Friday, January 28, 2011

# 7 - I Am Legend (And Other Short Stories) by Richard MAtheson

That is an one ugly book cover. More so considering how much i was enraged, ENRAGED!, I tell you, when I realized how much they changed the ending of the film. It was, however, the cheapest copy I could find and I was really impatient to find out what the difference between the book and the movie was. So, I had to make do with Will Smith.

I saw the movie before I read the book and I actually quite enjoyed the movie. But that was before I knew that the book was really quite awesome. I mean, the movie was ok and all, but why didn't they just make another movie completely not based on the book? Changing the ending and even some details (like there are dead vampires and alive vampires, and that hello! they are sentient!) completely change the essence of the book.

Enough ranting about the adaptation and on to the book itself. It was good. Neville is the last man left on earth. All the other have been infected by a horrible disease that turns them into bloodsucking monsters. The first part was basically just about how Neville lived his daily life, in the face of vampire apocalypse. Surviving and protecting himself. It also tells his past, which is heartbreaking, through flashbacks. We stay with Neville as he goes through depression and excessive drinking (who wouldn't be driven to drink when faced with a nightly onslaught of scary-ass vampires) and eventually just deals. He tries to learn all he can about the origin of the plague and tries to find a cure. In the day, when the vampires are helpless, he goes out and systematically kills all that he can find.

All the "action" happens at the last third of the book when he finds a seemingly uninfected woman and takes her in. Eventually, he starts to suspect that she is infected, and that part for me was really thrilling. Like Neville, I constantly wavered between believing she was normal and thinking she was infected. And this propels the story until the end when Neville, in the final seconds of his life, realizes that he is legend.

The book, in making the vampires sentient creatures, elevated the book from being just a regular zombie apocalypse movie (like the movie version) and presents some thought provoking ideas on how human beings evolve and adopt. In having Neville as a SOLE survivor of the human race, it presents a compelling portrait of loneliness. Being truly alone.

So I gathered from research (wiki. shush.) that this book was the first time that vampirism was "explained" through science. That is, that it had a scientific, instead of a supernatural cause. It is also, I guess because of the whole wiping out humans stuff, the inspiration for modern zombie films. However, I think it is totally different from most zombie films, as I already mentioned. The fact that the monsters were sentient and are trying to build a new society is totally different from the zombies who just want to eat everybody.

Oh, there were other short stories included in this book, thus making it elegible for the cannonball read. The stories were ok, some twisty and scary, some were forgettable. Ultimately, none reached the depth Matheson reached in I Am Legend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

# 6 - The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin

The Killer's Cousin is the story of a teenager (David) who had been tried for the killing of his girlfriend. Although he was acquitted, life was not, and could never be the same. David moves to Massachusetts to live with his mother's semi-estranged brother and his wife and daughter to escape the constant scrutiny and persecution in his home town. To give him a new life, so to speak. But life is anything but good in his new home. He is lonely, his aunt and uncle don't talk, and his 11 year old cousin Lily is uber creepy.

So, is Lily a budding sociopath or just a weird lonely kid with issues? Was David rightly acquitted or did he really kill his girlfriend. Some questions are answered and some not, but one thing is certain, this is one creepy book. Lily can get quite scary for an eleven year old, and I was always scared that David would snap and do something horrible.

But the end is quite surprising. I was expecting it to be the typical "evil kid"/bad seed sort of thing, but it was actually quite touching and unexpected.

The Killer's Cousin is about guilt, and forgiving one's self. And the importance of family and having someone there for you. i quite enjoyed the book. Thrilling and unexpected. It did, however, seem very YA and the adult reader may not enjoy it as much as its intended audience.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I just noticed that my first three reviews have the word girl on the title of the book. the fasting girl, a girl named zippy and lucky girls. Huh. What is up with that? Well, that will change when my Corrections review is done.

# 5 - Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a weird one. It has a typically sci-fi premise, however, the story feels more like a period book, very old-fashion-y.

These kids live in what seems like a typical English boarding school. Only, they've lived there their whole lives and their future is certainly bleak. There is a "twist" if it can be called that, but it hardly matters. It's not all Shyamalan where the twist is the only thing there is. In fact, the twist isn't presented in a shocking manner at all. Rather, the truth slowly dawns upon the reader as they read the book. Actually, I already knew what the twist was before I read it and I wonder if the experience would have been very different had I not known the premise before hand. I think it would have enhanced the experience, but not by much. The book is much more than the twist. It's a mediation of friendship and love, and coming of age, only made much more urgent by the expiration date of the characters.

