Monday, April 8, 2013

Great Reads Quarterly, Jan.-Mar. 2013 (1/4)

Expect 4 of these reviews for 2013 (First this April, then July, October, and January '14). I will start this to encourage myself to read and to post here more. I will not include all the books I read, just a few I like. Again, these are more of reactions than reviews. I'll try to keep it spoiler-free.

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Shelley's husband Max dies, and after three years a stranger knocks on her door who resembles Max and claiming to be her husband's grandson. He tells Shelley her husband is alive and well, and they travel from Madrid to Boracay to find the answers to Max's mystery. The story occurs in flashbacks: from the time Shelley met her husband, a tour guide for a European tour; to the stories Max tells about the history of the many countries they visit.

The love story felt cheesy and rushed but I liked the details of travel across Europe and the bits of historical tales Max narrates. It was overall okay. Max is some sort of immortal who has lived many lifetimes. Shelley must make a choice between death and 'ever after'. But it ended in a very ominous way that was more horror than romance for me. I wonder if it was foreshadowing for a sequel...anyway the writing style is good and its a cheaper tour to Europe and through time while not leaving your seat.

This book was widely talked about in its release as its written by a Filipina author signed by a big, international publisher (Random House).

Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney (a.k.a. Caitlin R. Kiernan)
Funniest book I've read in a long time. Siobhan Quinn is a monster hunter, but none of your romantic notions or expectations. She's long been fighting the 'nasties' but one unlucky night changes her life: she's bitten by a vampire and a werewolf. The hunter becomes the monster. Werepire? Vampwolf? Her drug addiction is replaced by a new craving for blood. She was 'changed' to be a weapon for some vampire's revenge plot. What I like is the book's take on the Supernatural underworld (there's even a demon brothel and trolls under bridges) and when Siobhan wakes up naked after turning to a werewolf and eating someone. I also like the monsters here, they are actually monstrous. As Siobhan says: “And take it from me, vampires sure as hell don’t sparkle… or glitter… or twinkle, no matter what that silly Mormon twit may have written, no matter how many books she’s sold, and no matter how many celibate high school girls have signed themselves up for Team Edward.”
In my mental cast of characters, Quinn is played by ex-Sugababe Siobhan Donaghy and Mr. B (another guy from the trade who helps her) looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained.

Land that moves, Land that stands still by Kent Nelson
Most of the story occurs in a big farm and the daily maintenance of land is detailed, and I thought it would be boring at first but it's not. Mattie recently lost her husband to an accident, and her daughter Shelley comes back. They are joined by Dawn, a weird mechanic who has changed her name many times; and a runaway Indian boy. They encounter annoying relatives, douchebag neighbors, violent ex-boyfriends, and other problems. I like the theme of random strangers who end up like family (oh, I liked that too in Samurai X).

Dojo Wisdom for Writers by Jennifer Lawler
A book of 100 short inspirational essays that applies a Martial Arts perspective on writing. It made me want to take up Martial Arts, and its another book to read when one feels down because reading a few essays gives me motivation to persevere and be positive. It can also be applied in areas other than writing.

The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
It's a short book on family psychology but there are some parts I can't follow because I'm not familiar with psychoanalysis. It is full of insights on children not having 'real selves' anymore due to parents' expectations of achievement, and this manifests as depression in adulthood. This particular paragraph hit me:
"...all the love he has captured with so much effort and self-denial was not meant for him as he really was, that the admiration for his beauty and achievements was aimed at this beauty and these achievements, and not at the child himself. In analysis, the child that is hidden behind his achievements wakes up and asks: "What would have happened if I had appeared before you, bad, ugly, angry, jealous, lazy, dirty, smelly? Where would your love have been then? And I was all these things as well. Does this mean that it was not really me whom you loved, but only what I pretended to be? The well-behaved, reliable, empathic, understanding, and convenient child..."

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