Monday, August 15, 2016

"BookTube-A-Thon" - What I Read Pt. 2

Here are the rest of the books I read for the read-a-thon:

5/Read a book that is older than you & 6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation. - The book I read for these challenges was Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I didn't watch the movie and after seeing the reviews, I probably won't be watching it at all. I've always been a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland. So silly, so nonsensical, so whimsical. A dream world. I love it. I don't really have anything else to say about this. Rating: Really Good

7/ Read seven books. - As I said in my last post, I read 20 books for the read-a-thon, but that was heavily padded with graphic novels and a few poetry books. There are quite a few books that fall under this challenge and I won't be fully reviewing all of them because I don't have that much to say about them. The book I finished for this challenge was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This is the first book in the Imperial Radch sci-fi trilogy. This is a complicated book that does interesting things with artificial intelligence and gender. We begin the book as Breq, an AI that used to be an entire ship, the Justice of Toren, stumbles across someone she vaguely remembers lying in the snow, having overdosed. There is not much more I can say about the plot without spoiling it. The book is very confusing at first because we are placed right at the end of Breq's "mission," which is slowly revealed to us through flashbacks. I will be continuing with this series! Rating: Really Good, almost amazing

I read I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached, a graphic novel about the author's experience growing up during a time of turmoil between Muslims and Christians. I enjoyed the artwork, but I wished it had more of a narrative. Overall, I enjoyed it. Rating: Good

I also read Pretty Deadly, vol 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. I wish I could give you a description of what it's about, but the truth is I had no idea what was going on while I was reading it. The illustrations are not bad, but there is just too much going on in the same page. And the grittiness of the illustrations makes it even worse. It was disappointing because it seemed like it could be a good story, if only I could follow it. Rating: Okay

Next, I read a few poetry books: The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail, Phenomenal Woman & His Day is Done by Maya Angelou, Once by Alice Walker, and The Panther and the Lash by Langston Hughes. I don't really remember these well enough to say anything besides that I enjoyed them and that they got me back into reading poetry. My favorite of these was Langston Hughes' poetry. Rating: Good/Really Good

Finally, I read The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. This is a weird little book in which a boy goes to his library to get a few books but ends up getting locked up by a mean, old man in the library's twisty-turny, dark basement. There he meets a sheep-man and a girl who only appears at night. This was another disappointment for me. The story was like a combination of Kafka and Alice in Wonderland, which has great potential, but unfortunately, this just fell flat for me. It was all plot. I finished it within an hour and was left thinking, "so what?" What's the point? The book also has illustrations on almost every page, which I personally found very pointless. Rating: Okay

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"BookTube-A-Thon" - What I Read Pt. 1

"BookTube-A-Thon" just ended today, and it was a huge success for me! I read 20 books, consisting of mostly graphic novels as well as poetry and fiction, and finished all but the book-to-movie challenge. Additionally, I was pretty faithful to my TBR list, the one exception being Shakespeare. I just was not in the mood for him this week. Because I read so many books this week, I'm splitting this into two parts. Here's part 1 of what I read this week: 

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover. - For this challenge, I read Gene Luen Yang's Boxers & Saints, two graphic novels that follow a young man, Little Bao, and a young woman, Four-Girl, during the Boxer Revolution in China. The young man and woman are each on different sides of the revolution and each have their own stories and motivations for being on that side. Little Bao chooses to lead the revolution, driven a childhood desire to be like the courageous figures in he admires in his favorite operas as well as anger from seeing his family and other village members brutally mistreated and disrespected at the hands of foreigners. Four-Girl, on the other hand, chooses to defect from her traditional society and convert to Christianity, stemming from a sense of alienation from her own family as well as a childhood desire to be a "foreign devil" that blossoms into a deeper understanding of Christianity. I absolutely loved these graphic novels. I love that Yang chose to show both sides of the story to show each character's ideas and motivations, as well as to show how each character suffered. These books are not light summer reading. Both main characters suffer a great deal, and many people die. These books truly show the high costs of imperialism, missionary work, and revolution. Rating: Amazing!