The book is narrated by Kathy, one of the lead characters, telling the story of her friendship with another girl, and a boy she loved. The narration is very matter of fact and over-analytical, seeming to find meaning in every little occurrence. Kathy is very slow and steady and loyal, while Ruth is fiery and manipulative at times. Tommy is a basically, a nice boy. I have to admit that I really hated Ruth. I hated her manipulation and her lies.

I really loved this book. It is so my thing, with the melancholy and the heartbreak. It is haunting and very engrossing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

#4 - Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenburger

It was raining and I had a huge ass fight with the hubby. I was just feeling so angry and down and wanted to get away. So at 11PM, with the babies sleeping soundly, I grabbed the first book I found, put on my hoodie and walked and walked til my feet got tired and I got to a Mcdonalds around 3 km from my place. And I read.

This was my state of mind and emotions when I read this book, and as it turns out, the accidental book choice was very apt. Lucky Girls is five stories about girls, (except that one, or maybe two stories aren't really about the girl) living in India and Southeast Asia, or whose lives have been affected by the area. They are Americans, expatriates and tourists who have been seduced by our awesomeness (SEA reprezent! hah).

The stories and the characters are seemingly different. An American woman living in India to be with her married Indian lover who recently died. A couple in the process of divorcing visiting their daughter in Bangkok who has fallen under the spell of her no good Thai boyfriend. An author with depressive tendencies going back to the land of her childhood, India, to be with her failing father, and maybe to learn more about her depressed mother. A girl being tutored for the SATs by an American educated Indian. A letter about a girls relationship with an author who famously writes about Vietnam.

What ties these stories together is its melancholy. These women are at the cusp of great change in their lives. Most, concerning love. A divorce, her first time, a death of a lover, a pregnancy scare. There are no plot twists. Just these girls, living life at the most exotic of places. Not really belonging but so affected and influenced by the places. Oh and the places! I can just feel the humidity of the South East Asian jungle, the lush foliage, the noisy markets. Well, maybe because I live here. It was exotic to me, yet also so very familiar.

I was mesmerized by the book. It perfectly matched my mood when I was reading it and it was good to read about girls like me. Just living life in a crazy place. Though I'm a local and they're foreigners, the feelings of being lost and falling in and out of love, is universal. And then I went home. And I am lucky.

*finished never let me go and the killer's cousin
*currently reading i am legend + short stories
*working on that the corrections review

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

# 3 - A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small In Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

I passed by this book many times in the second hand bookstore that I frequent. I never picked it up because, well, the cover didn't look that interesting and summary at the back had none of the unusual and fucked up stuff that we usually look for in memoirs. One day, a random Pajiban (I don't remember who) mentioned that the book was LOL (sorry Dustin). So, taking Pajiban word as gospel, I picked the book up the next time I saw it, still at around 1$.

The book is really simple, a series of scenes from the childhood of smart and mischievous girl in small town Middle America. Indiana is middle america, right, Americans? True to what the back of the book said, there is none of the usual sad, tragic memoir stuff. It may have been poignant at times, but it was mostly a happy and energetic read. Which is not to say that her life was perfect. In fact, were Kimmel inclined to moroseness and woe-is-me-ness, she could have spun a depressed, overeducated mother, gambler father, poorness (although Americans never seem poor to us third worlders. Even Your poorest have TVs! And huge ass sofas!) and sibling sometimes-violence into an entirely different memoir. But Kimmel was such a zippy child that she seemed to take all the bad shit in a real good way. It just was, and she was still happy.

Oh Zippy was a funny, boisterous, unusual, imaginative and smart little cookie. The scrapes she got into were funny, though not, in my opinion, laugh out loud. But then again, my husband says that I'm humorless, so maybe it's just me. The characters and her family dynamics were very interesting. Her story and her family life, is, I guess, fairly typical, but also unusual in the way that everyone is unique. What makes the book work, is Kimmel's voice and her energy. Her zippyness, as it is.

