the characters and that she wouldn’t mind if they all blow themselves up to perdition – except for Wilf. Yet like me, she couldn’t stop reading either. It made me think as well whether I originally thought of the characters of Viola and Todd to be unsympathetic – she claims that she doesn’t “ship them” in the least, preferring Lee to Todd. She also couldn’t understand how Viola could possibly inflict self-mutilation just to be with Todd whose stubbornness annoys her to no end, that she screams aloud in frustration in some parts of the novel. More than anything, I am glad that it elicits such a visceral response. Needless to say, it was a quick and enjoyable read for us, and we are now in the first few chapters of Monsters of Men. Given what is going on in the world right now, the Chaos Walking Trilogy should be required reading in schools.
(21/24) Read a book out loud to someone else.
Frozen (Heart Of Dread #1)
A Novel by: Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston
Published by: Orchard Books, 2014 ISBN: 9781408334.
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
A Novel by: N. K. Jemisin
Published by: Orbit, 2015 ISBN: 0316229296 (ISBN13: 9780316229296) Literary Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (2016), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015), Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (2016), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2015)
Bought personal copy of the book.
Part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is to read the first book in a series by a person of colour. Naturally, I had to read two. Frozen is set in a dystopian world in New Vegas (think of a futuristic Las Vegas where people die but still go to play in the casinos) in the RSA (the Remaining States of America). It took a great deal of willpower for me to get through the book with all the eye-rolling going on and the impatient huff and the occasional glazed inattention. Clearly, I am not the target market for this novel. I really wanted to enjoy it especially after finding out that this is partly written by a Filipino-American author. The setting also reminded me more of Downtown Vegas, or the Old Strip as it is called, with less glitter and glamour, but more character I felt (see images I have taken when we were there a few years back):
This glitzy world as we know it is blanketed in ice. A teenaged girl named Natasha Kestal (concealing her considerable powers) needed to enlist the help of a crew of mercenaries led by the staggeringly handsome (but of course) Ryan Wesson to get to the Blue, where rumour has it, she would find safety and refuge. While believed to be a mythical land, Natasha possesses the map (or key as found in her necklace) that will lead them there. What made me sit up and take notice of the narrative was when the author alluded to something most Filipinos would recognize as seen in the quote below. I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app:
A turo-turo is also known as a carinderia – where home-cooked meals could be bought at a dirt-cheap price, often found in the slums of Manila. I just wonder how different the story would be if given more diverse characterization that is a little more nuanced, because there is so much possibility here in terms of how to move the story forward. That being said, I would still most likely read the other books in the series just to see whether the story grows in due time.
The Fifth Season deserves a review of its own. Needless to say, it is fully deserving of all the awards/accolades it has been receiving thus far. In fact, I think it deserves more.
(22/24) Read the first book in a series by a person of colour.
A Novel by: Miguel Syjuco
Published by: Picador, 2010 ISBN: 0330513893 (ISBN13: 9780330513890). Literary Awards: Man Asian Literary Prize (2008), Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for English Novel, Grand Prize (2008)
Bought my own copy of the book.
This is another book that I wanted to like. I find myself gravitating to stories about what is happening (or what has happened) to the Philippines, especially now that it appears we are destined to commit the same errors that we have done in the past. While I did find a measure of illumination (marginally), I simpy could not connect to the characters. I am not sure if it was because of the literary bricolage employed as the main literary style by the author – with fragments shared about a promdi in America (think Fresh Off the Boat, except infinitely more hicktown), mixed in with Syjuco’s own influential and evidently-old-rich family who lived for a time in Canada with the grandparents, mixed in with stories written by Crispin Salvador, the author who Syjuco is attempting to portray or characterize in the novel – just to cite a few.
It has a very expatriate vibe to it, which I suppose is to be expected given the title Ilustrado, a Spanish term used to refer to the erudite, enlightened, the learned ones; the mestizo not so much the Indio in Filipino parlance. While fictional, the discerning reader who is aware of Philippine history could see parallels to names and allusions that Syjuco played around with. While I admire the literary craftsmanship and the discipline required to pull off this kind of writing that draws together various threads from diverging storylines (yet still managing to keep track of all of them in one’s head), I found that it got in the way of my affective engagement as a reader. But then again, perhaps it is precisely this disconnect or the disaffectation that the author is trying to achieve. However, it served to alienate the characters in my mind who seem wrapped up in their own elite, literary, much-touted-intellectual world that is only coming from a very privileged sector of the community – even the story of the promdi (meant to be comic relief for the most part) is perceived from the conyo sensibility. While reading the story feels like slipping into familiar territory, it is also a world that is alien to me – or one that I cursorily read about in the Lifestyle Section of the papers – all fluff and glamour and perfectly coiffed hair, but barely scratching the surface of gritty truths underneath, realities that probably are also as unfamiliar to the main voice of the story – as this world is to me. That being said, I would still read anything that Miguel Syjuco writes.
(23/24) Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
Niño Wrestles The World
Written and Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales Narrated by: Adriana Sananes
Published by: Dreamscape Media, 2015 ISBN: 163379847X (ISBN13: 9781633798472). Literary Awards: Young Listeners, 2016 Audie Award Finalist
Audiobook borrowed from the library.
True confessions. I was supposed to listen to the audiobook of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep for this reading challenge, as read aloud by Will Patton and an Author’s Note narrated by Stephen King himself.
And then I found myself grabbing my physical copy of the novel while listening along to Will Patton’s stellar reading – and finding myself reading way way ahead, and I realized this is simply not going to work. Audiobooks, clearly, are not for me. Then Akilah from The Englishist very kindly told me about a category for children’s list with the Audies, and I knew that a ten-minute limit would be just about perfect for me. Thank you, Niño, for rescuing me. You are indeed my hero. I have written a fairly extensive review of the picturebook version here that you may want to check out. I think this makes for a good audiobook because of all the “Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch!” that a lot of young readers would enjoy listening to.
(24/24) Listen to an audio book that has won an Audie award.
And so, that is that! Thank you, Book Riot, for extending my reading boundaries this year. If you wish to see all of my reviews for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, click here to be taken to all those progress updates and book lists.