2/ Read a book only after sunset. - For this challenge, I read Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I also read volumes 2-5. This is a science-fiction graphic novel series that follows a family comprised of a "Winged" mother, a "Horned" father, and their daughter, a hybrid - "Winged-Horned". The parents' planets are at war with each other so falling in love and having a child has gotten them into quite a pickle. They are persecuted by their planets' forces as well as by a Freelancer. I inhaled these five volumes. The series gets better with each volume, with great character development and exploration of themes like war, violence, and parenthood. The illustrations are so gorgeous and imaginative. Combine them with the superb story and you have a comic series completely deserving of all of the praise and awards it has received. 
Rating: Amazing!

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube. - I read Carol Ann Duffy's Feminine Gospels, a book of poetry I learned of through JeanBookishThoughts channel. This was one of July's books for the Feminist Orchestra Book Club, so obviously, it examined different women's experiences. I really thought I was going to enjoy this given the subject matter, but Duffy's style just didn't work for me. The poems felt long-winded and I didn't see why they had to be in verse. That is not to say that Carol Ann Duffy is a bad poet (like Lang Leav). Even though I I personally did not really enjoy this collection, I can see that Duffy is talented, and I will be picking up one of her other collections!
Rating: Okay  

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors - For this challenge, I had intended to read a play by Shakespeare. What happened is that I read the first like of As You Like It and immediately closed the tab. I was not in the frame of mind to read Shakespeare. So, I decided to return to one of my favorite poets, Louise Gluck, whose poetry book The Wild Iris is one of my all-time favorites. This time around, I read Gluck's Averno, and it did not disappoint. In this book, Louise Gluck uses the myth of Persephone to explore loneliness, love, desire, and mortality, and as usual her verse is stunning. This is one I will be re-reading. 
Rating: Amazing!

Part 2 with Challenges 5-7 will be up soon!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Two Amazing Movies

This is another unfinished draft from last year. This was supposed to be a full list of my favorite movies I watched in 2015. I only ever wrote two entries, but these two movies were my absolute favorite movies from last year. So, here they are:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari dir. Robert Wiene - This is a classic silent horror movie and one of the most famous examples of German Expressionism in film. This is probably the movie that made the most impact on me. The scene where Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt, first opens his eyes is burned in my memory. I couldn't shake that image. I had to look up more about Weimar Cinema and Conrad Veidt. Everything about this movie just really worked for me - the acting, the set design, the use of shadows, etc. The set looks like it's constructed out of paper, but it works so well in the film. None of the buildings are straight, and I read somewhere that there are no right angles in the movie. There are so many fantastic images in this film. I love everything about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

I watched this movie in mid-summer 2015. A year later I'm still completely obsessed with this movie. It's my favorite movie and it's a great introduction to German Expressionism!

Pina dir. Wim Wenders - This is a documentary of Pina Bausch's dance company, Tanztheater Wuppertal. What is special about this documentary is that it does not attempt to describe Bausch's influence or characterize her, but rather simply allows her work to speak for itself. Members of her original dance company come together to recreate dances on stage and throughout the city of Wuppertal. Additionally, in between dances, you get little snippets of the dancers sharing their experiences working with Pina Bausch. The documentary is beautifully shot, and the dances are strange and exquisite.

"BookTube-A-Thon" TBR

I don't have a youtube channel, but I thought it might be fun to participate in these challenges next week. Here is the video describing what the "BookTube-A-Thon" is: This read-a-thon runs next week from July 18-July 24.

I definitely won't be able to read everything, but here are my choices for the reading challenges:

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover. - Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. I'm currently reading Boxers and am really enjoying it! 

2/ Read a book only after sunset. - Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This is a sci-fi graphic novel series that I'm finally giving a try after hearing about it on almost every "booktube" channel I watch. This series also counts for the next challenge!

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube. - Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy. This is a book of poetry. I found out about this through JeanBookThoughts channel on this video: Jean runs an online book club called the Feminist Orchestra Book Club. This will be the first time I participate in this club!

