happy winter solstice

21 December 2013

source: unknown

I have not died

10 December 2013

source: unknown (if you know it, message me)
Also, this made me incredibly happy for some reason, so I thought I'd share it with you
Hello readers!
   It's been so long! I'm actually incredibly surprised that my number of followers hasn't exponentially decreased--in fact, the number hasn't budged at all! My only reasonable excuse for my absence is that this is my junior year and my ability to conform to the American school system's rigid and narrow-minded set-up has resulted in lower than wanted grades. It frustrates me that they're so low, and not in the A-B frame of mind, but the A-B-C-possibly D frame of mind. I'm usually an A-B student, and this is my first year where I'm actually struggling at borderline failing. This has resulted in stress and self-deprecation to the extent where instead of writing blog posts or reading books--two things I enjoy immensely,  I would curl up and scroll endlessly to the vast, mind-numbing expanses of Tumblr and the narcissistic landscape of Facebook, and let's not forget the sea of Youtube. I'm not proud of this, and my view of myself is not one that I like. One could say this is due to the fact that I gained five pounds, granted the doctor said I was underweight--but if you know anything about weight, this is the fat kind, not the muscle kind. Junior year has not been kind, and only now do I understand the rumours and the complaining all the upperclassmen did last year. I now know that they were perfectly entitled to their complaining. But, you see, I go to a school where standards are very high. I do not know anyone that has less than As and Bs. This high level competition only exacerbates my anxiety and I wish I could forget this all and just sit down and read a book like old times. Apart from the external forces that appear to be conspiring against me, internal forces too compel me to feel uncomfortable--like that tiny voice that keeps telling me "It would be different if you were a boy". For example, most of my shopping experience consists of me ogling the fine quality and delicious stitching of men's department clothing. I found a blazer the other day that I lusted after--only realising that my shoulders were not broad enough to fill it in. I still bought a blazer though, and it is fine.  Still waiting for the right occasion to wear it.
  Now, I have been reading. For school, yes, and also on my free time, if such a thing exists any more. I've been reading Socialist essays by Oscar Wilde and I finished reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It was not a good book, let me tell you this, not a good book at all. I thought it'd be about Buddha, but it wasn't.

 I have no idea where to start reading again as winter break approaches ever so slowly. I thought it'd be best to make a list and prepare for blissful reading. This morning, I read a BBC article about famous French novels and it seemed to me that other forces were conspiring this time to help me. But I'd also enjoy other recommendations. Preferably classics. My endeavour to enrich my knowledge of the classics has not ended, and I feel out of the loop when it comes to young adult books. Many of my peers are all reading them. One asked me yesterday, "Have you read Divergent?" and I said, "No, but I know that it's very popular". Other books catch me by surprise, like "Bitterblue is already out?!" or "This author published another book?!" I know several years ago, I would have been thrilled, but now I'm more surprised than anything. I remember anxiously waiting for the release of Bitterblue, but now that it's out, and apparently it has been for quite some time, I don't feel that same excitement.

 Anyway. Recommendations!
 Also, how have you all been? I haven't heard from you guys in ages--do comment telling me how you're doing and what's changed!

P.S. In the midst of my poor marks, I'd like to mention I was one of the select few that got a perfect score on my writing exam (it's a graduation requirement for all high schoolers). I'd like to thank you all for allowing me to achieve this goal by writing reviews--it forces me to be eloquent. Reading truly does make you a better writer--remember this!

bonne nuit!

review: middlesex

15 October 2013

book info:
on sale now
copy from: brother's bookshelf
pages: 544
review written: 30/9/13-
edition read: Picador
originally published: September 16, 2003

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

My thoughts:
When I read the first few pages, my first impression was that this was to be a rambling book in which I will know none of what is being talked about. Kind of like how I felt when I read Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle for the first time. I put the book down and attempted to read Oryx and Crake and some Shakespeare and made the amazing decision of coming back to it. Lesson learned, as always: if at first you don't like a book--at least give it a chance.
I read this book through and through. Before, I used to skim and read books quickly. But Eugenides writing is so rich and beautiful, I didn't want to miss a word. In fact, I had to place it down several times in a reading because the words were too rich for me. That's the kind of amazing Middlesex is.

The story begins with an excited Greek household in America. A grandmother holds her spoon in front of a pregnant mother, attempting to find out the sex of her grand-baby within. The family is overjoyed to find out it's a daughter, but the grandmother has her fears. Then the story flips back generations, like rewinding a film, where we find the origins of Calliope's story, in a small village in Greece. The grandmother becomes a young woman.

 The writing is rich and thick and would be appropriate for older audiences, like older teens and onwards. Pre teens will find this a difficult and boring book. I know I would have hated it if I read it at thirteen. Now, as I've said time and time again, the characters are most important. But I think in this book, that principle is an exception. Middlesex is truly a story of a story, not a story of a person. It spans generations in a fluid, flawless manner. The smooth cover accurately represents the story. The smooth smoke and the calm waters-that's the book. An ocean at the top to the polluted city of Detroit at the bottom. Basically, that's the story from start to finish. It's a story that's full-circle--it closes where it begins.

 My favourite character was not the main character, Calliope, but the grandmother, Desdemona. Truly, this was her story. Calliope was just the voice to tell it. Desdemona is a beautiful young woman in a near abandoned old village in Asia Minor. The Turkish are advancing and the danger of take over is imminent. Her character develops from a hopeful young woman to a distraught and broken old lady. Reading her develop, with a sense of regret, I watched her become so different. In our own lives, five years make little difference. But ten, then twenty, and then fifty--the past becomes so much more clear. And the sort of the stories that genuinely start from birth to death, or at least close to those extremities, are stories that are truly human stories.

The moment when I became most excited was when I was reading and stumbled upon what I perceived to be the thesis. It was quite an amazing feeling to find the thesis in a fiction novel, and for that thesis to be so clear that I stopped in my tracks and let out a soft "oh my god".

These were the profound words:

"Living sends a person not into the future but back into the past"
-Jeffery Eugenides (forgot to write down the page number)

  If that doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't there's any other way for me to convince you that this is a godly book. I give it five umbrellas out of six!

happy september!

04 September 2013


Happy September everyone!
  I'm four days late in wishing you all this, but nonetheless! Here is my favourite month, the month of my birth. I was born on the 6th and the number six has always been my special number that I treasure. I'll be turning seventeen this month! There's so much I need to be thinking about at this point in my life and its so overwhelming and I hate thinking about it so I'll stop. Anyway--have a happy September! I hope to post at least two book reviews this month! Thanks for sticking with me thus far--I haven't participated in blogging recently. It's been this downward decline since middle school, but I'm still here and so are you!

I love you all!

review: nausea

31 August 2013

credit: Josh Olins
book info:
on sale: now
copy from: Amazon
review written: 16/8/13
edition read: New Directions Paperback
originally published: 1938 Paris
(Just a small FYI: I read this book many months ago and never got around to doing a review.)

Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogues his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which "spreads at the bottom of a viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time--the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats: it is made a wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain"

Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature (though he declined to accept it), Jean-Paul Sartre, philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist,  holds a position of singular eminence in the world of French letters. La Nausee, his first and best novel (1938), is a landmark in Existential fiction and a key work in the twentieth century.
--from back cover

A nihilist, philosophical friend of mine introduced me to this book. She gave me a raving recommendation, and I hastened to purchase this beautiful book. The New Directions Paperback is lovely--I think its a fraction of the reason why I loved the book so much. The font, the small, cut pages and soft feel of the book cover and pages accentuated the melancholy impression I got of this book. I read it under lamplight, at late hours of the night, beside a window opened to a dark sky and cool, fresh air. Definitely, the environment played a role in my love of this book. It's the kind of book that would go great with a hot cup of tea too.

Jean-Paul Sartre is famously well known in the literary world, and is considered the father of Existential writing. It was he that inspired Albert Camus, author of The Stranger. Nausea is a fiction novel, which is said to be his best novel. A fun fact: his lifetime partner is Simone de Beavoir. I have a copy of her book The Second Sex and deeply admire her.  In the Editor's Note, the first page of the book, Sartre gives background on the basis of the story. The diary of Roquentin was written January 1932 after his travels through Central Europe, North Africa and the Far East. He came back to Bouville, his home town, to finish his research on Marquis de Rollebon. Like I mentioned above, the cover of this book is my favourite. This version, actually, is the best. If one is going to read this book, it has to be this version.

The main character is incredibly difficult to describe. I'd call him the quintessential Existential character. Antione Roquentin is a man that is sickened with a feeling he titles "nausea" associated with his very existence. He loathes existence. He comes off as depressed, but I think that there's more to his "illness of the mind" than depression. There are times when I empathise with him, and there are others where I don't. Wikipedia accurately summarises his character when I am at loss of words--"The novel takes place in 'Bouville,' a town similar to Le Havre, and it concerns a dejected historian, who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea."

The story starts out with Roquentin exploring himself and his thoughts. He meets a man called the Self-Taught Man and becomes acquainted with him.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the descriptions. It's the reason I decided to buy the book--so I could always read the descriptions and be inspired. I find it absolutely amazing how Sartre can describe something in such a way that I can feel what he's talking about, and not only visualise. I'll take a quote from the first few pages so I don't ruin it for you. Antione is at a bar listening to a Negress sing.

"What has just happened is that the Nausea has disappeared. When the voice was heard in the silence, I felt my body harden and the Nausea vanish. Suddenly: it was almost unbearable to become so hard, so brilliant. At the same time the music was drawn out, dilated, swelled like a waterspout. It filled the room with its metallic transparency, crushing out miserable time against the walls. I am in the music. Globes of fire turn in the mirrors; encircled by rings of smoke, veiling and unveiling the hard smile of light..." (Sartre, 22)
The most surreal clip of film played in my head at those words. To not only visualise something, but to have it move like a Van Gogh painting is skilled writing. What I also loved was Sartre's philosophy, which is Existentialism. I read Camus's The Stranger first, and fell in love with the queer, quite peculiar way of looking at the world that Camus wrote of. There are many interesting points of life that Sartre explores and explains in the Existential view.

When I read, I got a strange feeling. It was depressing, yes, but it was almost as if I felt the Nausea that is the central theme of the story. I loved this book for the descriptions and the fascinating philosophy and psychology presented by Antoine's character. I give this book five umbrellas our of six! (P.S. thank you Grace Anna for the new rating system!)

review: catcher in the rye

28 June 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: book trade at school library
pages: 277
review written: 15/6/13-
edition read: First Back Bay Paperback Edition
originally published: 1951

Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories? Particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, second-hand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvellously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

My thoughts:
This is the one book, apparently, that everyone has to read once in his/her life. I didn't know how to feel going into the book, knowing that it was summer reading. I hate required reading because I have no choice in  whether or not I want to read it. If I had picked this off the shelf and flipped through it, I would've put it back right away and browsed the shelves for something more interesting. Unfortunately, I had to read this and it was shitty.

It took me WAY too long to read this, even when I was trying every single night. I got a page done a day: that's how bad it was. There were, however, good parts to this book that I would have enjoyed a lot were it not written so poorly. Holden made observations of people on his journey through New York and he described them in a way that I completely agreed with it. His observations apply to modern day as well, and despite being from the first-person point-of-view, I felt as if it were third person.

"..Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a very nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn't like the Disciples, then I didn't like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked  them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn't have the time to go around analysing everybody. I said I wasn't blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn't His fault that He didn't have any time. I remember I asked old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That's where I disagreed with him. I said I'd bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell...." (131)

I don't like all the comma splicing. And the way he keeps saying "and all" and "Anyway" and "old" behind everything. The entire book is written in colloquial language, as if Holden were talking directly to me. I found it a bit anything, with all the repetition and rambling. I was confused for the greatest time at what the point of this whole book was, and whether or not a plot actually existed.

The story begins in Pencey Prep, a very "preppy" school that Holden absolutely loathes. He's been expelled for poor grades and his parents are completely unaware of this. They just expect him to be home for break on Wednesday, but Holden can't wait until then. So he gathers up his vast amount of money and leaves the dorms early on a trip through New York. Holden is really the only ever-present character. He has no "side-kicks" or foils or anybody to keep him company. He simply walks around and complains. Holden reminds me of a condescending, aloof Frenchman that observes the world for far-away eyes. To me, Holden felt detached, thus my early note that the book appeared to me to be written in the third person, not the first.

The actual story itself I did not enjoy. I don't know what else to "review" in this review, so I'll keep it brief. As a standard "classic" that almost every high-school student must read for school, my recommendation of "Don't read this for pleasure, it's worthless" will go to waste.  If you haven't read this already, and you have the choice to, don't read this. It's not worth your time.

giveaway: follow me on bloglovin!

14 June 2013

Hello readers!
  It's been ages since I've done a giveaway, and I thought with Google Friend Connect going away, I'd like to ask you all to follow me on Bloglovin! This giveaway is for a hardback (with jacket and all), perfectly brand new like copy of The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she's found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.

To Gemma's delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma's charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma's standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she's never dreamed.

Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy--a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre--is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.

I thought it was a great book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

review: brave new world

02 June 2013

Print Giveaway Coming Soon
book info:
on sale: now
copy from: book trade at school library
pages: 259
review written: 24/5/13--2/6/13
edition read: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
originally published: 1932

Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.

But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was born in the upper-middle class of English society in Surrey, England. He attended Eton College (where he lost sight for two years) and then moved on to study at Balliol College where he receiveBd a BA in English He is the writer of Crome Yellow, The Doors of Perception, and Island. Initial reactions to his book Brave New World were negative. One of the worst was "[He] has money, social position, talent, friends, prestige, and he is effectively insulated frm the misery of the masses. Of course he wants something to worry about--even if he has to go a long, long way to find it...Mr Huxley must have his chance to suffer and be brave" This may have come from the fact that Huxley did not fight in World War II, but nonetheless was a cruel remark. "With the rise of Facism in western Europe and a world shaken by massive economic depression, perhaps the novel hit too close to bone"

my thoughts:
Brave New World is a modern classic, a fiction work intended to warn readers of a possible but "unimaginable" future. The title is quite interesting, and comes from a bit of dialogue that a character says in wonder "O brave new world...O brave new world that has such people in it" when he "falls in love" with another character. I think he must have meant a new world in that love changes his perception of the world, or more obviously the "utopia" (or "dystopia") that the whole book depicts. There's an interesting epigraph before the book starts that was originally in Russian, but translated in the book to French, of which I got translated to English.

