Search

DoodleScribbles

Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

Category

Book Reviews

Quick Notes: Contemporary YAs that once made my young heart flutter

Last night, for the first time after a long while, I opened my Goodreads account. How time flies… This is where I used to keep a real-time update on my reading progress before.

Now, it remains a quiet place of dusty virtual bookshelves.

In my boredom, I found delight in skimming my old posts — especially reading my thoughts on contemporary YAs. It brought me back to the time when I was most hopeless romantic. Still is (though a little older now). I’m grateful for these books for filling the gap in my lack of experience on love and heartaches. For inspiring some of my poems and short stories. For making my young hear flutter.

Hence, I’ve decided to share them here in WordPress. Perhaps, some people here needs a little extra cheese or a quick read. Hope this helps.

  1. The Awaken series by Katie Kackvisnky – A dystopia rather than a love story. This is how I would describe the Awaken series. It is set in 2060, a not-so-distant future, where human interaction is almost nonexistent due to the fact that everything can be done online. Kids attend digital school, friends and families get together virtually, shopping are done by the touch of a keypad, etc. These are imagined scenes that are slowly turning into reality in today’s world. A must-read in this digital era.
⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Life should be a risk. It’s more than a straight line that you can see clearly from one point to the other. It dips and curves and you never know what’s around the bend sometimes until you get there. That scares a lot of people. But that’s the beauty of it.” ―Awaken

Continue reading “Quick Notes: Contemporary YAs that once made my young heart flutter”

Quick Notes: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Philosophy/Mental Health
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

This line from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie perfectly summarizes Veronika Decides to Die for me.

Inspired by events from Coelho’s past life, this book tells the story of Veronika — a 24-year-old woman who seems to have everything anyone could ever ask for. Nonetheless, she feels dissatisfied and makes a decision to end her life. She lives and survives and finds herself in a mental asylum where her life completely change.

I finished Veronika Decides to Die last week but it took me a while to wrap my emotions around it. Not sure if it’s the timing, since I was going through another anxiety phase when I was reading it; or because I haven’t considered suicide yet; or because Veronika’s troubles hit very close to home.

Life and death are the central themes of the story, as are madness and conformity.

This book will make you ponder on the consequences of living a repressed life, one that conforms to the norms set by society or that is bounded by one’s own limiting beliefs. It will have you thinking about the days when you feel like Veronika (tired of your prosaic life), or Zedka (unable to keep your emotions at ease), or Mari (too afraid so you choose to escape the real world), or Eduard (constrained by other people’s demand and pressure). It will make you question your authenticity — and insanity.

What would I do if death comes sooner than I expected? Truth is, I don’t know. But just as Vilette is a “safe place” for these people to express themselves, I’d say poetry is my own. Perhaps through these poems, I’d get to figure out myself and life.

Overall, this novel left me more questions than realizations (which is a good thing). Looking forward to finding the answers as I live my numbered days. 😀

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Genre: Historical Fiction/Religion/Feminism
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

What I Liked:

  1. Diamant’s writing. Poetic and lyrical were my reactions when I read the first few pages of the book. I love the tone of voice Diamant used for the main character Dinah. Her prose is very visual and animated. It felt like listening to a spoken word poetry.
  2. A breath of fresh air. I’m not a keen Bible reader. I am one of those who only knew Dinah as a name mentioned in the Bible. That is why I find it refreshing to read a fictional first-person narrative about her version of her life. Through the eyes of Dinah, we get an insight, if only re-imagined, of biblical times. We get to learn about their cultures, practices and way of life.
  3. The curiosities in the Red Tent. In the book, women we’re treated by men as subordinate — submissive, used, cursed — a scene still recognizable in today’s world. However, their resilience shines within the boundaries of the red tent, where I would say most of the interesting scenes happen. It is where women go during their periods (although I find it a little weird that all the women in the story has a synced cycle). In the red tent, the lives of women are kept alive through storytelling and memories. In the red tent, secrets, conversations and feelings are shared. In the red tent, you get a sense of how powerful women can be. Blood signifies both life and death, beginning and end, pain and pleasure, tears and joy. Such interesting things to ponder.

What I didn’t like: The book, in general, takes a feminist slant so I understand that the POVs are focused mostly on women. However, there were slightly biased depictions of men. Some lack character development, while others seem like trifling characters.

Favorite quotes:

“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.”

“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”

“Of all life’s pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.”