*Some may have noticed that I have not posted review #2. That's because it's not done yet.
*currently reading Never Let Me Go
*I don't usually read this much non-fiction

Saturday, January 15, 2011

# 2 - The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

This was one of three books in that books of our generation list thingy posted at Pajiba a long time ago. At that time, I didn't know where to get it, so when I finally found a cheap ass copy at the local used book store (as usual), I was so excited to read it and find out why people were so affected by it.

The Corrections is about a dysfunctional (is there any other kind?) family from the midwest. Now, the kids have all grown up, living separate and hugely different lives while their parents stay as they are, as they have always been. Except that their father, once strict and authoritarian, is slowly losing his functions. The plot, thought really isn't a plot, is about Enid, the mother's attempt to gather the family for one last Christmas dinner.

This like a family history, narrating how these people got where they are now. Both losers and winners at the same time, and deeply flawed. It is at turns, funny, heartbreaking and infuriating. I really didn't find anyone that I could relate to or fully like. Well, maybe the author wasn't so concerned about us liking the characters.

I liked the book. I found myself compulsively reading it, but I don't think I GOT it, you know. Most of the reviews I've read had the authors relating deeply to the characters and to that kind of family. Where I'm from (and where I'm still at), families aren't like that. My family isn't like that. Yeah, I guess we have our own special kind of fucked up-ess, but I can't imagine not wanting to spend Christmas with my family, or wanting so desperately to leave my hometown. I mean, I'm a married, 27 year old lawyer with two kids and we (hubby and kids) still live with my parents. We don't mooch off them since we contribute to the expenses. We stay because my parents can't imagine not having their grandkids around, and because it just feels like home. Of course, we might move out eventually when the house gets too small for us, but rest assured, we won't be far away.

This has been too much about me, and too little about the book. Bottom line, I liked it, I was engaged by it, but I didn't really get it, I think.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CBR III Review #1 The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery by MIchelle Stacey

I was right in the middle of reading The Corrections when the book disappeared. Went kaput amidst all the newly opened gifts and Christmas ornaments. I eventually found the said book but not before I started and finished this one that I'm writing about now, which I picked up at a local bookstore for 50 pesos (around 1$).

The Fasting Girl examines the life of the Brooklyn Enigma, Mollie Fancher, a girl who lived during the 19th century (that's the 1800's yeah? Why can't the 1800's just be the 18th century to be all uniform? I know that there's a good explanation, I just want it to be that way, ok?). She was a fairly ordinary, intelligent, upper middle class girl who, after two accidents became bedridden for the rest of her life. She developed a host of symptoms such as paralysis, seizures, blindness, trances... you name it. But she was most famous for the claim that she had not eaten anything for a period of around 14 years, as well as her claims of psychic ability. She was a sensation during her time, made a poster girl by the Spiritualist movement, criticized and branded a fraud by the most eminent physicians of the period, followed closely by the local press, and beloved by her supporters.

Extraordinary as the story is, the author uses it more as a jumping of point to discuss various Victorian era maladies and phenomena. Stacey discusses the many diseases that seem to have plagued mostly women during that period but which seem to have disappeared in the modern world. Invalidism, hysteria, dyspepsia is discussed as well as their various remedies and theories as tho their causes. She correlates these illnesses with the society and the general condition of women during that period.

In fact, not only does Stacy discuss all that, she gives a general picture of that period. From media (newspapers) in relation to their coverage of the Fancher case, Spiritualist movement, medicine, anorexia, even transportation. Basically, anything that relates even a tiny bit to the Fancher case, she discusses.

As for Mollie Fancher, Stacy opines, based on historical accounts and the opinion of modern specialists, that she may have had dissociative identity disorder, which she explains at great length.

It was an interesting and packed read with really a lot of subjects touched upon. Some topics I was more interested in that others. However, I felt that I lacked understanding on the supposed subject of the book, Molly Fancher itself. If this was a medical mystery, then the mystery is still unsolved. I guess that a more definite conclusion would have been impossible considering the lack of evidence or whatevs, but for me, it did not deliver on the "real medical mystery" part of its titles. Instead, I learned a lot of random stuff about the Victorian era, anorexia and old timey sicknesses. Which is ok too.

(Who knew? Seems like I could write a 3 paragraph review.)
-finished reading the Corrections and currently reading A Girl Named Zippy.