Archive for November, 2010

November 24, 2010

Day 07 – Annoying Plot Devices

Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

This will be brief because I’m exhausted today, sorry. One of my biggest pet peeves in reading are POV changes within a single scene when it’s done for no reason. This is different from an Omniscient Point of View where the narrator is a naturally freewheeling voice, like in old Victorian novels. These POV shifts frustrate me the most when it comes to romance novels because the thing that makes the angst compelling for me is insecurity and doubt. I just feel that this device is the lazy way to write. I wish you would stop doing this, Johanna Lindsey. ;_;

Note: I don’t mind changes in POV after the scene or a chapter has finished. Within a scene, however, it gives me whiplash.

November 23, 2010

Day 06 – Favorite of a Favorite

Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise

This meme has been difficult to answer at times because it shows the holes in my reading preferences. All the questions regarding trilogies, quadrilogies or series gave me some pause since I don’t generally follow or finish book series the way many of my friends do. The only one I’ve ever done so was Harry Potter, and I haven’t even read the last book yet (I know, I know. But I’ve read the spoilers and I’m sure it’ll make me cry).

I’m choosing my favorite book in what can be loosely described as a series. Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey books have been a long-time favorite. Several elements make that pop in and out of the books make them enjoyable, particularly the amazing Harriet Vane. My favorite Vane-featured novel is Have His Carcase. But although Murder Must Advertise does not feature Harriet, it’s still my favorite. I have already made a review post for this title so I’ll keep my reasons brief.

For one, it’s such a witty romp of a book, with witty commentary about the advertising business in post-World War I London, and how advertisers seldom really look out for their customer’s well being. There’s also something delightful and Peter Wimsey going undercover.

November 22, 2010

Day 05 – Book Hatred

Day 05 – A book or series you hate

I’m going to give you guys a twofer for this. First is Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Books.

I’m going to come off sounding a little defensive by stating first that I absolutely have nothing against Chick Lit. I was and still am a fan of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and several of Meg Cabot’s books. One of my top favorite books, Melissa Banks’ Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is considered Chick Lit by some, though with a slightly more literary bent.

This book enrages me so much and I can’t quite articulate why. I think it’s a mixture of serious financial debt being treated lightly in a novel while blithely promoting luxury consumerism at the same time. I think it’s the fact that there are twenty million sequels to this book. I only read (skimmed? I didn’t really read through the end I was pretty disgusted) but I already found the protagonist unlikeable and unrelatable at all. This wouldn’t be much of a big deal if I didn’t believe that it’s exploiting a cynical aspect of modern culture, ie being obsessed with brands for no apparent reason other than sublimating our self-worth to our possessions. I am also of the opinion that this book is the reason why chick lit gets a bad name and why these kinds of themes seems to have bled over to romantic comedy movies. But that is an entirely different rant altogether.

And while we’re on the subject of dismissing large swathes of books in one unthinking sweep, let’s talk about Philip Roth’s entire body of work. I’ve read through two titles of him (Portnoy’s Complaint, Everyman) and I don’t know why I even bothered. He is nowhere near as insightful or interesting as say, John Coetzee or Umberto Eco or Julian Barnes, or any number of male contemporary writers I can think of. His subject matter doesn’t interest me at all, and reading his books makes me think of slogging through the Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. There might be one novel in his bibliography that would blow my mind or something, but I’m not really include to discover which. I was going to list John Updike’s novels too but since he is in no danger to foist another one to the public, I’m going to stick with Philip.

November 21, 2010

Day 04 – Favorite Book Ever

Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

I have a tendency to become weepy about books I really like, and this novel by far has caused me the most alarming degree of obsession. In fact, many questions in this meme had me thinking to myself, “Kavalier and Clay is perfect for this!” So you may see a repeat of this book in another meme answer, be warned.

This is a tour de force novel about comic books and about the Holocaust. About unrequited love and the inherent burden of survival when so many people haven’t. Joe Kavalier and Sam Klayman are cousins who would find themselves in multiple fronts of history: from the beginnings of Hitler’s advance in Europe, to the burgeoning industry that will be known as the Golden Age of Comics Books in America. Chabon interweaves world events with his characters’ rich personal lives and although the book is fiction, there’s a lot of details regarding the often cutthroat industry the comics business was back then.

November 20, 2010

Day 03 – Best Book of the Year

Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

I’ve just finished this book and I’ve probably going to make a proper review of this book soon-ish, but my reticence with non-fiction works has been effectively overturned by this book. It’s a fascinating mixture of true crime and history. I loved how Erik Larson used a singular event (the 1983 Chicago World’s Fair) to talk about various aspects of the Gilded Age. Society, architecture, public sanitation, and law enforcement, and one of the most disturbed serial killers since Jack the Ripper converged during one of the most ambitious endeavors of the 19th century. The prose itself is pretty utilitarian but it served the subject matter very well.

If you’re a history buff, or a fan of TV shows like Criminal Minds, you would definitely enjoy it.

November 19, 2010

Daily Webcomic Strip – Formspring Question

Do you only read sequential webcomics? Might you have any suggestions for any particularly witty daily strip ones?

Thanks for the question, Taka! I’ve made an effort to read daily strips but to be honest, titles like Penny Arcade or PvP Online don’t really appeal to me. They’re much too dependent to geek culture for their jokes.

