• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,068,765 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,712 other followers

Weeding

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you ever weed out unwanted books from your library? And if so, what do you do with them?
image

Weeding in progress. I have to weed more often as the pile of unwanted books stagger more quickly than my acquisition pile does. The rule is I would nix any book of which I don’t have much impression. I line up paper shopping bags from the grocery and start putting books in. Don’t look back.

For a Friend

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

If someone you know has just published a book, do you feel obliged to buy a copy? Even if it’s not the kind of book you’d normally read?

It really depends on the depth of the relationship. If I just “know” the person but hardly keep in touch, I would browse for it at the bookstore and see what it’s about. If it’s someone who keeps regular contact, most definitely I would purchase a copy to show my support, even if the book is out of my range of preference. But there’s always exception. I have met self-published authors on this blog for whom I meet and arrange reading event.

“Extreme”

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone to get something to read? (Think extremes as well as miles—wrangling a ride from a stranger to a distant bookstore just to get the newest book from a favorite author?) If your absolute favorite author (living or dead) was coming out with a brand new book tomorrow, how far would you go, what would you do to get a copy?

I’m not desperate to get my hands on new books but I will go very far to find the books I really want to read. After The Painted Veil, I decided to peruse everything written by W. Somerset Maugham that I can find, but I had no luck in this country. Most bookstores carry the volumes of short stories. L.P. Hartley was another overlooked author whose works have not been released for decades. Publishers would spit out one rub after another George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm but totally neglected his essays and other non-fiction works. All these are available, in UK paperback editions, in bookstores in Asia, for roughly the same price. I’m not a fan of online book shopping, let alone giving my money to Amazon. I enjoy the tactile pleasure of book browsing in the bookstores. Also by shopping at the local indies the money will go back to the community. So even with the convenience of ebooks at my finger tip, even with online sales, I would bring my shopping list with me when I fly to Asia.

If I really need to hunt down a new book, a good place to try is the local library book store if I can find proofs. The Strand in New York City has a basement full of proofs and ARCs. The consignment stores are also great treasure haunts for out-of-print books. Costco has selected new titles at discounted prices.

Plot- or Character-Driven

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Which is more important when you read — the actual story or the characters? I’ve read books with great plots, but two-dimensional characters, and I’ve read multi-layered characters stuck in clunky stories, and I’m sure you have, too. So which would you rather focus on, if you couldn’t have both?

Some of my most memorable reads are character-driven. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro focuses on the personal journey of the butler Stevens, who looks back in retrospection, with regret, that he feel likes one of history’s victims, as he comes to realize that he may have taken the wrong path. Stoner by John Williams is also propelled by a dense characterization of the title character. John Williams, in depicting Stoner, whose indifference becomes a way of living among the dark forces and sadness that have swept over the society, seems to be saying that most of us will live quiet, unremarkable lives that can probably be summarized in a few sentences and that contribute nothing to humanity’s accomplishments. The Great Gatsby encompasses both—with quick actions that drive the story forward but also superb bantering/dialogue that reveals the depth of characters. If I cannot have both, I’ll pick a character-driven because character-driven stories emphasizes on characterization, inner conflict, and relationships—elements that can set the wheel of the plot.

Re-Reading

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

I’ve asked before if you re-read your books (feel free to recap), but right now I want to know if that habit has changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing?

I always re-read my favorites—The Great Gatsby, The Master and Margarita, East of Eden, and The Remains of the Day, to name a few. I’m appalled by readers and book bloggers who think re-reading is a waste of time because there is “so many books but so little time.” Let’s face it: you can never read every book ever published, not even every book in your preferred genre. Re-reading IS an indulgence, but it’s not a waste of time. You could read a book a day for the rest of your life and still not make it through even a quarter of the titles published in 2013 in the UK alone. But does quantity really matter? Re-reading is more a guilty pleasure. I first encountered the aforementioned titles when I was younger—mostly in my college years. Ever since then I have re-read them every once in a while. With each re-reading, the books open up further and resonate differently. Good literature never exhausts its possibilities and meaning. They bestow fresh gifts every time their spines are cracked—they grow in me. At this moment, I’m desperately in need of a re-read since I’m very annoyed and irritated by the current book, infested with skewered hyper-intellectualism and annotated references. (If you know what book it is?)

Fan Fiction

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What do you think of fanfiction? In general—do you think it’s a fun thing or a trespass on an author/producer’s world? And of course, obviously specific authors have very firm and very differing opinions about this, yet it’s getting more popular and more mainstream all the time. Do you ever read or write it yourself?