Les utopies apparaissent bien plus réalisables qu'on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante : comment éviter leur réalisation définitive ?… Les utopies sont réalisables. La vie marche vers les utopies. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d'éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société non utopique moins "parfaite" et plus libre.
"Utopias seem to be much more achievable than we formerly believed them to be. Now we find ourselves presented with another alarming question: how do we prevent utopias from coming into existence? …Utopias are possible. Life tends towards the formation of utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which intellectuals and the privileged will dream of ways to eliminate utopias and return to a non-utopic society less “perfect” and more free.”
– Nicholas Berdiaeff, translated from the French by Shmoop
Epigraphs are key in knowing what a book is about, and unfortunately, I didn't translate it before I read. If I had, I think I would have read the book differently. If Brave New World was an essay, then that quote would be the thesis. Now the cover of the book, the one shown next to the summary, is my favourite. It shows pale, vague forms of humans in marching position, imitating soldiers, which go with the time period this was written in, with the rise of Facist Italy and Socialist/Nazi Germany. I thought of Nazi Germany when I saw this cover (I read the book with the cover as a man in a suit with a machine contraption on his head) because in this book, there are massive numbers of "twins" synthetically produced to create the perfect "work-force" and large amounts of people look exactly alike. This could be similar to what Hitler attempted to do by creating the "perfect Aryan race" of blonde and blue-eyed Germans. At the time of its publication, it's understandable why people didn't like his book.

Taking place in modern-day London, the book begins with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The tour takes the reader through how humans are mass-produced and conditioned to believe the same things, following the saying "If a lie is told enough times, it becomes the truth". After that really interesting introduction, the characters are introduced. First, Lenina Crowne, a beautiful and popular girl who has slept with hundreds of men. Then Bernard Marx, the outlier, and lastly the most important character: John the Savage, the "uncivilised" outsider who to us would appear the most civilised.

Some of the minor characters include Fanny, Lenina's friend to whom she blabbers to about men and clothing ("He's so ugly!"). There's Helmholtz, Bernard's fellow social outcast. And there's Linda, John the Savage's mother. Now humans are artificially produced, and the family unit is a taboo occurrence of the past. John having a mother is shocking, and equally shocking is that Linda, who grew up in this utopia of London, is the mother. All these supporting characters are crucial to understanding the main ones. There's a term for them that I forgot that means "a character that brings the good or bad out of another character". They're all foil characters.

There's one thing about this book that makes me not like it. I don't think I can blame Huxley for it, but the role of women in this novel is degrading. Is it so impossible to imagine, I asked myself, that in the future (the utopia) that gender equality could exist? Lenina's role in this book is like all wimpy, supporting-actress, damsel-in-distress, "oh dear, oh my! how positively horrid!" kind of women that existed back in the 1920s, The Roaring Twenties, the age of flappers. Lenina is depicted in one scene as a "whore" but there isn't one where the men are depicted as say "man-whores" and there isn't anything explicitly degrading them for sleeping with tons of women. In fact, in this society, that's still considered a level of one's status: number of girls a man has slept with = popularity.

Apart from the blaring issue of gender inequality, the "warning" of the story was clear, but a bit wasted, I think. Mass production today is certainly de-humanising the world, ever since the 1970s I think (or way back to 1800s (Industrial Revolutions). French graduate students protested not being able to find jobs after getting out of university, shouting "Métro, boulot, dodo" or "train commute, mindless work, sleep" highlighting the new age. Though we haven't come to the point of artificially "birthing" human babies large scale, advances in science can definitely do just that.

Overall, I think Brave New World was a so-so book. I liked it enough, but I don't recommend this. If you've read this, what do you think?

armchair bea: keeping it real

01 June 2013

my road of blogging, there's many more posts to come :)

Hello readers and visitors!
   I feel awful because I haven't been visiting as many blogs as I'd like to. I'll definitely put more of an effort today! And for those who haven't been lazy like I have and have found your way to this post: I admire you so much. Thanks for stopping by!

How do you not only grow an audience, but how do you keep them coming back for more?

I'd like to say I've only lost 1 follower since reaching over 650. And I keep saying that the only reason I seem to be able to keep this many is by being myself and being honest. I know that sounds absolutely over-said and sappy, but its true. Honesty is key in keeping an audience.

If you have been around for years, how do you keep your material fresh?

My material consists of reviews, and reviews are always fresh. They're just my analysis and opinion about a book: it varies for each book. There are some things that I repeat way too often, like how characters are key, how cheesy YA romances are, weak female heroines, unrealistically hot guys, how amazing The Shadow of the Wind is...all of these things I'm completely aware of. I haven't mentioned a few of them recently, except for The Shadow of the Wind (as you read earlier). I think all bloggers have similar experiences to mine. Those repeated things I listed above were only problems I reported when I read young adult fiction. Now, with classics, I don't have that problem, which is why I love classics and modern classics so much. I almost felt diseased when I kept reading pretty much the same things repeating over and over in different books, like a cacophony of bad literature (no offense) when I suddenly took this magic medicine that "cured" me. I'm diverting from the actual question: my apologies.

How do you continue to keep blogging fun?

Fun for me, or for my readers? I've kind of detached from the blogging world and my readers. I don't comment as often or visit blogs as often. I fear that it's what happened to me after reading too much young adult books: I became bored. I became over-critical and exhausted. I might still be, but I'm putting an effort into blogging again: thanks to Armchair BEA's schedule and topics given to me with deadlines. More than fun, I find blogging (more precisely, reviewing) crucial to me. The hiatuses I took...I completely forgot about blogging and didn't even think about it. But when I came back, I...enjoyed it. I enjoy formulating my thoughts into words and solidifying my opinions on a stable outlet. Why I need to keep blogging:

  • I'm more aware of who I am (as weird as that sounds). My honest thoughts can no longer hide in my head once their online. Like I said before, blogging solidifies my opinions. Not only on books, but on occasion I'll type something up and be like "Wow, that's deep. Do I really think that way?" After all, my typing is loads faster than my writing, and always easier to read than my "fast-writing".
  • I can keep track of books and my initial thoughts to them: My primary motive for blogging was to keep track of books. And of course, its interesting to see how my perspective changes later on when I look back at books I've read. This blog is like road of time: I can go back to certain dates and look at what I wrote, how I sounded like, who I was. Sadly, I wish I had kept another blog about my personal life. My diaries have been neglected for months, even years. My last entry before writing in it two days ago was last year.
I've never considered my blogging to be fun to others. I hope my readers enjoy what I write, and I'd like to think they stick around because they do. Another over-repeating motto I keep spewing out is "If you truly enjoy reading my blog, you're welcome to follow. If for any other reason you wish to follow my blog, I would reconsider". I don't want to make it seem like I'm some amazing blog that only exclusive people can read, no I just don't want to bother or waste other peoples time. Do something because you truly want to.

