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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Reading Through

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I know it’s been a while since my last update but I’ve been having a difficult time finishing my latest book. I’ve encountered this sort of obstacle before, particularly with Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. As thin as his book is, would you believe that it took me years to actually get through the whole thing? Laugh if you must. Raise your eyebrows, too, if you can. But I’ll always remember The Alchemist for that! There is an explanation, of course. One other than I am a really, really slow reader.

Books that I fail to finish in one sitting– either because I get sleepy or because I’ve been called away to something else– those are the books that take me longer to read. In the case of The Alchemist, I had been somewhere in the middle of the book (the first time was when the shepherd had just acquired his magic stones) when I became distracted (though I can’t remember by what). It took me months before I had the chance to read it again. And when I picked it up, I had to read the whole thing from the beginning (because I wanted to reacquaint myself with the shepherd). But as expected from the pattern, something once again happened that kept me from finishing the book. I did manage to finish it one day. In one sitting.

With Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre, I’ve been reading parts throughout the week. I am almost at its end and I hope that nothing keeps me away from it too long. Apart from having to put down the book because I have something to do or because I want to do something else, another reason why I have such a difficult time pushing through with the story is because there are painful parts in the book– parts that as you go on you can already expect. It’s the feeling when you know something bad is going to happen and you can’t do a damn thing to stop it. Or when you know how stupid a character is being and you just want to delay reading about the wrong judgment call you just know he or she will make.

I’ve gotten past those chapters just now. It’s painful, I tell ya! The mystery is not yet over but I feel like I’m at least through the worst. 🙂 You’ll see my review of Sepulchre next week.

Back to Basics: Nancy Drew

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 at 2:19 am

Very recently, I chanced upon a copy of Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase at a secondhand bookstore. It was the perfect present for my ten-year-old sister who is now an avid fan of Ms. Drew. She blames me for getting her hooked on the series.  All I can say is, I’m glad I forced her to read The Secret of the Old Clock. It was Nancy Drew’s first mystery and one of my absolute favorites. Looking back at my childhood, I remember how often I would read our Nancy Drew books over and over again. Larkspur Lane, Double Jinx, The Crooked Banister– I never got tired of them! I wasn’t the only one addicted. My older sister was quite a fan as well. It’s not really surprising as we inherited our first Nancy Drew books from our mother.

Of course, there were many controversies surrounding the Nancy Drew books that many of you might not be familiar with. For one, Carolyn Keene, the author of these books, isn’t a real person. At least, that’s what I remember. I read somewhere that the books were written by many different people. Or was it just one person with many different pen names? Hmm…

But this wasn’t the big issue. Sometime in the 1980’s, our favorite titian-haired detective also caught the attention of the feminist movement. Some groups complained that she was too perfect to become a role model for women. Nancy Drew was too smart, too well-off, slim and too attractive. Huh… I don’t really know what to say about that (alright, I do but I’m divided). There were also criticisms on how Bess and George were portrayed. I think, if I remember correctly, that there were oppositions to such stereotypical characterizations. George was always a tomboy and Bess her complete opposite. Such complaints forced the company behind the books to change a few things about Nancy and her friends.

Now I don’t know whether our edition (the ones we inherited) are the new and improved or the original but I don’t recall being affected negatively by Nancy Drew. And to this day, I still enjoy reading Nancy Drew. In fact, I read two this week while whiling the time away. 🙂 No matter how repetitive the stories are, I still like reading them every now and then. Don’t you?

P.S. I must confess that I haven’t read all the Nancy Drew books yet. 😮 Strange yes but I had a habit of reading the same books again and again as a child. With my little sister now hooked on Nancy Drew, perhaps that can be remedied.

Reading France

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Reading novels with French settings is fascinating but also quite challenging. I’m unfamiliar with many of the places and the only I thing I can count on is the writer’s description and my own imagination. Sometimes, however, they aren’t enough. I want to see what these places actually look like. What kind of walls is this building made of? What kind of floors? How wide are the roads? That sort of thing. Therefore, my reading of Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre might take me a while. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly going to look up every unfamiliar setting online but I will stop and research every now and then.

Right now, I’m looking at the Rennes le Chateau which almost always seems to be the center of controversy at one point in history or another.

via Wikimedia

Book I Want: Off the Tourist Trail

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm

via Amazon

Travel has been on my mind these days. And while I don’t have the means to go off on an adventure on my own at the moment (I’m still largely dependent on my parents), it hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming. Lately, I’ve been dreaming about Greece. Yes, Greece. I know I’ll get a chance to visit it one day (hopefully in the next few years) but for now, I’m willing to learn all I can about the islands and read about other people’s experiences.

