Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon 2013

I owe at least 2 entries, one on the musical "Sa Wakas" and another on Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", but they will have to wait because...

Today is Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon!

I first participated in the read-a-thon 2 years ago with my fellow Flippers, which was held at Libreria Bookstore. I finished 2 books, "Death by Garrotte: Looking Back 3" by Ambeth R. Ocampo and "Johnny and the Dead" by Terry Pratchett, but still haven't gotten around to finishing "Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt" by Barbara Mertz. :P

Flips Flipping Pages does Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, April 2011
(That's me on the far right.)
(Photo courtesy of Don Taduran) 
This year I decided to participate again mainly to chip away Mount TBR. My list includes (in no particular order, and may change throughout the day) -
  1. "Soulless: The Manga, Volume 2" by Gail Carriger and REM - easy reading
  2. "George's Secret Key to the Universe" by Lucy & Stephen Hawking - thinking of donating this to a children's library but must read first
  3. "Dodger" by Terry Pratchett - comfort reading, because Pratchett never fails to be funny
  4. "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque - need to read this before month's end for the April Group Discussion on The Historical Fiction Group at Shelfari
No pressures though, which means I will still sleep and eat and do other things because it's a Sunday. :)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Answers to the Introductory Questionnaire:
  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Manila
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? "George's Secret Key to the Universe" :)
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? I honestly didn't prepare anything, but I've had half a glass of cold chocolate drink.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I like lists. :) And smileys.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I won't put pressure on myself like before but instead will relax and have fun. :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

book review: "Azincourt" by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell

Azincourt (or Agincourt) is apparently one of the most famous battles in English history, but having no knowledge of the pre-Tudor era I had no idea what to expect. Yet Bernard Cornwell tells us about the famous battle only in the last 1/3 of the novel, instead focusing on the story of English archer Nicholas Hook and how he came to be part of la malheureuse journee ("the unfortunate day") for France on Saint Crispin's Day, 25 October 1415.

Cornwell has Hook hearing the voices of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian and guiding him, but I think this was underutilized in the development of his character. I felt no connection with him or any of the characters in the novel because despite the horrors they experienced, they still lacked depth.

Cornwell's descriptions of the siege of the port town of Harfleur and the Battle of Azincourt that followed were well-written. I never realized the strength and the importance of archers in battle. To give one an idea why Azincourt became legendary, here is an illustration of the battlefield (from The New York Times) -

However, I would have appreciated more information about the history of the enmity between England and France, and about the king who brought the Englishmen and Welshmen to war, Henry V.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The 2013 Flips Flipping Pages Reading Diversity Challenge

Here is my reading list for -

(to be updated throughout the year)

as of 02/26/13: 7 of 25

1 Common Book (published 2013)
  • TBA
1 Umberto Eco
  • "The Name of the Rose"
1 Partner Challenge
  • TBA
3 Alternative Media (at least 1 audiobook)
  • "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe" by Bill Bryson (audiobook)
  • "Blackout" by Connie Willis (ebook) - finished 01/10/13
  • "All Clear" by Connie Willis (ebook) - finished 01/14/13 
1 Foreign Award Winner
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (Nebula Award for Best Novel 1985, Hugo Award for Best Novel 1986) - finished 02/26/13
1 Self-/Indie-Published Book: Foreign
  • "The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press) or
  • "Infernal Devices" by KW Jeter (Angry Robot Books)
1 Self-/Indie-Published Book: Local (Local Title #1)

1 Local Title #2: Non-Fiction
  • "Prehistoric Philippines: Looking Back 6" by Ambeth R. Ocampo 
1 Local Title #3: Award Winner
  • "Smaller and Smaller Circles" by F.H. Batacan (Palanca Grand Prize 1999, National Book Award 2002, Madrigal-Gonzalez Award 2003) - finished 01/21/13
1 Local Title #4: Filipino Dialect
  • "It's a Mens World" by Bebang Siy
1 Foreign Book #1: Asia (except the Philippines)