Ah, now that I have given you all my sagely, old-blogger wisdom (which totally went off-topic), what's your response? Leave a comment and I'll visit your post!

armchair bea: literary fiction

30 May 2013

This a genre I love so much, and I can't wait to discuss it! I'm not into reading recently published for many reasons. Mainly because its too expensive and because I'm focusing on classics. I feel like classics are the foundation to reading and I'm embarrassed that I don't know many classics. Granted, I have read many more than the average teenager, but its not enough for a bookaphile!

Are there any books I'm excited about (this year)?

I'm a massive Hosseini fan, and when I heard that this was coming out, I think a part of me died from excitement.

An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. 

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. 

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

What authors/novels would you recommend to someone new to the genre?

  1. Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. Khaled Hosseini
  3. Markus Zusak
  4. John Green

Honourable Mentions:
  1. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  2. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
  3. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Are there any misconceptions or things that you'd like to clear up for people unfamiliar with literary fiction?

I don't think there are any misconceptions about literary fiction, not so much as other genres like horror ("Oh no, I don't have the stomach for it") or mystery ("I always flip to the end! Haha, I can't stand not knowing!") or fantasy ("Just a bunch of dragons and voodoo magic, bah. It's not realistic!"). Literary fiction just is. While searching for titles, I tried not to tread into "classic" or "modern classic" territory because there's a thin, wavering border between them.

What got you started into this kind of book?

There was never a definitive moment where I just delved into literary fiction. I unknowingly started to read books that fit into the genre because I classified everything as "young adult fiction" and "adult fiction".

Name a novel that hasn't received a lot of buzz that definitely deserves it.

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah
In the tradition of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, acclaimed English travel writer Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true. By turns hilarious and harrowing, here is the story of his family’s move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore converge–and nothing is as easy as it seems….

Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife, Rachana, had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s caliph, or spiritual leader.

With its lush grounds, cool, secluded courtyards, and relaxed pace, life at Dar Khalifa seems sure to fulfill Tahir’s fantasy–until he discovers that in many ways he is farther from home than he imagined. For in Morocco an empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. The ardent belief in their presence greatly hampers sleep and renovation plans, but that is just the beginning. From elaborate exorcism rituals involving sacrificial goats to dealing with gangster neighbors intent on stealing their property, the Shahs must cope with a new culture and all that comes with it. 

Thank you all very much for stopping by! Leave a comment and a link to your own post so I can visit :D (psst: if you like my blog, I recommend following. A bit of shameless advertising, I know ^_^)

armchair bea: blogger development and genres

29 May 2013

Hello everyone!
   Today's discussion for Armchair BEA is Paths to Becoming a Better Blogger. I'd like to say I have experience as a blogger with almost five years, but I'm still growing.

Blogger Development

 Have I branched out in the community?

 No, I have not. I'm a closet-blogger and sometimes I feel that I should go out there and talk to people about Pages. But the opportunity hasn't struck.

Do I partner with other bloggers?

 Ah, the affiliate-craze of 2010. I was affiliates with Cate from Sparrow Review (she left), Liz from Cleverly Inked (also left), Brent from Naughty Book Kitties (stopped being affiliates) and my last, surviving afffiliate, Precious from Fragments of Life (we haven't done any big stuff of late!). On my writing blog, I hosted competitions with other bloggers and I'm planning another one now. As for Pages, I've been going solo.

How has my online personality developed over the years?

When I first started out as an almost-thirteen year old blogger, I was quite naive and immature. You can totally check out my old book reviews and such: HOW embarrassing. I wrote literally a sentence or two as a "review" and wrote comments on other blogs with excessive exclamation marks and emoticons. I can definitely say I've matured. My online personality has always reflected my actual personality: so its not as if I have a double identity: my real and my online one. They're two of the same and I believe its better that way. Keeping it real and being honest are two important aspects of my life. Besides, I don't want to show someone this website and have them say "Wow, doesn't sound like you at all". Blogs are an extension of the writer (like wands are to wizards).

Of course, I'm more formal and sophisticated when I blog than when I speak. I have the time to find the right words and being a writer, I can put my thoughts into words better than I can put my thoughts into verbal speech, if that makes sense?


As defined by Wikipedia:

Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.[1] Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction. Screenwriting teacher Robert McKee defines genre conventions as the "specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres."[2] These conventions, always fluid, are usually implicit, but sometimes are made into explicit requirements by publishers of fiction as a guide to authors seeking publication. There is no consensus as to exactly what the conventions of any genre are, or even what the genres themselves are; assigning of works to genres is to some extent arbitrary and subjective.
Genre fiction is often dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, cliched, and of poor quality prose.

I enjoy reading genre fiction and I hope to expand my tastes by exploring horror and thrillers. I enjoy escapism, and that's not something that should be criticised. Everyone wants escape. I don't know what else to discuss on this matter, so leave comments or links to your posts so I can visit them!

armchair bea: introduction

28 May 2013

Hello everyone!
 I am back from my hiatus! I've actually been working on a review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley these past few days to break the ice, but I'm procrastinating on that. Instead, I thought I'd do something more fun and interesting and current: like Armchair BEA!

 I've to chose from a list of questions, some that are such typical "interview" questions that I think I'll just link to posts where I've answered them in the full :) I hope you all don't get bored or anything, I'm not all that interesting!

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? 

Good question. Who am I? I don't know myself, and I don't want labels to define me. But it's the only way to put myself in words, so: reader, writer, student, friend, blogger. I have been blogging for 4 complete years and I'm going on my fifth (I started in October of 2008). I initially started blogging with a friend in elementary school about global warming issues, but decided I wanted a blog that I could run by myself on something else that I felt passionately about: reading.

2. Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? 

I have. I participated in 2012 (here) and I remember having fun and wanted to do it again! Honestly, I forgot until I saw another blogger's interview post and remembered. Don't look at me like that! I've been on hiatus, I had no idea!

3. What are you currently reading, or what is your favourite book you have read so far in 2013?

I haven't been keeping up with modern YA novels and in fact, I've been reading the classics, like Dracula and The Stranger. I'm currently reading Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. It's absolutely amazing!

Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize for Literature, Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist, holds a position of singular eminence in the world of letters. Among readers and critics familiar with the whole of Sartre's work, it is generally recognized that his earliest novel, La Nausée (first published in 1938), is his finest and most significant. It is unquestionably a key novel of the twentieth century and a landmark in Existentialist fiction.

Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogues his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which "spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time—the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain." Roquentin's efforts to come to terms with life, his philosophical and psychological struggles, give Sartre the opportunity to dramatize the tenets of his Existentialist creed.

4. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

Last year, I said J.K. Rowling. This year, I'll say...Albert Camus (The Stranger). First of all, he's pretty hot. He's my latest literary crush, and I think my first. He's got that suave, classy French feel about him.
Second of all, he's a French Existentialist (not the German sort) and I'd love to hear him "lecture" with me over a cup of cafe. Existentialism is a complicated subject matter and what I read tends to differ from other existential writings. I'd love to learn from Camus!

5. What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?

If you all have read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (its my writing-bible), then you'll know about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It's a secret library in Barcelona that safe-guards books. If one is introduced to it, then that person must chose a book to protect and is allowed to put a book inside. The setting of the novel is when the main character, Daniel, chooses a book called The Shadow of the Wind and learns that its the only surviving copy at that someone has been systematically destroying all copies of the works of Julian Carax (author of The Shadow of the Wind). It's such a romantic idea, and it sounds like a book lovers' paradise and hell all in one. That magical gothic feel I got for it while reading attracts me to it. If you haven't already read The Shadow of the Wind, I highly recommend it!

So there are my five questions! Thank you so much for stopping by, and have fun travelling to other blogs :)

review: the fountainhead

20 April 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: my English teacher (loaned it to me)
pages: 694
review written: 19/4/13
edition: Centennial Edition (Signet)

When The Fountainhead was first published, Ayn Rand's daringly original literary vision and her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism, won immediate worldwide interest and acclaim. This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him. This edition contains a special afterword by Rand’s literary executor, Leonard Peikoff, which includes excerpts from Ayn Rand’s own notes on the making of The Fountainhead. As fresh today as it was then, here is a novel about a hero—and about those who try to destroy him. (goodreads)

Ayn Rand was a Russian-born, European identified (writer), American novelist who was a high school student during the Russian Revolutions. She denounced the Bolshevik Revolution (rise of radical socialists, led by Lenin, that murdered the tsar). With a Communist victory, her father's pharmacy was closed. Then when she went to the University of Petrograd, it was taken over by Communist thugs. When she came to America, she published many of the famous works she is known for. When she wrote The Fountainhead, her protagonist, Howard Roark, was to represent "man as he should be" "the ideal human". However, her book Atlas Shrugged is most famous of all her writings. Rand became famous for being an advocate of individualism and even more famous for her new philosophy: objectivism.

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
— Ayn Rand

When I first started reading this book, I was quite interested in the story. Howard Roark and his architect "rival" (though personally, I knew right away that they were never really rivals, that Roark is better) Peter Keating were stark opposites. I caught on to this immediately and found it fascinating to watch their interaction. However, over the course of the story, even though numerous characters were introduced all of whom had their own purposes. But I only ever cared about Roark and Keating: they're the main characters and I think all the others were just means to achieve an end. (note: Their relationship reminded me of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in The Agony and the Ecstasy)

The characters, including Roark and Keating, were all aliens. I couldn't relate to any of them, except Peter. I understood him because that's what Rand was trying to point out. Peter represents a majority of humanity. They're supposed to be "aliens" I suppose, but I didn't feel that attachment that I usually do when reading novels or books. Every bibliophile can relate to that feeling of connecting to a character as if he or she is a real person.

I don't like Ayn Rand's writing style. I noticed that it was not structured like a novel and more like an essay. From the first quarter I read from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Russians seemed to have spoken essay-like dialogues with each other and discussed philosophies like this. In The Fountainhead, the American characters all spoke like Russians. It was highly unrealistic that people would speak lengthy, philosophical paragraphs to each other whenever they encountered one another. I didn't like this part of her writing either. In fact, I think The Fountainhead would have been better off written in essay format. Just put together all the dialogues and have it be that.

While reading this book, friends have asked me "How is it?" and I've described, The Fountainhead as an essay with a story wrapped around it to prove the essay's point. The story itself seemed for the most part superfluous. If I look at it from a professional's point of view, or as if it were a super long essay: I would say that the philosophies and the way that Rand writes/explains them are effective and interesting. However, there's this one monologue near the last few pages that pretty much summarises everything the book was about and I feel that I could have just read the monologue and saved myself from reading the entire book. It starts at page 667. I think if you want to know what Ayn Rand is about, but you don't want to read this long of a book: flip to page 667.

I can't really describe whether or not I liked this book. I didn't like reading it, but I enjoyed some of the content. Soo....3 trees.

update + new website!

07 April 2013

Hello readers!
  Yeah, I've been gone for a hell of a long time: so sorry! I actually have been reading, and now that I have a week off from school: I can catch up! So far, I'm alternating between several books:

  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  • Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
   For some reason, I'm finding it difficult to read all of them. I read a chapter of the Lovely Bones, then started reading Cat's Cradle and then read a quarter of The Clockwork Prince and have read over a half of The Fountainhead. Why isn't there a book that I can stay interested in and finish? Am I going through a reading-crisis? Have you all been through this before? I mean, I'm medically depressed at the moment because there could have been a change in my medication dosage (I need to get that checked up), so lack-of-interest could apply to books as well? What do you think?

  Aside from that horrible issue I'm dealing with (the reading thing), I have spectacular news! Spectacular for me, anyway, but hopefully you'll enjoy it!
follow the lights :D to a new website!
 I have a new website! It's a personal blog, where I have more freedom to discuss various topics than I do over here: which is only for books. It's called "Kirthi Rao", my name, but I have yet to change it to something else, haha.

 So please support me and visit over here! Thanks :D Have a nice Sunday :) Saludos!

review: the plague

19 March 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: the library
pages: 308
review written: 13/3/13
translation: Stuart Gilbert

A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes a omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion. (goodreads)
(a very big-word-y, adjective filled summary)

my thoughts:

First, lets talk about the cover. When I got the book, I didn't even look at the cover. I thought it was some amorphous shapes and colours, but with a closer look I realised it's blood going down a drain. That's just...wow. When one thinks of plague, it's about buboes and pus and disgust. But this cover shows the blood, which I think is more fitting because the plague in this book isn't about the disease but about the people who suffer through it. Blood is more "human" than buboes, symbolically. Does that make sense?

Just before reading this, I had read The Stranger by Albert Camus and was blown away. I had high expectations for this book, but I didn't even finish reading it. It's taken me many weeks to chew this up and digest.

In this book, Camus explores a situation that rarely anybody has experienced. What would one do is he was quarantined in a town with imminent death upon him? No contact from the outside world, and people dropping dead (literally like rats) all over? Dr Rieux carries on his job of going house-to-house and diagnosing plague victims who die at alarming rates.Others try to carry on life as normal by visiting cafés and taking strolls. However, they realise this isn't possible. So what can one do?

When I first started reading, rats were dying like crazy. It was a promising start, but it didn't improve from there story-telling wise. This book was a long read, and not surprisingly: it's the longest book Camus has ever written. It was more preachy than it was story-telling. I just got names, vague letters in my mind that formed into some vaporous image of a man.  Characters are absolutely essential in telling a story, and I think Camus focuses more on his philosophy on man and the human condition in times of stress and fear than on the actual humans themselves. I was fascinated by Camus's anecdotes and little lessons on life (French existentialism) but felt as if I was reading an essay instead of a story.

