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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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for the love of reading

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 Talk: Stuck in the mood

a girl wearing yellow sitting on a bench with a Sherlock Holmes book

In the past few months, I gave you a rough sketch of who I am as a reader. I talked about having to choose between a book versus its movie adaptation, being emotionally/mentally unprepared for a read, going out of my comfort zone, hoarding books, and dealing with my bookish pet peeves and fetish.

This time, I would like to share with you the biggest bane and boon of my reading life. My moods.

Most of us, if not all, go through this kind of dilemma. There are days when it gets frustrating to pick a book to read, especially when it’s hard to pinpoint what you’re in the mood for. Some days, you try and give it a few pages, yet halfway through, you’re like “Nope. Not this one. Abandon ship.” Even those copies that you’ve been so excited to get your hands on feel distant now.

So you wait until you feel that pull to read again.

Last November, I promised myself that I will not be spending any more money on books until the end of 2020. That I will continue ticking off my TBR list instead. So far, I have not given to temptation ─ but, problem is, I have not read any book either.

All my moods seem to be in perfect unison and point me to one man and one man alone: Sherlock Holmes. The well-loved Victorian detective in the literary world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous antihero with an impressive knack for solving cases in a strange and singular manner. And the only high-functioning sociopath I am most in love with (Sorry, Sheldon. It’s not you, it’s physics.)

I have read the anthology of stories, watched all versions of film adaptations and, just this month, listened to all audiobooks I could find in the public domain. If only I have my book with me, I would re-read all 700 pages once more.

Oh, I am SHERLOCKED again. What do you do with such a mood?

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?

Book Talk: Books or movies? A reader’s dilemma.

a stack of books that have

What do you prefer to do first: read the book or watch the movie adaptation?

Mine would be the latter. The book ─ in most cases, if not all ─ will give you a much better experience. But as much as possible, I try to watch the film first. This way I get to enjoy the cinematography without prior judgments.

But that’s just me. I still believe that whether it is a book or a movie, each has its own singular merits. Instead of pitting these two against each other, we should search within ourselves how we can appreciate both mediums.

Below are some noteworthy reasons why people choose to read the book first before watching the movie (or vice versa):

BOOK FIRST

  • A book allows you to be part of the story as it gives a personal insight into each character’s thoughts and feelings.
  • It gives you the power to create the character/setting/mood that is unique to your own mind.
  • More. A book gives you more detail, more background, more focus, more depth that some movie adaptations tend to leave out due to constraints in time or limitations in dialogues.
  • A book allows you to take your time to savor every scene.

MOVIE FIRST

  • A movie lets you experience the story without prejudice and expectations.
  • It allows you to get to know the characters or see the places portrayed in the book.
  • Visualization. It brings to life all the elements of the book that were confined in a reader’s imagination ─ from the concrete details of each character/setting to the intangible aspects such as emotions.
  • A movie lasts about two hours at most. It’s time efficient.

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!

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

Blog Update: fidgets & widgets

Fidget
verb
-to make a small movement, typically a repeated one, with your your hands or feet
-an act that often reflects discomfort, restlessness and impatience

I guess this word sums up my month. I have been fidgeting with my blog and posts — making two steps forward yet taking two steps back.

But while I am feeling uneasy with my virtual life here, the real world has been kinder to me. The best news of all is that I have found the drive to read my pile of books again. So far, I have ticked off two from my TBR list:

Quick Notes: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

As for writing, I’ve decided to continue sharing that old poems from IG that I haven’t shared here in WordPress. Since I am not in a creative mode yet, I’ve decided to focus on tinkering with my website.

First, I’ve added two new widgets: Goodreads and Instagram. Second, a new profile picture is up — one that shows (slightly) a face. Haha. For a long while, I’ve been hiding my avatar behind a book. I guess now it’s time to slowly reintroduce the fidgety little girl behind this blog. 😁

Hope you are all doing well on your side of the Earth. Have a great day! 💛

Book Talk: The uncomfortable zone

Readers come in different sizes, shapes and preferences. Aside from a shared love of books, no two readers are alike. Some people are series junkies, others are literary snobs. Some are polygamists, others are genre loyalists. Some are faithful to physical books, others are new gen e-readers. Some read by author, others read by mood. Some skim, others underline. Most often than not, they can be any of the above mentioned at the same time.

I, for one, have my own comfort zone as a reader. As much as I try to make sure to keep my reading attitude open and flexible, there are still some walls that I find hard to take down. Like stepping into the world of paranormal fiction.

A novel could have the goriest deaths in its pages and that would be fine ─ so long as it is done by a human. Ghosts, on the other hand, make me uncomfortable and uneasy. The thought of having them in my mind scares me. And unlike movies, books have a way of staying in our memories much longer.

So what made go out of my comfort zone now? Yesterday, James and I went book hunting in two branches of Booksale (a thrift bookstore) after 6 months of quarantine. It’s like being reunited with your loved ones after years of being separated. But for some reason, I didn’t feel like looking for books that I’d normally take. I had this nagging voice at the back of my head that wanted me to take a horror novel. Long story short, I randomly picked Sophie Hannah’s The Orphan Choir (20 pesos) and Andrew Pyper’s Lost Girls (83 pesos).

I still don’t know where this decision will take me. Or if I can see these books through the end. Maybe, maybe not. That will have to wait. 😊

What’s your comfort zone as a reader? Have you tried reading out of it?

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