“I could not get my fill of looking.
There should be a song for women to sing at this moment (giving birth) or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment.”

“Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art.”

“It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”

Final Thoughts: Captivating. Rich. Beautifully and poignantly penned. It may only be a fictionalized version but every page brims with life.

I’m glad that this novel did not end with forgiveness of sins and starting all over because some sins are far too great to be forgiven, more so forgotten. But not forgiving others does not necessarily means living every day with anger. This is what Dinah showed me. It is choosing to walk away from the bad and move forward. And, sometimes, the closure we seek cannot be found in others but within ourselves.

My reading heart is full.

Have you read The Red Tent? Did you like it as much as I did?

Quick Notes: Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror by Edgar Allan Poe

Genre: Short Story/Horror/Mystery
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Edgar Allan Poe’s first love as a writer was poetry, but he is often known for his short stories which present a cast of peculiar murderers and madmen. I remember reading The Cask of Amontillado during my grade school days. I used to read it over and over and, looking back, I think it was that very story which sparked my interest in the murder mystery genre.

Fast forward 20 years later, here I am rekindling my love for Poe’s fictions. Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror is like an reintroduction to me. The book is a collection of five classic stories — all of which masterfully told in only few words.

Here are my Goodreads entries for each of the tales:

The Telltale Heart (1843) demonstrates Poe’s command of language. He has a way of letting you into a madman’s mind.

The Masque of the Red Death (1842) depicts the inevitability of death and man’s reaction when confronted by it.

Fear. Denial. Rage. Poe, in very few pages, has captured the many follies of man in trying to escape death. This story is a reminder that despite the glares and glitters of life, of our piquancy and phantasm, we will always find death more bizarre.

The Oblong Box (1844) presents a common scene in today’s films. I must admit I saw what was coming in this story. Still, Poe’s descriptives are something to behold.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) was the first of Poe’s three tales of ratiocination which introduced logical reasoning as the method of solving a crime. With the creation of C. Auguste Dupin (the world’s first fictional detective), Poe outlined elements that future novelists, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would adapt and rework.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue was precursored with talks about the game of chess and the mental prowess it requires a player. From then, I knew that it would be a detective story — and, indeed, a well told locked-room mystery it was.

The Purloined Letter (1844) is another story following the exploits of C. Auguste Dupin. It reminds me a lot of Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia with the elements of a missing letter and an anxious important person who wants to obtain it. We get a taste of the power of observation through Dupin, who saw above and below what authorities can. What this story taught me, in the end, was that the best way to keep something hidden is not to hide it.

Overall, Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror is a worthwhile read for every mystery-seeking bookworm out there. Can’t wait to read more of Poe’s works of fiction! 🤩

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Juvenile fiction/Coming-of-age
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕

Synopsis: As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.

Five reasons to read the book:
1) Anne Shirley. If there is only one character I wish I could ever be, that would be the beloved Anne with an E. Everything about her ─ thoughts, words, actions ─ is charming and you just can’t help but fall in love with this little redhead. Anne does not only change the lives of the people around, her but the people reading her story as well.
2) The journey. All the books in this series takes one on a journey of growth. L.M. Montgomery writes poetically, but she does not gloss over reality with it. Many ups and downs are put into spotlight as you follow Anne’s life as an orphan girl, a teen, an adult and, finally, a mother.
3) The cast. You get to meet a number of lively characters throughout the series. Some of them you will like, some you won’t. Some of them becomes your kindred spirit, some will challenge your perception/belief. Some people carry stories that will break your heart while others will give you a glimpse of new experiences. Anne of Green Gables is an amalgam of POVs that you would not want to miss.
4) The lessons. The series teem with lessons about life, love and everything in between. L.M. Montgomery writes realistic dialogues and a lot of points to ponder are exchanged among characters. The lessons, told through Anne’s amusing scrapes and romantic notions, will have you looking at life with a positive disposition.
5) The setting. From the beautiful Green Gables country home in Book 1 to the old Morgan place where the Blythe family finally settled in Book 8, Anne will make you see the beauty of nature and life through her keen eyes and extraordinary imagination. I love how L.M Montgomery took her time with the specifics and details of each location. Definitely a new addition to your list of favorite fictional places.

Highlighted Quotes: (Book 1 to Book 8)
“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

“The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”

“It will come sometime. Some beautiful morning she will just wake up and find it is Tomorrow. Not Today but Tomorrow. And then things will happen … wonderful things.”

