Monthly Recap: January 2016


My Life
  • I returned from a lovely holiday visiting my family. It managed not to snow for the ENTIRE TIME I was there… not even when we visited a ski resort. We ended up with a warm winter hike instead. So now it’s been about 2 full years since I’ve seen actual, knee-deep-or-higher snow. I am snow-starved.
  • I attempted the #24in48 readathon, but “only” made it to 15-ish hours. I still feel pretty accomplished, though, since I made it through 3 books that weekend.
  • I’ve joined the staff of Rambutan Literary, a new & tiny literary journal dedicated to voices from Southeast Asia and its diaspora. Hopefully, editing will also be a kick in the pants for me to actually start writing again! It’s been a long time since I submitted anything to a journal or anything, and I’d like to get back into the habit.
Book Thoughts & Discussions
Books reviewed

Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson (★ ★)
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (★ ★ ★ ★ ★) – and I even visited the real-life Cannery Row in Monterey, California. It’s a bit touristy, but still worth a visit!

Mini-Reviews: Other January reads

The Old Man and the Sea by
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
132 Pages; published 1952
★ ★ ★

It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.

A lonely old fisherman goes after a giant fish, which he respects as a nemesis and friend. Parts of it are a beautifully succinct character study, but the story itself was repetitive: another day, another struggle with giganto-fish. The ending left me feeling mostly empty.

The Divine by
The Divine by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie
160 Pages; published 2015
★ ★ ★

With no career prospects and a baby on the way, Mark finds himself making the worst mistake of his life and signing on with Jason. What awaits him in Quanlom is going to change everything. What awaits him in Quanlom is weirdness of the highest order: a civil war led by ten-year-old twins wielding something that looks a lot like magic, leading an army of warriors who look a lot like gods.What awaits him in Quanlom is an actual goddamn dragon…The Divine is a fast-paced, brutal, and breathlessly beautiful portrait of a world where ancient powers vie with modern warfare and nobody escapes unscathed.

Gorgeous artwork and important postcolonial themes, but not much character development.

My Real Children by
My Real Children by Jo Walton
320 Pages; published 2014
★ ★ ★ 1/2

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

A single choice – whether or not to marry her long-distance boyfriend in her early twenties – sends Patricia spiraling into two very different lives. These lives are told in parallel, yet both reach the same conclusion: confused convalescence in a nursing home at the end of her life.

The story moves along at a brisk pace, stopping only briefly for individual scenes. It’s like reading the truncated SparkNotes of two lives. TL;DR. Something about it reminded me in a kindly fashion of hearing about the exploits of Sims you’ve grown particularly fond of, or playing house with dolls as a child check that.

The story and language are all very straightforward, nothing terribly original or different happened… but I found myself enjoying it very much. It’s an incredibly comforting read. You see the same woman build a life for herself and find beauty in her surroundings, no matter the circumstances. Patricia begins shy yet resilient; as her life progresses, she surrounds herself with love and beauty when possible, takes chances for self-improvement no matter how late the age. There are some great portrayals of non-traditional relationships and families. Alternate timelines for world events always make me smile, and neither timeline in this book is exactly our own.

The Stranger by
The Stranger by Albert Camus
123 Pages; published 1942
★ ★ ★

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”

One man’s aimless nihilism is put on trial. This is one of those books I wish I could discuss with other people, as I don’t know much about existentialism or absurdism without the help of Wikipedia, and I’m sure I’m missing references / overtones / philosophical ideas.

Around the Blogosphere
  • Josephine @ Word Revel (in a guest post for the Mile Long Bookshelf) discusses the nuances of living abroad while being of mixed ethnic descent. As a fellow person of mixed ethnic descent, I was nodding my head in agreement the whole time I read.
  • Claire and Nikki @ Bitches with Books discuss how exactly they define “reading diversely”.
  • Heather @ Bits n Books shares her recent thrifty used book find, complete with an enigmatic message written on the inside. Secondhand books come pre-loaded with their own character, and you never know what little surprises might await!
  • Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout tells us about teahouses in Chinese culture, especially as portrayed in one particular play. I’ve never read any Chinese literature, so the social nuances were totally new to me.
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  • Reply Heather February 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing about my Thrifty Thursday experience! I have another cool thing in the book for my next Thrifty post – I’m really excited about it.

    I feel like I was kind in giving ‘Bats of the Republic’ three stars – but I really did love the pictures. If they were rubbish I probably would have given it two stars like you. It was a bit of a let down all in all. So much promise that it just didn’t deliver on.
    Heather recently posted…Teaser Tuesday – ‘War and Peace’My Profile

  • Reply Claire February 2, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for the link up! Also, snow starved? I’ll switch what little snow we get here with your heat!

  • Reply Julianne - Outlandish Lit February 2, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Looks like you read a lot of interesting stuff this month! I’m sad you didn’t like The Divine more than you did, though. And 15ish hours is tooootally acceptable. Good job!

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