Two of the titles that really amuse me are Robot Beach because it reminds me of old-school strips in newspapers and Edmund Finney’s Quest to Find the Meaning of Life because of the quirky, and sometimes morbid sense of humor. The Abominable Charles Christopher is both sequential and strippy and I love that too.

Ask me anything

November 19, 2010

Day 02 – Ray Bradbury fanclub, party of one

Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

This is such a pretty cover, I wish my copy has this. Anyway, the short lifespan of his blog has already demonstrated my affection towards Ray Bradbury and his works, and I’m going to do more of the same today. Something Wicked is part scary story, part coming-of-age tale about two boys on the cusp of adulthood who find themselves confronting the burden of growing up and shedding the innocence that they’ve always enjoyed. It also features the scariest way to utilize a carousel ride ever. EVER. I stake my reputation on that.

I feel like Ray Bradbury’s works, with the exception of Fahrenheit 451, have been largely overlooked, mostly because he opts to write using old fashioned, nostalgic language. His subject matter is also significantly less “edgy” than SFF authors like Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. Still, if you want a good horror book, or a poignant tale of childhood and what we leave behind, I totally recommend this.

November 18, 2010

Day 01 – Too Damn Long

Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)

Naomi Novik’s Temeraire Series

This choice may come off as a bit unfair, since I enjoyed the three titles I’ve read so far (His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War) and I can sort of see the appeal of an extended narrative within this universe. But my enjoyment has steadily diminished with each subsequent book, mostly because there’s an accumulation of instances that seem iffy or problematic.

They are very fannish books, in that they invite readers to fill in the blanks in terms of Laurence and Temeraire’s motivations and their interactions with the minor characters, but I guess that the thing that make them less enjoyable to me as time wears on. I keep expecting a complete narrative within a single book, where overarching themes and repercussions are pretty much laid out by the end of the novel. And there are times in Black Powder War where I feel like the narration already boils down to minutiae, perhaps because Naomi Novik is trying to stretch out the characterization over several books.

I guess if it was a trilogy or a quadrilogy, it would’ve been fine, but nine books, I feel, is stretching it.

November 18, 2010

30 Days of Books Mastelist

I guess I’m way behind in literary news myself, since I was all excited to tell you the totally up-to-date and breaking news that Mario Vargas Lllosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature. : ( Still, NPR’s Pop Culture blog made a brief article about Vargas Llosa’s victory, which you should read.

But the reason for making this post is to list the 30 Days of Books meme I’ve decided to do to make this blog much more productive. It’ll at least ensure a post from me everyday, and that’s always a good thing. I’m going to answer the first one today on a separate post, so watch out for that!

Day 01A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Day 02A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months

November 16, 2010

Still alive!

I’ve been remiss at blogging on the weekend because of RL issues, Manny Pacquiao and an ill-advised marathon of 24 titles. I’ll hopefully get back into the rhythm of things by tomorrow, with a few literary news from the internet. Thank you for reading!

November 12, 2010

Nabokov’s Last Novel Almost Burned and Thoughts on Lost Books

It was one of those literary scandals that would seem trivial to many, but was a matter of earthshaking importance to the World of Letters. Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladmir Nabokov (writer famous for the controversial novel Lolita), had been tasked with the decision whether or not to burn the manuscript of his father’s last unfinished novel, titled The Original of Laura.

As part of his last will and testament, the older Nabokov wanted his notes burned after his death. According to Dmitri, his father couldn’t take the idea that his most cherished work, “the most concentrated distillation of [his] creativity,” to see the light of day in its unfinished form.

November 11, 2010

The Melancholy of Cultural Identity in Dean Alfar’s Short Fiction

I made this in early 2007 I think, since we were studying post-colonialism. I wanted to frame this kind of critical thought around the two stories by Dean Alfar that really struck me for their themes. This is only the first part and it’s horribly incomplete; I seem to remember that this paper came to a total of 9 pages. There was even a specific reading of L’Aquilone du Estrellas and The Middle Prince that has seemed to be lost within the bowels of my hard drive.

Looking back on it three years later, I can see a lot of difference in the literary climate today. For one, there’s a mention of the lack of printing venues for fantasy and science fiction aside from indie publishing. I mentioned that in the essay but that was before Anvil released it’s own line of Fantasy titles. I’m pretty sure many of my former assumptions have changed (or have been modified, at least) since then.

In his introduction for Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 2, editor and writer Dean Francis Alfar discusses the category “Philippine Speculative Fiction.” Presented with the demand to define it, he gives a simple answer: “[It is] speculative fiction written by Filipinos (“Introduction” ix).” He then asserts that as more Filipinos write science fiction, fantasy, and other genres in between, the “Filipino perspective” will sharpen, moving towards the ultimate goal of developing stories that can be seen as distinct products of the Filipino imagination. He then articulates the Filipino spec writer’s “anxiety about [their] national identity (x),” especially when confronted with the question of “Filipino-ness” in terms characters, settings, and even themes.

This clamor for definition is a legitimate one. Recently, there have been several forays at publishing “genre fiction” by Filipino writers, demonstrated by publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Story Philippines and the various titles produced by Psicom Publishing. It’s not that Filipinos haven’t been writing such stories until now. Filipino pop culture is riddled with such characters as Darna, Captain Barbel, and Pedro Penduko, and few can dispute how their storylines fit neatly under this umbrella term. However, as interest in genre grows and its practitioners attain higher levels of sophistication, the question of authenticity in these works as Filipino creations comes into question.

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