“There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves.”

“You were never poor as long as you had something to love.”

“Gilbert darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!”

“Even when I’m alone I have real good company — dreams and imaginations and pretendings.”

“I suppose all this sounds very crazy — all these terrible emotions always do sound foolish when we put them into our inadequate words. They are not meant to be spoken — only felt and endured.”

“Well, that was life. Gladness and pain…hope and fear…and change. Always change! You could not help it. You had to let the old go and take the new to your heart…learn to love it and then let it go in turn. Spring, lovely as it was, must yield to summer and summer lose itself in autumn. The birth…the bridal…the death…”

“Time is kinder than we think,’ thought Anne. ‘It’s a dreadful mistake to cherish bitterness for years…hugging it to our hearts like a treasure.”

“It is never quite safe to think we have done with life. When we imagine we have finished our story fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter.”

“Being frightened of things is worse than the things themselves.”

“The body grows slowly and steadily but the soul grows by leaps and bounds. It may come to its full stature in an hour.”

“Dream after dream comes true—or rather is made true by persevering effort.”

Final Thoughts: Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montomgery’s classic eight-book series, will forever be my favorite go-to read. All thanks to its hopelessly romantic, impulsive and overly dramatic red-headed heroine, Anne Shirley. This beloved Anne with an E heightened my love of the natural world and opened my eyes to the little things in life that truly matter. It reminded me the importance of love, friendship, family and chasing my dreams with enthusiasm, colorful imagination and fierce passion. Throughout the entire series, I felt like I grew with Anne. I was able to see life through her poetic eyes and take her delightful musings with me in the real world. Whenever I am short on motivation to move forward, I turn to Anne of Green Gables for a dose of positivity, inspiration and insight.

Have you read Anne of Green Gables series? Did you like it as much as I did?

Quick Notes: The Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A book titled The Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on a table with a cup of coffee

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Detective
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Quick Notes: The Hound of Baskervilles is the third of four novels in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon of Sherlock Holmes. I won’t write how superb this book is for I know I will just be repeating what most people have already said. Instead, let me just point out two aspects which made this particular story unique to me.

1. Dr. John H. Watson – Sherlock Holmes’ best friend and confidant. The romantic and often sentimental medical doctor that perfectly complements the emotionally-detached and analytical consulting detective. The ordinary against the brilliant.

Despite being wrongly perceived (and portrayed) as being a fool in most tv/film adaptations, Watson’s role is undoubtedly crucial to every Sherlock Holmes adventure. He serves as both a storyteller and a shock absorber of Holmes’ uncanny deductive flair for the reader. I personally find the few stories in which Watson plays a minor role (or none at all) a little lacking and dry. This is one reason why I enjoyed The Hound of Baskervilles.

In this novel, we get to see a little more of Watson in action. He sets out to solve (try) a crime ─ on his own ─ even just for a short period of time. We follow him as he simultaneously employs Sherlock’s methods and his own in search for clues. And although, Sherlock gets to hammer down the mystery in the end, this book made it apparent that there is more to Watson than meets the eye.

2. The setting – The Hound of Baskervilles is one of the few stories that uproots readers away from 221B Baker Street. Instead of a warm, comfortable sitting room, it takes you to the cold, wet English moor with nothing but fogs, bogs and fire-breathing hounds. With an added Victorian air and a touch of supernatural, this book stands out from the rest of Doyle’s detective stories.

I have mentioned in Book Talk: Books or movies? A reader’s dilemma. that I prefer watching the adaptation first over reading the book. And I’m glad I did so because a lot of the scenes were changed in the films that I wouldn’t have enjoyed had I known the original plot. Of the three versions I have seen ─ 1939, 1959 (unfinished) and 2012 ─ the latter took a complete turnaround. It was enjoyable nonetheless, thank you Benedict Cumberbatch, but definitely not the movie you’d want to see if you’re looking for Doyle’s original plotline.

Overall, The Hound of Baskervilles gets two thumbs up from me! A great read after a month of craving for Sherlock Holmes. 😀

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Genre: Fiction
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Humbert Humbert — scholar, aesthete and romantic — has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

What I liked:

1. The plot. The ingenious way Nabokov toys with the reader’s mind. You get a self-confessed madman — a scheming pedophile who has a taste for young girls. And not just any other younglings at that. Humbert Humbert did not find Lolita sexually attractive because of her beauty and wit (which are almost non-existent), but because she is a nymphet. An ideal combination of childishness and preadolescence.