If I read this from an essay-philosophical standpoint, it was very well done. Camus has a way of explaining things that just make pure sense. For instance, what stands out from my reading was this part where a man (forgot his name) organised a group to combat plague. Camus described it as a duty and something that they should have done without being called "heroes" and compared this to a teacher and student. A teacher's duty is to teach the student, so the teacher isn't exalted for teaching the student because that's his duty.

Very much like The Stranger, The Plague has that same detached style of writing told from the third person, a mysterious narrator. Another similarity is the beautiful descriptions of scenes that make an Oscar-winning film reel roll in my head.

"On moonlight nights the long, straight street and dirty white walls, nowhere darkened by the shadow of a tree, their peace untroubled by footsteps or a dog's bark, glimmered in the pale recession. The silent city was no more than an assemblage of huge, inert cubes, between which only the mute effigies of great men, carapaced in bronze, with their blank stone or metal faces, conjured up a sorry semblance of what the man had been. In lifeless squares and avenues these tawdry idols lorded it under the lowering sky; stolid monsters that might have personified the rule of immobility imposed on us, or, anyhow, its final aspect, that of a defunct city in which plague, stone, and darkness had effectively silenced every voice."
-The Plague
Yet this narration and the way the story feels is very impersonal and hard to relate to. I felt like I was reading a medical journal instead of a novel. Once again, I think maybe this was the point? After all, it is about the plague.

I loved all the quotable material, the philosophical parts that made me halt reading and just think and re-read the words and digest them completely. This is why it's taken me so long to finish this book. It's so thick and heavy with meaning that unless one is really patient, it will be difficult to read. One bit that made me stop and think was:

"Well, personally, I've seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don't believe in heroism; I know it's easy and I've learned that it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves."
Isn't that amazing? I'm currently reading Julius Caesar for class, and one of the pre-read discussions I had asked a question like "Is it OK to die for any reason? For one's country or a belief or idea" and I had thought "Well yeah, if that's what the person wants." I think it's not the right of people to judge the what another does to himself that ends up hurting that one person. Like suicide. I think that if a person commits suicide, his life is over. He's gone and he's paid the price of his actions. So how can others complain and say "he committed sin" or "did something selfish" or things like that when he is dead and gone? Anyway. I love how Camus doesn't take a stand, but remains indifferent and directs the topic to an area where it otherwise would be. "Enough about dying for an idea, now dying for love--that's interesting". I would have loved to have a conversation with this man. Material like this makes everything I found wrong with the book right.

 I had by ups and downs with The Plague, a negative cancelling out a positive. However, I didn't finish the book. I felt like I was drowning in a swamp of lengthy paragraphs and put the book up when I was about three quarters of the way through. Therefore, this merits 3 trees (my new rating system is taking a while to get ready, so I'm still using the trees, haha)

a little update + cool news!

09 March 2013

Hello readers!
   I swear, I am taking notes and working on writing a review for The Plague by Albert Camus. I'm only about one and half quarters through with it and I've been at it for more than a week! This isn't as interesting book as The Stranger, but it's still magnificent!

  As you can see, I've had a few changes to Pages! I never made an official post about it so here we are! I have the beautiful new theme thanks to Ana from Blog Milk. She's so incredibly down-to-earth, sweet and attentive to every tiny problem I had. It's been amazing working with her, and you should totally visit her shop is you're looking for a cute and professional Blogger OR Wordpress theme! I'm so satisfied right now: I don't have to worry about my design any longer. Now I can just focus on content!

  Also, I have a new header and blog button made by my friend called Grace Anna. She's just as lovely to work with and I joke with her that she has mind-reading abilities that somehow make her understand exactly what I'm looking for. Can you guess what our inspiration was?

My Neighbour Totoro

The defining film of my childhood and life. My most favourite film ever that made me who I am today. I thought it would be fitting to join this with my book blog, another defining part of my pre-teen/teenage life. It's so cute, right? I'm so in love and so happy with every bit of my website now! What do you all think?

I also have a new blog button if you know, you'd like to ooh say...add it to your blog? ~cough~ Yes yes. Ah, sorry about that :D

Another ridiculously amazing event that's happened is that I've been interviewed! By Amelia (The Authoress) for her Saturday Spotlight! LOOK! It's the first time I've ever been interviewed (I may have forgotten an earlier one? I have no idea) but it's very exciting! I've known Amelia in the blogging world for a while, and she's one of my old friends. She started blogging two years after my own blog had started and would talk quite often to each other. Yayayayayay, I'm really happy right now!

I wish you all a HAPPY Saturday and a fun rest-of-the-week. Keep reading :D My next post will be a review, I promise!

Best wishes :)

review: the stranger

27 February 2013

En la niebla 

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 123
review written: February 22-

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.

Mersault is an average French Algerian who learns that his Maman has died. From this event spurs a chain of events that leaders the reader into the  most unexpected ending.

my thoughts:

I first heard about this book from a friend who read it for school, and then I found it on a list of cancelled readings that were supposed to be for my literature class (my teacher told me to cross out several titles that we definitely wouldn't be reading, and this was one of them). Intrigued, I checked it out at the library and had  just a tiny idea of what it's about (just that summary up above) and to be honest: I thought it'd be a disappointing, boring classic. Nope, I was wrong. Going in with an open mind and maybe even no expectations is the recommended way to approach this book.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a really good looking, incredibly intelligent and unique writer. (picture: that's him on the right. What a gorgeous man) I'm in love. Like Mersault, the protagonist of The Stranger, Camus was born in Algeria. He lived a life of poverty his single working mother (his father had been killed and died a war veteran). There were two world wars going on, independence struggles of colonised countries and so on. Camus's early life affected this work, The Stranger, in that Albert Camus's only knows one thing about his father: that he had once become violently ill after watching a public execution. This, as I've just discovered now, must have been one of the main reasons why this book was written. He was deeply interested in philosophy, which reflects in all his literary works. Later on in life, he established himself as a talented, world famous writer, playwright, and journalist. The Stranger is the first work I've read that's written by Camus.

Though this book is only just a little over a hundred pages, it took me about a week to read it. The length is little, but the emotional and philosophical impact of his words weighs the book down to make it seem like it's a three hundred page novel or something along those lines. At first, it seemed to me that  the French novel was just like my perception of French films: without any obvious plot. It seemed boring and slightly off and hard to understand told from the detached first person of Mersault. Later I would see that that's exactly how it's supposed to be.

Something absolutely magical about Camus's writing is his talent at writing little snapshots of life and describing nature in such a way that I would hear the lapping waves of the sea shore and feel the sun soak in my skin. The story, and Mersault's telling of the story, is very physical and appeals more to the five senses than anything else. Camus's style of writing is indeed French-like, focusing more on life as a whole rather than the individual. It is more physical and more fairy-tale like for Part I. Part II adds the layers of psychological depth that makes one understand the point of Part I.