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors & 5/Read a book that is older than you. - I'm thinking I'll combine these two challenges and read something by Shakespeare. I'll probably read As You Like It, Cymbeline, or All's Well That Ends Well

6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation. - For this challenge, I am thinking of reading Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I probably won't watch the movie since it's still in the cinemas and I don't really want to spend money on it, but maybe I'll watch it a few months from now.

7/ Read seven books. - Finally, I'm hoping to finish Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Very Belated Mini Book Review

I was looking through my posts today and found a few drafts of book reviews from last year. I wanted to share this one because I really enjoyed this book!
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Rating: Really Good

This is Banana Yoshimoto's debut work, composed of two novellas that deal with the loss of loved ones. I have read two of her other works - Lizard, a short story collection, and N.P.,  a novel. In my opinion, this is the best translation of her work I have read; although, I didn't think the other translations were that good, not that I can compare them to the original Japanese text. I am very happy that I kept reading Yoshimoto's work. With Kitchen, I was finally able to immerse myself in Yoshimoto's quietness, poetry, and mystical air. I finally got it. This is my favorite work of hers that I have read.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sailor Moon Book Tag

I haven't posted in a while; so, I figured the easiest way to get back into this would be to do a tag. I saw the Sailor Moon tag on Youtube and thought it would be fun! I will try to include books I've read more recently. Here is the original video:
Moon: A book that makes you hungry - I'm going to be unimaginative and say The Afternoon Tea Collection by Pamela Clark. Plenty of yummy things to bake in here.

Mercury: A book that features science and technology
Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. I've only read volume 1 of this comic book series so far, but I really enjoyed it. Alex gets Ada, an AI designed to cater to her client's every need, after a rough break-up. Alex is lonely and craves a relationship with someone with a personality who actually spends time with him of his own free will. So, he investigates on how to give Ada sentience.
Venus: A book that makes you want to play video games - After Dark by Haruki Murakami. I read this book in 2015 and found it as a recommendation for people who like Persona 4, the video game. It's an atmospheric book that takes place completely at night, as the title suggests. I think the main reason it was recommended is because of the ability to go into the television.
Mars: A book inspired by mythology or folklore - Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet. This is a graphic novel that gives a classic fairy tale a disturbing twist. Princess Aurora is on the verge of getting engaged to her Prince Charming when the corpse of the girl she's living in starts decaying. Various small characters come crawling out of the corpse and wreak havoc on each other. It's completely unsettling, with cute illustrations that makes it even creepier. 
Jupiter: A book that gave you strong feelings - Dracula by Bram Stoker. This is my favorite book I've read this year so far and one of my favorite books in general. This is beautifully written, suspenseful, dark, imaginative, and fully developed. I need to read more Gothic literature. 

Saturn: A post apocalyptic book you love - The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. I think this is the only post apocalyptic work I've ever read. It's a short story that takes place in the future after Earth has stopped being able to support human life. So, everyone lives underground in separate cells where they communicate solely through technology. Sci-fi by E.M. Forster! 
Pluto: A time travel book - As much as I love time travel, I haven't actually read a time travel book in a long time.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling was one of my favorite books of the series. I have several time travel books on my to-read list, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain,  Kindred by Octavia Butler, and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.
Uranus: A book featuring elemental magic - Again, I haven't read many of these books, but I did enjoy The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale when I read it many years ago.

Neptune: A book featuring music - The Commitments by Roddy Doyle - A fun, light read about about a group of Irish teenagers who form a soul group! Also, Beatlebone by Kevin Barry - Featuring John Lennon and Scream therapy.

Tuxedo Mask: A book with masquerades or hidden identities
- I don't think I've actually read any of these books, but I saw Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie on a list for these kinds of books. I'm currently reading this books and absolutely loving it. More on this book later.
Rini/Chibi Moon: A favorite middle grade book - Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. 

Luna, Artemis & Diana: A book for animal lovers - Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon and Mu by Junji Ito. Junji Ito is an acclaimed horror mangaka (my favorite of his works is Uzumaki!). The combination of cats and horror-style illustrations is hilarious. All cat lovers need to read this! Totally relatable.