In the middle of my research,  I stumbled upon a book that any avid traveler would love to get his hands on. The book is called Off the Tourist Trail and it gives you 1,000 unexpected tourist destinations. What’s even better is that the book has also listed 100 of the most cliche destinations along with a list of alternative choices. For example, instead of the Niagra Falls, why don’t you visit the Iguazu (Iguassu, Iguaçu) Falls? If you’re like me who has no clue what these falls look like, here’s a picture:

via Wikipedia

Another example is of other cities that are said to “rival Prague.” The image below is of that very page in the book. It might be a little hard to read so you can just click on the DK link to see the image better.

via DK

The book reviews are also fairly positive and while Off the Tourist Trail isn’t a specific travel guide, it does– as one reviewer said– expand your world view.

It seems that I’ll never run out of books to lust after. But I guess that just makes everyone’s Christmas shopping easier. Friends and family, you will never have a hard time thinking of what to give me because I’m broadcasting it here! I found this book on our local bookstore and ouch it’s going to cost me more than it will cost me for the Domino: Book of Decorating! But that is the price I have to pay. Or not, depending on how generous people can be.

Where Do You Read?

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Bedrooms. I always read my books in bedrooms. Put me in the living room and I’ll watch TV. Put me in the dining room and I’ll find something to eat. Put me in the kitchen and I’ll just open the ref. No. You really have to put me in the bedroom.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t really read anywhere else. I bring books with me when traveling (although I’ve grown to realize how much I favor magazines over books on the road) and I’ve never had problems reading books anywhere else but if I’m at home, I will always gravitate towards my bedroom for a good book.

We don’t have a library or a study in the house. My bedroom serves as both the home office and the library. But if I were to live on my own, I would love to have a room dedicated to writing and to books. I scrounged around the net, as I always do, and found these beautiful rooms. Take a look see!

via Elle Decor

The black and white theme just screams modern to me. And I love nothing more than high ceilings. It doesn’t matter if the room is small or big as long as it has high ceilings. Plus, can you see the desk over to the right and the old-school clock on the upper left? Those are some of the old-fashioned elements I’d like to see in my library.

via SMR Design via Lonny Magazine

I have a taste for restructured designs. Wing back chairs aren’t exactly new inventions but the color Turquoise makes it look so modern. Besides, Turquoise is one of my favorite colors. You can’t see much of the shelves behind it but I love what I’m seeing. The Missoni-like design of the rug also adds to the overall charm.

via Elle Decor

My favorite element in this picture is that white collapsible seat/table in the middle.

I’d like to show you what my own desk and my own shelves look like but they’re not exactly drool-worthy. One day though, one day…

The Lady and the Unicorn

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

It is the year 1490 in Paris. Nicolas Des Innocents, a painter more renowned for his miniatures, has just been commissioned to create a set of tapestries for a man named Jean Le Viste. The nobleman wants his tapestries to depict The Battle of Nancy but his wife Genevieve de Nanterre convinces Nicolas to persuade his husband of another design—that of unicorns.

“Stay a moment,” I said when she had pulled herself up clumsily and made her way to the door. “Sit and rest your feet. I’ll tell you a story.”

The girl stopped with a jolt. “You mean the story of the unicorn?”

She was the one. I opened my mouth to answer, but the girl jumped in before me. “Does the story go on to say that the woman grows big with child and may lose her place? Is that what happens?”

There are many interpretations to the story of the unicorn. One story suggests that only a virgin can tame a creature as white and as pure as a unicorn. Another suggests a tale of seduction. Nicolas, who is far from being innocent, knows the second story well as he often tells it as a prelude to his own seductions. He is also quite the bastard, leaving a trail of pregnant women in his wake. In the middle of creating the tapestries, however, unfolds another set of stories about the unicorn—one that mirrors the lives of the women in Nicolas’ life.

Everything unravels beautifully in Tracy Chevalier’s novel The Lady and the Unicorn. Based on a real set of 15th century tapestries owned by the Le Viste family, the story revolves around the weaving of these richly-dressed women, their ladies-in-waiting, small animals, millefleurs and of course, unicorns as much as it revolves around the characters who surround it. The first five tapestries are said to represent the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. The sixth tapestry has the words À mon seul désir (my one desire) on it prompting a delicious tale spun out of in-depth research and a beautiful imagination.

