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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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book review

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!

Wrap-Up | October 2020

Monthly Blog Update

After three days of undisturbed rest, I am back to the “real” world again. With this comes my late wrap up for the month of October.

I have already mentioned most of them in my last blog update but here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been up to.

Things I’ve written…

This month, I’ve decided to revisit the old poems from my Instagram account and start sharing them here in WordPress while I am taking a writing break. But, apparently, I’ve only reposted two: we molded this valley of memories with love and Vignette: Stolen gazes, knowing smiles, paperbacks. The rest were just mishmash of random things.

Books I’ve read…

If there’s one area in my life that is doing really great, that would be my reading life. My bookish heart was filled with joy this when James and I started the month with a book hunting day. We hopped to all three branches of Booksale in metro Cebu (Robinson’s Fuente/Emall/SM City) and took a few gems with us at a very cheap price! Here’s my October book hoard:

  • The Choir Boys by Sophie Hannah (Php20 @Robinsons)
  • Lost Girls by Andrew Piper (Php83 @Robinsons)
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by John Krakauer (Php154 @Robinsons)
  • The Poet by Michael Connelly (Php83 @Emall)
  • Grendel by John Gardiner (Php10 @Emall)
  • Blowfly by Patricia Cornwell (Php83 @SM City)
  • The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elizabeth Hyde (Php50 @SM City)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns (ordered online for Php250 @bookprojectph)
  • The Swallows of Kabul (ordered online for Php175 @bookprojectph)
Continue reading “Wrap-Up | October 2020”

Quick Notes: Congo by Michael Crichton

Genre: Science fiction/Thriller
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Quick Notes: My first foray into the written world of Michael Crichton was Congo. James, who loves the man as much as Dan Brown, never missed to mention his works whenever we talk about books. So I guess this is where curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back comes in.

The 1980 sci-fi novel centers on an expedition searching for rare blue diamonds and investigating the mysterious deaths of a previous expedition in the dense tropical rainforest of the Congo. At first I was worried that I’d be stuck in the complicated science and technical jargon but as it turns out, Crichton is a great de-jargonizer. I found myself immediately engaged in the story that capsulized science, history, and geography in each and every page.

Congo left me emotionally, mentally and morally disturbed. In a simple story, it raised provocative questions that I found hard to answer.

To what extent is animal cruelty? Is it limited to performing experiments/animal research? How about throwing lobsters on a boiling pot? Sticking pigs on bamboo poles? Exterminating rats? Do ALL animals have rights or just a selected few? Does man get to give them the reason to stay alive as a species?

These questions led me to reflect on our deeply ingrained habit of meat eating, on the equality among animals, and man’s idea of speciesism. I know there are multiple sides to these multifaceted issues, but what do you think?


This post first appeared in Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Iron and Ironies

Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

Genre: Romance/Philosophy/Spirituality
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings… and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.

What I Liked:

  1. Coelho delivers a love story with added depth. On the surface, it is about two childhood sweethearts reunited. But as the story unfolds, it becomes an intricate weave of life and love, faith and spirituality, fear and trust, mistakes and forgiveness, fighting for one’s dream and surrendering to one’s destiny — all these and so much more. The book is a retelling from Pilar of how she ended up weeping for this nameless man, but I love how it didn’t have to go way far back to establish the story. There were no unnecessary backstory of their early lives or past loves. You just have to be in the moment and watch how these two characters navigate through uncertainties.
  2. It’s a character-driven book that brims with food for the thought and for the soul. Like the rest of Coelho’s works, this one leaves points to ponder on each page. It raises questions that require self-examination and at the end, you not only discover something about the characters but also about yourself.
  3. I love how the story includes two of the subjects that I am fond of: stories of apparitions and mountain climbing. I am not a very religious person but I grew up in religious family and community. During my childhood days, we used to have a collection of postcards of several saints. I would read their stories at the back, stare at their young photos and wonder if one day, an angel or the Virgin Mary herself would appear before me. The stories of Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia particularly stuck with me for a long time, and it feels good to be reminded of them again. As for mountain climbing, I love how Coelho relates finding our purpose in life to it. Most of the times, we have no idea what lies ahead and the path we are treading can be lonely and cruel. To the common spectator, every step is ordinary and the same. But to the mountain climber, it means courage and braving the unknown.

What I didn’t like: None. Only the fact that I did not get to read Pilar’s letters by the river. I would have loved be spoon-fed more of Coelho’s wisdom and beautiful words. Yes, no doubt!