1 Foreign Book #2: Australia 
  • "Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks - finished 01/23/13
1 Foreign Book #3: North America (except USA)
  • "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
1 Foreign Book #4: South America 

1 Foreign Book #5: Europe (except England)
  • "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque (Germany)
1 Foreign Book #6: Africa
  • "Secrets from the Sand: My Search for Egypt's Past" by Zahi Hawass (Egypt)
1 Read-Along
  • "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne
1 Poetry
  • "100 selected poems" by e.e. cummings
2 Non-Fiction

2 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
  • "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins - finished 01/09/13 
  • "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo (reread)
1 Graphic Novel
  • "Daytripper" by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon - finished 01/01/13

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

book review: "The Sunne in Splendour" by Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman

News of the discovery of Richard III's remains under a car park in Leicester, England prompted me to finally read this hefty novel.

Richard III is infamous as the king who had his brother Edward IV's son and successor Edward V and other son Richard, popularly known as the Princes in the Tower, killed while imprisoned in the Tower of London. He is the last king of England to have died in battle, in Bosworth Field in 1485, and the last Plantagenet king, after which the Tudor dynasty reigned.

I first read about Richard III in "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey about 5 years ago, and was intrigued by the story of Richard and his nephews. Did he, or did he not, order their murder?

In this novel, as in "The Daughter of Time", the author tries to make a case for Richard III.  She chronicles his life and the life of his brother Edward IV, that of their family the House of York, and of their friends and supporters during the Wars of the Roses. Penman also shows us the other side of the coin, the House of Lancaster of Henry VI.

My thought throughout the novel was, "George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has nothing to this!" It really happened; rebellions and factions and betrayals... I wonder if the Wars of the Roses inspired GRRM. Like ASoIaF, it was difficult to keep track of the characters at first, all the Edwards and Richards and Henrys and Elizabeths and Annes, that I had to look for a family tree online.

Having no previous knowledge of English history and not having read the play by William Shakespeare, my sympathy lies with Richard III. But I admit that these historical novels were written against popular belief, so I aim to read a non-fiction account, "The Princes in the Tower" by Alison Weir, in future.

For now, I remain loyal to the Whyte Boar of Gloucester.


Monday, January 14, 2013

book review: "Blackout" & "All Clear" by Connie Willis

Connie Willis

The latest addition to Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series, which includes "Doomsday Book" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog", "Blackout" and "All Clear" document the stories of historians Polly Churchill, Merope Ward, and Michael Davies. Polly, Merope, and Michael each travel back  in time from Oxford in the year 2060 to different periods of World War II Britain to do research, but their lives intertwine when their means of returning to the future does not work, and they are stuck in the past trying to find a way back.

At a total of almost 1,200 pages, not a few readers have found the two novels too lengthy. Indeed, the story was intended to be one novel that was eventually split into two volumes. This means that before starting on "Blackout", one must be prepared to read "All Clear" afterwards, to be able to appreciate the story fully. The fact that the novels jump from one character to another and from one time period to the next also adds to the challenge.

Instead of bogging down the story, I think the novels are richer for the wealth of information they impart about the daily lives of ordinary people in wartime England. This is especially true for people like me whose education, by virtue of place of residence, focused on the Pacific Theater of the Second World War. Part of the appeal of the novels for me too, is trying to figure out the connections between the people who enter the lives of Polly and Merope and Michael, and the events that surround them. The story would be different, I think, were such details left out.

A good story for me is one which has characters who stay with me even after I've closed the book, and one that makes me think; in this case, about the complexities and paradoxes of time travel, which I will leave to readers brave enough and patient enough to tackle the novels, to figure out (to avoid spoilers). More than the above, "Blackout" and "All Clear" are Connie Willis' love letters to the men and women who lived and survived World War II; the soldiers who fought the war, and the loved ones they left behind.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 Reading Targets

Annual Reading Resolution:
Read more, buy less.

Do this!

And, a wish for all...