Apart from the actual writing, the story itself is something I absolutely loved: it being so uniquely written that I felt my mind expand and my sense tingling and my whole mind on fire. Albert Camus is a sly, cunning writer that has the ability to make me think about so many philosophical, life-changing thoughts in just a few of his words. I felt this way because I, the reader, was given in simple sentences and plain statements told from Mersault's point of view. But instead of his explaining psychology or his reflections on his actions: I was left to decipher and interpret him (the character). And this is a freedom that readers are rarely given because the author wishes to portray his/her point of view and get the reader to understand his/her point. Camus's writing  is a freedom that we readers are rarely given and I absolutely love it. The narration of the story is completely...indifferent. And this precisely is the magical part, because it's exactly what Camus was trying to portray (or at least, what I think he was trying to portray) by telling the story. Mersault believes in indifference. In fact, he is indifferent, to everything. Both the story and the narration of the story and the point of the story all boils down to: indifference.
"As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again."
All in all, this is an unforgettable classic that I'm so happy to have read! Recommended for an older teen audience and ages above that! For anyone younger than 15-16, this may just be some boring book.

This book receives all five trees! I'm coming out with a new rating system (in which it's out of a scale of 6 instead of 5, and this book would be a 5.5 on that scale :D I'll replace the trees with the new scale once it's ready!)

feature and follow #10!

16 February 2013

Welcome to Pages, guests and readers! I just posted the picture above to see how many avid book readers would cry out in anger. don't be mad, I disagree with this too! Maybe we're getting off on the right foot, but I've been searching for a good part of half an hour trying to find a photograph to start off with. So there.

I haven't done a Feature and Follow is so long. Plus, it's about 20 minutes to midnight right now and I should hurry up before Friday ends! My old followers will know that I changed the rules up a bit soo here you are:

Here on Pages, I kind of tweaked the rules of Feature and Follow to fit my morals about blogging. Here are the "tweaked" rules :D

If I followed you, you are NOT required to follow me back: only if you want to :)
If you follow me, I'll seriously consider following you back, but it's not guaranteed

I don't like how people are required to follow other blogs in this hop. I think one should follow a blog because he or she likes it, not because he/she feels obliged because the other blog owner/writer followed him or her's blog. You know? (Being grammatically correct is a bit wordy). Life's a bit too busy to read blogs that doesn't fit one's taste.

Today's question is really interesting and I guess that's another reason why I wanted to do a Feature and Follow!
by the way, here's to make up for the scandalous first photograph. I stared at this for hours... 

ACTIVITY:  Write a letter to your favourite character. Rant, rave or gush…just pretend like they are real and you just want to let them know a “few things”. 

All right then.I don't have a favourite character, so I'll pick one that's cliché and someone you all must be well-acquainted with. No, not Harry Potter. I have nothing to say to him because he's made me so happy and satisfied. I would just say to him "Good job, Harry" and pat his shoulder. No no no, this person, this lucky recipient is none other than the infamous Edward Cullen of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer! He's not my favourite, but I think it's more interesting to write to a character one hates. One has a lot to say to those he hates. For instance, in Anna Karenina: I detest Count Vronsky. I would much rather write to him instead of...Levin for instance. Levin, don't give up and pursue her! Vronsky you shameless bastard, let's have a talk. Do you see what I mean? Yes yes, so my letter to Edward:

Dearest Edward,
  Let's cut all formalities and get down to business. I know you. Yes yes, I know you're a vampire and to me, you're completely fictional. I know your life's story and your wife and your daughter and your entire family. Please, don't think of me as a threat to you or your family. I mean no harm, none at all. But having thoroughly examined your life through the words of another (we shall call her your Creator--just a nickname I suppose), I must propose some...criticisms. I mean no offence, even though I'm criticising your personality and actions which lead to you as a creature of the night. 
  First off, after living as a vampire for over 107 years, why don't you do something useful with your existence? Compile research for some medicinal cures, educate yourself and work for the betterment of society--why do you feel compelled to attend high school over and over again? I understand it's because you don't want to draw attention to yourself by doing monumental achievements for humans (or vampires!) but honestly, isn't sinking yourself so low as to be a high-schooler? And at that, prey on a sweet-blooded, weak human girl?
 Oh please, don't be offended by my analysis of Mrs Edward Cullen (aka. Bella Swan) but as a character, she's a bit dull. Apart from that matter, I must bring attention to your other qualities that I question. As an ancient soul, you must have developed some ideas of how to be romantic. Do you honestly think stalking your then-girlfriend, watching her sleep, and being annoying cryptic to her is in any way romantic? 

 I must go soon, so thus my letter to you must be cut off. I will part with a response question that I hope to recieve answered along with your rebuttal to my criticisms. What exactly do you love (specific, valid reasons) about Bella Swan? Do you think the reason why you love her, are married to her, and have had a child with her is because you were attracted to her blood and found out you couldn't read her mind? You once said you found her a "mystery" and maybe even called her a "challenge". Do you think this is love or lust and actuation? Do let me know.

 Good day Mr Cullen,

For all you Twilight fans, please don't hate me. I was quite polite and hopefully respectful to Mr Cullen. 

HAHA, this is what I become like after reading old Russian fiction. Ah look, it's not Friday anymore. It's 12:01. Perfect. 

As a parting gift, here is a photograph of a laughing pair of friends that you all know. Benedict Cumberbatch, the beautiful actor blessed with cheekbones of gods, and Tom Hiddleston, who IS a god. 

Bona nit, my friends. (or good morning, afternoon, evening) 

dia del amor

14 February 2013


Hello friends :)
   I tried desperately to find some quote, some passage, some words of encouragement for today: and I failed miserably. What I stumbled upon were steamy love scene descriptions, love-hate angst and just odd romantic quotes that would not be fitting for today.

Valentine's Day

   I personally think that today is both good and bad. It's an excuse for me, shy-in-the-matters-of-love, to make a move and have it not seem abnormal. Yet it's also a highly commercialised, shallow "holiday" where people are encouraged to "show their love" for each other. Isn't that supposed to be every day? Or at least, is giving a box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses a sign of love, or is it the actions that one does every day that defines love? Whatever it is, I think today is a fun day, like all other "holiday"s. In elementary school, I had the greatest time crafting boxes with construction paper and shoe boxes. Going to school with a plastic grocery bag full of tiny store bought Valentine's with chocolates taped to them. That exciting ten minute time period where everyone rushes to each other's boxes and slips in cards. And then that euphoric moment afterwards, full of laughter and happiness and sweet-eating. The arts and crafts of making Valentines, the free day where all we basically had done was do Valentine themed crosswords, eat chocolates, coloured pictures and socialised. I think that it was one of my most favourite holiday. Of course, I had intentions of making valentines but alas, it never happened. Next year, I will definitely go all out.

I'm not that person who hates Valentine's Day purely because he/she is single. It's not a bad thing to be single on Valentine's Day, no matter how "looked down" upon it is. It's not worth it, you know? 

 Like all holidays, I'm always interested in the historical background. Now in order to convert "pagans" (I find it a derogatory term, as it's biased against all other religions except Christianity  The definition is "non-Christian") Christians would "advertise" their religion by blending in "pagan" festivals with Christianity in order to make it more appealing to the native populations. Valentine's Day is an example of that!