Favorite quotes:

“You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

“Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment help us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments — but all of this is transitory it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.”

“And happiness is something that multiplies when divided.”

“Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow.”

“Our universe require that we avoid getting glasses fall to the floor. But when we break them by accident, we realize that it’s not very serious.”

“It’s one thing to think that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

“Go and get your things,” he said. “Dreams mean work.”

Final Thoughts: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is the first book of Coelho’s And On the Seventh Day trilogy. It’s a series that is linked by concept rather than characters, wherein human frailty and strength are explored in a span of one week. This novel is about distinguishing who we are, who we want to be and who we are destined to be. It’s about carving own path and accepting the challenges that come with it. It tells a story that is worth every second of your time. I promise.

Have you read By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept? Did you like it as much as I did?

Quick Notes: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

Genre: Horror/Paranormal fiction
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌓

Quick Notes: After three days dawns, I have finally “completed” my goal which is to read a paranormal fiction.

The Orphan Choir is a very easy read. I don’t have issues with unlikable characters like those of Gillian Flynn’s, but Sophie Hannah’s Louise takes some getting used to. She complains a lot and whines about everything which is borderline irritating. And her husband is… nah, never mind him.

As for the book, I think it was more of a psychological suspense rather than a horror story. More than half of the pages were spent to build a tension that was lost in the end. Although I intentionally picked The Orphan Choir knowing that it is not a hardcore horror novel, I would have like to experience a little more horror and less of Louise. The paranormal encounter (if you consider them ghosts and not hallucinations of a deluded woman) only happened in the last few pages.

Plot-wise, there were inconsistencies and gaps. I believe it’s an OK introduction to the genre — not too creepy for scaredy cats like me. However, I think I still need to try other horror books to confidently say that I have read out of my comfort zone.

Got any book recommendations? 🙂

Blog Update: Taming Cats and Categories

Blog updates and work in prgress

Yesterday a black cat ignored me — again. It’s same stray who always lounge by the TGU bench in IT Park during afternoons. I feel envious to the point of sinful watching it laze around, enjoying the silence and cool wind, when we humans are at the end of time’s bending sickle.

If only we could have moments of carelessness too…

For the nth time, I tried to pet her. But she would not be tamed. So I turned to my phone, looked up my blog to see when was the last time I wrote about cats. Then, it dawned on me: I need to fix my site.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t want to be too technical. Never cared much about pages, categories, tags, plugins and whatnots. Even my site identity is slightly sloppy. All I care about was — and still is — the content. Blogging is more like virtual journal for me but as time passed, a lot of things happened. I started joining prompts to hone my writing. I kept adding new stuff to Poetry/Flash Fiction/Musings without caring that some posts might not fit under these three categories.

Which brings me to this project: re-categorizing my posts. Some of you might notice that I’ve added new pages and nested tabs on this site. I basically just added specific categories for poetry and writings for easy navigation, and dumped all posts with unused categories under Mishmash of Random Things. LOL!

As for the really new stuff, I’ve decided to share my bookish thoughts through book reviews and book talks — though I hope laziness won’t get in the way in the future. I’ve also added a main tab for my travels and resurrected (haha) Mouth+Piece where I share my favorite written and spoken poems from around the globe.

Overall, it’s still a work in progress. Now, back to tinkering! Have a great day 🙂

Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography/Essays
Copy: Online (LINK HERE)
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕

Synopsis: The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother — his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.


Five reasons to read the book:
1) It gives you a good glimpse of South Africa — its people, languages and culture weaved by long history of oppression, divide and deprivation. It’s a good look at pre- and post-apartheid times through the eyes of a mixed child.

2) The storytelling. Reading the book feels like having an actual conversation with Trevor. It’s not presented as a chronological autobiography but instead as a collection of personal narratives on certain points of his life. Perhaps, it is an advantage for those who follow him on The Daily Show or his satirical comedy shows. Like what he normally does, Trevor jumps from one random memory to another, yet always, at the end of every essay, leaves something for readers to ponder on.

3) Trevor Noah. You know what’s sexier than abs and killer smile? Humor and wit. Trevor delivers both and a whole lot more. He doesn’t hide his imperfections or sugarcoat his past. This young capitalist, who spent his early days pirating CDs, DJ’ing parties and operating payday-lending to earn money, will show you the real meaning of strike while the iron is hot.

4) Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. They say behind every successful man is woman. In Trevor’s case, that driving force is Patricia. Her tribal name, “Nombuyiselo,” translates as “she who gives back” — and give she did. She faced racism and gender discrimination with rebelliousness, wrestled with the larger society’s expectations and that of her own. Like all great mothers, Patricia fed her family with ample of food for the body and food for the thought. Despite her trials or perhaps because of them, this woman is indeed phenomenal.

5) The mother and son duo. Free-spirited and independent Patricia raised her son on tough love. You get to see the relatable mother and son banter, but rarely would you see a woman who prepares her son for the cruel world at a very young age. While most of us had the sweet taste of life first, Patricia let Trevor get used to the bitterness — and use that bitterness to challenge him to see the good in everything. Hilarious, dramatic and deeply affecting at once, theirs was a relationship anyone would find interesting. As Trevor wrote, they weren’t just mother and son. They were a team.

Highlighted Quotes:
We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never
have the answer to.”

“The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose.”

“People always lecture the poor: ‘Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!’ But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?”

“People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

“It’s easy to be judgmental about crime when you live in a world wealthy enough to be removed from it.”

“We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them.”

“But after a while the bruises fade, and they fade for a reason — because now it’s time to get up to some shit again.”

Final Thoughts: Candid and comically sublime, Born a Crime is perfect for those who are looking for a one-sitting read. It’s a book of childhood memories and stories of the past but Trevor, in a way, also reflects on his experiences as an adult man which give it more depth. You’d definitely want the audiobook right after reading. At least that’s the case for me.

Have you read Born a Crime? Did you like it as much as I did?

Book Review: The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

Genre: Fictional autobiography
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Set on a Bengali noble’s estate in 1908, this is both a love story and a novel of political awakening. The central character, Bimala, is torn between the duties owed to her husband, Nikhil, and the demands made on her by the radical leader, Sandip. Her attempts to resolve the irreconcilable pressures of the home and world reflect the conflict in India itself, and the tragic outcome foreshadows the unrest that accompanied Partition in 1947.

What I liked:

1. The characters. Each POV from the three central characters brought me to their shoes. I struggled with Nikhil in keeping his morals, I lost my way to sensationalism and terror with Bimala, and I breathed in Sandip’s clouded fanaticism. These internal turmoil that each character go through make the story relatable.

2.The depth in this slim volume. It talks about infatuation — one that goes beyond the physical attraction. It weights the pros and cons of being infatuated with an idea. It tackles the concepts of freedom and bondage, pitting rationalism, nationalism and humanism against each other, backdropped by the political scenario of the Swadesi movement.

3. Tagore’s poetic power. I know people did not miss the faulty translations but that did not hamper Tagore’s beautiful prose.

What I didn’t like: None? Haha I’m an easy-to-please reader in general. The only thing I could wish is to be able to read and understand the novel in its orginal language. Perhaps I’m also slightly disturbed by Bimala’s representation of women (her gullibility) but I understand her chosen path of freedom and the form of redemption she received in the end.

Favorite quotes:
“I am willing to serve my country, but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”

“To tyrannize for the country is to tyrannize over the country”

“So long as we are impervious to truth and have to be moved by some hypnotic stimulus, we must know that we lack the capacity for self-government. Whatever may be our condition, we shall either need some imaginary ghost or some actual medicine-man to terrorize over us.”

“Is there any country, sir,” pursued the history student, “where submission to Government is not due to fear?” “The freedom that exists in any country,” I replied, “may be measured by the extent of this reign of fear. Where its threat is confined to those who would hurt or plunder, there the Government may claim to have freed man from the violence of man. But if fear is to regulate how people are to dress, where they shall trade, or what they must eat, then is man’s freedom of will utterly ignored, and manhood destroyed at the root.”

“It is only when we get to the point of letting the bird out of its cage that we can realize how free the bird has set us.”

“I tell you, sir, this is just what the world has failed to understand. They all seek to reform something outside themselves. But reform is wanted only in one’s own desires, nowhere else, nowhere else!”

“To clutch hold of that which is untrue as though it were true, is only to throttle oneself.”

“Only the weak dare not be just.”

Final Thoughts: I first read this book in 2017. It is much more than a classic literary masterpiece to me. Each page is an awakening about the fragility of humanity. This book resonates deeply, especially with what is happening to my country and to the rest of the world today.

Have you read The Home and the World? Did you like it as much as I did?

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