As Humbert presents the story of his affair with Lolita in first person, this is where Nabokov’s brilliance as a writer shows. Humbert comes across as an intellectual and romantic, detached and fixated. He is both ashamed and proud of the steps he takes to gratify his passion (or obsession). The moral and emotional conflicts that Humbert goes through are so human that he could trick you into thinking that, perhaps, what he has done is excusable. While I personally was wary of Humbert most of the time, there was one instant that I had to rethink ─ is this really love in a very weird form? But then, when you see through his manipulation, you get pentapod monster (his own words) not a man.

2. No pornographic sex. I know Lolita has been frequently described as an erotica but some people tend to overlook its beautiful prose. Nabokov writes about sex in the language of metaphors and figures of speech. While contemporary novels are filled with explicit descriptions of sexual acts, Lolita introduces a one-of-a-kind orgasm through Humbert.

“I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life.”

3. It gives you glimpse of a predator’s mind. If we look at the sexualization of women then and now, not much has changed. Lolita shows a clear picture of the schemes that are often used by abusers. When those accused of sexual crime defend themselves, they often say “she wanted it” or “she started it.” They consciously or unconsciously misinterpret a laughter, soft voice or tensed hands as gestures of consent.

Reading the book is a tough journey (for me especially as an ISFP) but a good one. It’s the kind of read where I had to constantly remind myself not to draw hasty conclusions because of my principles, politics, personal reservations and emotions. I had to look beyond the romanticism and be critical at how the characters are portrayed. At how pedophilia is being normalized. At how women are being objectified.

What I didn’t like: Nabokov did a splendid job. Too good that his work still reflects the plight women continue to face up to this day. There are still many who romanticize Humbert’s depravity and many who blame Lolita for being naïve. The world is still filled with enablers and complicit to the crime.

Favorite quotes:

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”

“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”

“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

“Life is just one small piece of light between two eternal darknesses.”

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

“I shall be dumped where the weed decays, And the rest is rust and stardust”

“We all have such fateful objects — it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another — carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of specific significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane’s heart always break.”

Final Thoughts: If age is just a number, what makes Humbert and Lolita’s relationship seem wrong? Would you see through lust if it was clothed in love? How would you draw the line between the two? There were a lot of irony and moral conflict to digest in this book. Kudos to Nabokov (again) for a thought-provoking read. But like what I said when I finished it last May, I don’t agree with the featured comment on the cover from Vanity Fair. It was far from being convincing or a love story to begin with. No, no. It was calculated rape.

Quick Notes: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Genre: Modern Classic/Dystopia
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Quick Notes: “Are there any questions?”

To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.

Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.

The story ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, “Are there any questions?” To me this seems like a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses — both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.

Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?

The Handmaid’s Tale, told in simplistic prose, is a clarion call for upholding women’s rights to take control over our own bodies, choices and lives. With the current political climate, this book is definitely a must-read.


This post first appeared in Writers Quote Wednesday: Are there any questions?

Quick Notes: The Poet by Michael Connelly

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Quick Notes: Stephen King was on point when he said that the ending was unexpected. The succession of plot twists. The revelations. The truths — and lies. It was all carefully weaved into a story that played like a movie in my mind.

Like Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly’s novels are often seen in Booksale. For years, I have been curious about his works but it took a pandemic for me to pick his book. I initially bought this one for four reasons: 1) the title, 2) the lure of Edgar Allan Poe, 3) i’m a sucker for crime thrillers, 4) it’s cheap. After the first 100 pages, I knew then that there are far more better reasons why anyone should read this book.

The Poet is unique in a sense that the main POV is seen through the eyes of a journalist whose beat is death. Not a police investigator like Montanari’s or a forensic pathologist like Cornwell’s who directly deals with murders. This book gives you a glimpse of how reporters, the local police and the FBI work together (or not) in solving a case. I like how Connelly takes time to build the thrill and explain the curiosities surrounding the scenes without dragging the story. The killer’s life is gradually revealed in bits and pieces BUT just when you’ve settled with catching a pedophile, Connelly delivers a series of unexpected twists. I was Jack turning to see a gun pointed at my head. I did not see that coming.

Would I read more of Michael Connelly in the future? Definitely yes. Would I read the sequel (yes, there is)? Probably. Because after all the guessing and profiling characters on my own, there is one thing I got right: The Poet got away!

Up ↑