I admire creativity of fan fiction and the writers’ nostalgia of a world lost and that can only be re-lived through the pages. I also have mixed feelings about writers’ tapping into a ready-made market. Somewhat like taking the easy way out, if not cheating. I think most publishers who scout fan-fiction simply look for popular works that can be repurposed as original novels. (In Bangkok, at the bookstore I overheard a conversation saying EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey originated as a piece of fan fiction based on the Twilight series. I don’t really care for either.) In spite of a few good ones, usually very esoteric, like The Gentle Axe, a take-off after Crime and Punishment, I see (the proliferation of) fan-fiction as the lowest point we’ve reached in the history of culture: it’s crass, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal—anti-original. From this perspective it’s a disaster when a work of fan-fiction becomes the world’s number one bestseller and jump-starts a global trend.

Points of View

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Which is better (or preferred) … stories with multiple character points of view? Or stories that stick to just one or two at most? And, why?

I don’t have a preference as long as the story is coherent. I do understand why authors choose to write a mystery or historical fiction in multiple points of view for the suspense factor. When I begin a book, I want to know the relation of the narrator to the action of the story—whether the narrator is, for instance, a character in the story, or a voice outside of the story.

Personal stories often require a tight POV to really understand the nuances of that personal struggle. Epic tales tell a bigger picture story and often require multiple people to show all sides. If the story is about a person and their journey, close and single POVs (third or first) can be a great choice, because they allow you to really get into the head of that character and focus on their problem. A story about a situation, be it a quest, a war, a terrorist attack, might be better told through the eyes of characters who can see all sides of it. A good example from recent reading is After Her by Joyce Maynard.

Multiple POVs can be tricky because when a novel has a lot of them, it can be a red flag of a premise novel. So unless every person who is telling the story has a solid reason for being there, it’s best o be without that narrator. If the only reason is because “you can’t show that part of the story any other way” then you might want to reconsider. If there’s no goal driving that character, or nothing in particular happens to him/her, then the story will fall flat. Multiple POVs work best when each POV brings something unique to the tale. A fresh perspective, goals of their own, a subplot that connects to a larger theme that encompasses the entire story. The reader cares about that POV, even if all they care about is to see them get what they deserve. A recent example that exemplifies multiple POV is Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw.

Favorite vs Best

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Are “best” and “favorite” the same thing? If someone asked you “What’s the best book you ever read?” would the answer be the same as for “What’s your favorite?”

I’m not in a position to judge what is or what makes a book the best. Usually the best reads that make my end-of-the-year list are ones with memorable characters or plots. The bottom line is I won’t remember every 100 books I read during the year. The ones that remain with me would be the best. “Best” also implies the quality of the writing and all the logistics, like character development, the prose, and plot. “Favorite” can be utterly different. A book can reach out to me because of its subject matter, which is purely rooted in the creativity. My favorites aren’t always the best—I chose them because they struck a chord with me. One is qualitative and the other emotional. The best book I’ve ever read is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The favorites are changing like revolving doors. At this moment I’m rooted for Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger.

Imagery

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

How much do you visualize when you read? Do you imagine faces for the characters? Can you see the locations in your mind’s eye? Or do you just plunge ahead with the story, letting the imagery fall to the wayside?

Although I don’t like overly descriptive books, my mind does paint a picture of the background, the setting, and the period details as the story unfolds. Some readers would go as far as casting the characters with real-life actors and actresses. I settle for the silhouette. Facial features don’t really matter unless there is something by which I have to remember the character, like Scarface. If you have read Agatha Christie, you will know she gives physical details of people and places alike to pique readers’ interest but not completely give away. I like to use my imagination to bring the setting and characters alive as I read on.What I appreciate most is the period detail that might affect the characters’ actions.

Re-Read?

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

We all know the beauty of reading a really wonderful book for the first time—when everything about the story and the writing and the timing click to make a reader’s perfect storm … but it’s fleeting, because you can never read that book for the first time again.

So … if you could magically reset things so that you had the chance to read a favorite book/series again for the first time … which would you choose? And why?

And then, since tastes change … Do you think it would have the same affect on you, reading it now, as it did when you read it the first time? Would you love it just as much? Would you risk it?

Books with many twists and turns often demand another chance. Sometimes the books are so intriguing and convoluted that by the time you reach down to the finale the many minute details have been forgotten. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s tale about Satan disguised as a black magic practitioner arriving in Stalin-era Moscow, never exhausts its possibilities in terms of both interpretation and entertainment. Another one that lives up to the say “reading a book really is better the second time round” is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, which tells the tale of a dutiful butler whose submission to his master defies him of reason and deprives him of a romantic connection. The second time around really established an emotional benefit because the first time I was focused on the events. The series that I would most likely re-read is the Maggie Hope Series by Susan Elia MacNeal. I am about the start the third volume, His Majesty’s Hope. But before doing so, I’ll have to go back to my notes and refresh the events from the last two books. The heroine is an intrepid spy and expert code breaker who has not only become a protector of the royal family but has also discovered shocking secrets of her family. This is something that warrants rereading because every turn of the page is a twist and I would most likely forget about some of the details by the time I’m through the roller coaster ride of a read.