Truly, Chevalier remains one of my favorite writers for she can dream up stories that are amazingly simple yet complex at the same time. The settings themselves are simple enough but the characterizations are more than your regular fare of 15th century folks. There is not a lot of mystery but there is awe and enlightenment. And the story, while told from different points of view, is not disconnected from one another. In fact, the different points of view serve to give every character more depth.

The commission of the tapestry, of course, starts with Nicolas des Innocents but the story swiftly moves to Claude Le Viste—Jean Le Viste’s daughter who catches Nicolas’ eye. She is headstrong, carefree and beautiful much to her mother’s despair.

The scene then flows to Genevieve de Nanterre who wishes nothing but to escape her life and down to Georges de la Chapelle’s interesting family of weavers in Brussels where Nicolas and Leon Le Vieux travel to have the paintings transformed into tapestries.

But whether in Paris or in Brussels, Nicolas is in the middle of it all.

“I want you to think of me as your unicorn. There are times when you’re sullied, yes, even you, beauty. Every woman is. That is Eve’s punishment. But you can be made pure again, every month, if you will only let me tend to you. “

Plow you again and again until you laugh and cry.

“Every month you will go back to Eden.”

Pretty Wicked!

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Everyone knows the story of the Wizard of Oz. While not everyone has read the classic, people generally have a good idea of how the story begins and ends. Dorothy, together with her dog Toto and the farmhouse, gets caught in a cyclone and lands in a strange, new world, inadvertently killing the Wicked Witch of the East as well (morbidly so). She inherits a pair of silver slippers and goes on a journey to the City of Emeralds to seek help from the mighty Oz. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion among other characters. In exchange for Oz’ help, Dorothy has to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Needless to say, she succeeds.

But how sad is it that the life of the Wicked Witch of the West ends so abruptly? Thanks to Gregory Maguire, however, this infamous and perhaps gravely misunderstood green-skinned villain gets to tell her side of the story, albeit perhaps reluctantly. Funnily enough, the chapter starts off with the Wicked Witch of the West spying on Dorothy and her merry band where she hears some of the most outrageous rumors about herself!

“She was castrated at birth.”

“She was born hermaphroditic, or maybe entirely male.”

She was addicted to medicine for her skin condition.”

She’s a woman who prefers the company of other women.”

From the onset, it is evident that this is no ordinary Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. By the way, that last bit about women and women comes from the Scarecrow.

In the book, Maguire weaves an intriguing world that is both strange and familiar at the same time. People generally know about the Wizard of Oz, the silver slippers and the Munchkins. But Maguire also infuses Wicked with Talking Animal rights, Shiz University and underground guerrilla. Laden with politics, the author shows the roots of a young Elphaba and how she eventually becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

Young Elphaba has never really felt at home anywhere because of her green skin. As a result, she grows up standoffish and guarded. However, her dry wit wins you over instantly, somehow even ending up friends with Galinda (Glinda) and a few notable others.

A word of caution or perhaps encouragement: Wicked is not a chick lit version of the Wicked Witch of the West. It is a little bit serious, a little bit sarcastic and a whole lot fantastic and creative. A gem of a fiction novel, it will suck you in its pages as what good books always do. It borders on dark and tragic and you’ll find yourself rooting for Elphaba more than for any other character you’ll ever come across in Maguire’s universe.

Wicked is not black and white. It is multi-dimensional and explores different depths of characters. It shows you the best and the worst of people and how one can be so misunderstood.

Book I Want: Domino: The Book of Decorating

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

If there’s one book that I’ve been yearning for for months now, it’s Domino’s thick interior design guide. I love all things interior design and often buy myself loads of magazines on the subject but I have yet to purchase books on the subject matter. I bought a booklet, once, but that was it. And while we never had the now defunct magazine where I’m from, I do love its online reincarnation Lonny Magazine.

Thanks to countless trips to the bookstore and inside peeks through Amazon, I have an idea of what to expect. Glorious, glorious pictures and glorious, glorious ideas on how to make your home reflect your personality.

I suppose you could call me a frustrated interior design student. My mom didn’t like the idea of me taking such a course because she said there was no money there and that considering how my room was always a mess, how would I fare?

But that was way back when I didn’t know I could still insist upon what I wanted and way back when my mom was still closed to ideas she deemed were too radical (I come from a family of entrepreneurs).

While blogs and magazines do their part to sate my furniture and design lust, there’s nothing like a real book to complete my library. Or to start a new collection!

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