Can you tell that I got lazier as the list went on?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Favorite Books of 2015

In 2015, I read around 40 books. Here are my favorites, in no particular order:
Just Kids by Patti Smith - Sometimes when you love something so much, it can be hard to describe that love. How can I articulate how phenomenal Just Kids is? In this book, Patti Smith eloquently describes her childhood, her long friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and their beginnings as artists in New York City. Her writing is fluid and has a distinctive, consistent voice, her own. What struck me was how Patti Smith describes everything in detail; she and Robert were so meticulous about the appearance of their material possessions and their outfits. I was also struck with their devotion to each other; no matter how poor they were, they stuck to each other and focused on their work. This is one of those rare books that made me slow down. I took my time with it; I savored it. I prolonged my reading just so that it wouldn't end as soon. How to describe this book? It is the poetry of friendship and art. Just Kids is my favorite book read in 2015, and one of my favorite books in general.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - Everyone knows the basic story. It's a classic, and it is the most beautifully written book I have ever read. When I found out this is his only novel, it felt like a favorite tv series being canceled after one season. But I will be reading his other work.

Helter-Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki - As mentioned in my review of this manga, this was a re-read for me. Disturbing, erotic, and haunting, this manga chronicles the deterioration of model Liliko's mental and physical health.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty - In this nonfiction work, Caitlin Doughty writes about her experiences working as a cremator and shares her insights on death. In 2014, I thought a lot about mortality, my own mainly, and this book reassured me that it was okay, and even right, to think about mortality and death. Even though these are serious topics, Caitlin Doughty makes them easily accessible and writes with levity. It's a "light" read that makes you think. I really enjoyed her discussion of her disappointment with society's and the death industry's treatment of bodies. Doughty points out that death is kept hidden in our society: corpses are treated with toxic chemicals and made up to look as living as possible. I also enjoyed her discussion on alternatives to traditional burial and have decided on one of them for my own future funeral. One's own mortality can be a very unsettling and overwhelming subject, but Doughty opens up the discussion easily and offers us her perspectives as someone who faces death in her everyday job.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh - This is another book I have already reviewed. I fell in love with Allie Brosh's crude drawings and absurd humor. Hysterical and very self-aware.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn - Out of all of the books I read in 2015, this book stressed me out the most. It is not "light" reading, and in fact, it can be very dry. This is one of the most famous books in science. Kuhn writes about the scientific revolutions that occurred throughout history, such as Newton's laws and Priestley's discovery of oxygen, and describes how they came about and the consequences of such revolutions. He also discusses how these consequences shape our understanding of science and its history. Here is an attempt at a brief summary of what he writes. He defines scientific revolutions as shifts in paradigms, which are unifying rules that govern scientific inquiry. For example, Newton's laws of reasoning unify all scientific fields because they provide rules how to conduct scientific inquiry; however, there are also paradigms in specific fields of science, such as Darwin's theory of evolution via natural selection in the field of biology. A shift in paradigm comes about because of the zeitgeist of the time. Kuhn demonstrates how a shift in paradigm can be very dramatic and research based on the previous paradigm must basically be thrown out. So, older scientists who have spent their life publishing research must quickly adapt to the new paradigm. (Although, my professor pointed out that a paradigm shift in today's world would probably be much less dramatic and involve integrating elements of the previous paradigm with the new paradigm). This disposal of "useless" research has shaped our understanding of the history of science. Kuhn writes that we are taught to think of scientific history as very linear, one discovery leading to another. As Kuhn illustrates, it is very dramatic, with new paradigms nullifying older paradigms. In school, we only learn about the discoveries that are still relevant. At the end of the essay, Kuhn compares science to Darwin's theory of evolution. In Darwin's theory, species adapt over time as a response to their environment; there is no "end goal," no perfect form they have set out to achieve. Kuhn states that this is similar to science: our inquiry is not necessarily leading us towards a final truth. This is one of the most upsetting and overwhelming statements I have ever read, and in fact, I got so upset, I started stress-eating and was four cookies in when I realized Kuhn is not necessarily right about this. (A thought which was confirmed by my professor). This book profoundly changed my understanding of science.