Origins of Valentine's Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial--which probably occurred around A.D. 270--others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "Christianize" the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. 

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. (read more)

A Humorous Note 

Apart from all that seriousness, let's add some humour. Right, so though you may not know this  that well, I actually read a lot of manga (Japanese web-comics) and I'm a sucker for shoujo (romance) mangas. In all the shoujo I've read, Valentine's Day has always been sweet and cute and romantic. The girl, having gotten a boyfriend for the first time on Valentine's Day, works hard hand-making chocolate the night before the big day. The boyfriend is always immensely popular amongst all the girls in the school, and is the object of envy for all the boys. So naturally, the boyfriend is flooded with chocolates from other girls (its a custom to give chocolate to the boy one likes. It's this girls that must do this always) and the girl feels insecure. She usually doesn't give the chocolate to him until under some circumstances, the disappointed boy asks the girl about it and she shyly gives it to him. It's a cliché, as you can tell, but it's quite sweet. Here is a page that I bookmarked from a manga where the girl makes chocolate that looks like shit to give to her boyfriend (whom everybody in the school absolutely loves and adores. They literally organise an event for everybody to deliver their chocolates to him. Usui-kun, the boy, doesn't accept any of them, except for this girl's. Which looks like shit) I laughed so much when I read this!

A note, read from top right to bottom left. 

Hoho, quite funny no? "It is a shit, no mistake" Ahahahaha ~cough~ ahem. Anyway: have an amazing, love-filled day! Even if you don't have a partner, hug your parents or call your friends! It's "el dia del amor"; the day of love :)

P.S. I'm really chuffed with myself. Finally made a move on mah crush, but I don't know the results of said move. (Remember how I said I liked Valentine's Day because it's an excuse for the shy to make a move? Well I meant me in there as well) I'll give you a hint on what I did (look at the first picture on this post!) :) :) :) I can't stop smiling, gahh.

review: city of thieves

10 February 2013

book  info
on sale: now
copy  from: school library
pages: 258
review written: February 7th and 8th 2013

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserted name Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

My thoughts:

David Benioff is a name that sounds like any other author’s name, and I thought little of it as I picked this book out from my school library. I’d like to express that despite my discontent with the books that my high school decides to buy (appealing to young adult readers with a massive collection of the latest dystopian/chick-flick books), there are some gems. I researched him just now, and discovered his amazing career as a screenwriter. He was actually the screenwriter of Troy (2004) and produced some of my favourite lines ever. He’s also created Game of Thrones and X-Men Origins. I had no idea that he was such a famous person, who actually had been a high school English teacher. From all this, I would not expect him to have written this type of story.

The page before the title page, reserved for dedications, has two beautiful and intriguing quotes. I’ll share the first one, since I believe it’s more relevant. The second one is one I’ll share later on, as it’s a bit confusing.
“and if the City falls but a single man escapes
he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
he will be the City”
-Zbigniew Herbert

The preface of the story is David asking his Russian grandfather about World War II in Russia. “My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen” is how it starts.  He will later tell the story of his grandfather, weaving in fiction with fact.
I didn’t know it was possible to write an uplifting, horribly gruesome, horribly sad and yet laugh-out-loud funny story in this way.  I’ll borrow someone else’s words on this one as well:

[the book]  "features a snappy plot, a buoyant friendship, a quirky courtship, an assortment of menacing bad guys, an atmosphere that flickers between grainy realism and fairy-tale grotesquerie and a grim but irrepressible sense of humor,"
- Donna Rifkind of Los Angeles Times

This describes perfectly how I felt when reading this book, as if it were a film. This seems fitting as Benioff is a screenwriter. The book itself was something I really enjoyed. It’s crude, disgusting, sarcastically humorous and delightfully raw. One of my favourite aspects of this book is the relationship between Lev and the handsome Kolya. It’s strange how opposites attract. Lev is the shy, awkward and “unattractive” virgin whereas Kolya is the handsome, tall German-looking (Aryan) womaniser. Their friendship was odd and yet it worked. Their dynamic produced the most hilariously crass dialogues I've read in a long time. It’s hard not to fall in love with Kolya’s charming character. He who loves literature, desperately wanting to shit (pardon my language) and passionately rants about fictional characters (sounds like someone I can relate to). However, he has a cold, fearless side to him that adds layers of complexity to his character. Other than that, he’s quite comedic at times. I'm flipping to a random page (147) and I've found this:

“Kolya nudged me with his elbow and whispered under his breath “ I've got a little bit of a hard-on”
“What’s that?” asked Korsakov.
“I said my cock’s going to fall of it we stand out here much longer—pardon my language”.
City of Thieves, page 147
I can’t quite detect the subtly of their possible homosexuality. It’s slim, almost non-existent. But this is where the second quote I mentioned comes in.
“At last Schenk thought he understood and began laughing louder. Then suddenly he asked in a serious tone, “Do you that the Russians are homosexuals?”
“You’ll find out at the end of the war,” I replied.
-Curzio Malaparte
There are ambiguous hints here and there, some more obvious than others, but I love how this adds a layer of intrigue and complexity to their already honestly odd friendship. For me, this book has been worth it because of this unique friendship.

Other aspects I feeling guilty about admitting that I actually liked was the gruesome descriptions and circumstances that Lev and Kolya stumble upon. I felt nauseous, horrified and shocked. Cannibalism? This appeals to the darker side of human nature for both me and the repulsive act of cannibals. Me, for actually being fascinated by the very thought of it (in a bad way, a disgusted fascination) and for the people who were pushed to such extremes as to disregard all civility. I remember reading that in a market, sausages made from grounded human was sold. The Siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg) was catastrophic and is said to be the most “lethal siege in history”. Numerous amounts of people died under the intense conditions. Civilians were give 125 grams of bread, mostly consisting of sawdust and anything else that would not kill a human and ration cards soon became restricted. Coupled with cold (to at least -30 degrees Celsuis) and bombardments from Germans on cities, I find Lev’s story absolutely amazing. This is a history I have never read in a historical novel on this part of history before, so City of Thieves, on top of being so uniquely written also provided me with details and accounts of the occurrences in Leningrad. I'm more interested in the social impact of war on the people than I am about the politics.

 Back on the note of the atrocities: I connected with Lev on the horrors he saw, and experienced the more serious, strangely cool and creepy side of Kolya. These horrors shaped Lev. Imagine being a youthful seventeen year old, witnessing these acts that abandon all morality, witnessing death on a daily basis. City of Thieves is definitely not the first book to describe such events, but what I found even more fascinating was the location. I have read little modern-day Russian based literature. I'm ashamed to say the last historical fiction novel based in Russia was over a year or two ago with Susanne Dunlap’s Anastasia’s Secret. Time and time again, I have read about the monstrous acts of the German Nazi’s, but never before like this, in Russia.

I warn readers that this book as outrageously crass language, sex, and repulsive acts that may or not may not be suitable for the preteen. In an age where young adults are more mature than ever before (less innocent, I mean) I’m troubled on what age group I would recommend this to. Whatever best fits your judgement.
All in all, I enjoyed it! Four trees!

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