Monday, July 30, 2012

After the Birthday Party by Angus Miranda

After the Birthday Party
Have you ever wondered what happens when all the candles have been blown out, when all the presents have been opened, when all the guests have left? Have you ever thought of what happens after the birthday party?

In my opinion, we each take a pause within the day (maybe just before the day runs out), and just dwell in the yesteryears. That is what After the Birthday Party is all about.

It's about the free-roaming thoughts that come once the dusk settles in. It's about the little incidents that have molded us to who we are today, to who we are to become tomorrow. It's about the little heartaches that swell in our hearts, persistent and ever-nagging. It's about the little tears we've shed because we felt pain and happiness. It's about almost-forgetting, but never quite letting-go. It's about remembering.

The stories here, as varied as they are, are all about these memories. The themes ring of hope, love, regret and loss, but they also sing of strength, passion, loneliness and darkness. They take note of childhood escapades, of far-flung dreams, of wanton wishes. They declare in poems and move in stories. They cling desperately to the present, while shakenly staring at the past.

They are you, as you are your friend, as your friend is the kid crossing the street.

What makes each of these pieces closer to my own heart is the fact that I know these people. These are people I don't see everyday, but I know who they are. These are people who have decided that I, a stranger in their midst, can look into their own hearts to view their miseries and joys. These are people who have poured forth words to describe their most beautiful and poignant moments to me, for me, by me. A piece of these people are in my hands, and, as I have contributed my own whispers in this book, a piece of me is in yours too, dear reader.

After the birthday party, when all of the guests have gone
Go open up your own heart, and let it burst into song
Inside are laid memories, buried oh-so deep within
Enjoy the tear it gives you, and let the party truly begin

Thank you, friends, for a beautiful read :')

Bonus material: This is the initial (unpublished) piece I contributed to this work.
"He came. I fell in love. I hoped it would last.
He left. I regret nothing. I am still whole. "
(highlight for spoiler)

After the Birthday Party by Angus Miranda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge (Penguin Classics)
This book's interesting. It shows us that some people may just be born under an unlucky star, having misfortune after misfortune with seemingly no way out (except for a meeting with Death).

Let's see. We've got an intriguing cast of characters: a Scotsman, an orphan, a gullible woman, a simple man. They've all happened to find their way to a small village tucked away from the world - Casterbridge. In this small place, they find a number of interesting things: loves (and hates), family (and strangers), friends (and enemies). They also find darkness (and light), death (and life), regrets (and hope).

The storytelling is rather biased toward showing truths at all angles (even on how a person's steps on the road can mean something). It presents the reader with a number of dichotomies, showing the many ironic sides of life. It tells you how you can have knowledge without wisdom, strength without physical capacity, power without position. What's also very good about the storytelling: You have no idea what's going to happen next (so you might as well dispel your notions of expectations for this book). Oh, and besides having the plot to chew on, I felt I was also being provided with many ideas to brood over and analyze.

Overall: It's an ugly, informative, satirical view of an English countryside, with a great plot to boot. (I mean, really. The first chapter already seems like the climax!) It's realistic, somewhat depressing, but very satisfying. Great read.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea is not your regular book. It is written in a not-so-normal way. The book is written in terse sentences. (I heard that it is really the style of Hemingway.) It is hard at first to read. But you get used to it after a while.

This book is also quite simple. It is about an old man. It is also about the sea. But it goes deeper than that. The book talks about the man while the man goes through a fishing trip. The man is a fisherman, so that is why he goes on this trip. The trip is a rather usual one. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary seems to happen. It is realistic. It is simple. It is also somehow unexpected.

The book talks about perseverance. It talks about strength. It talks about love. It also talks about the fisherman talking to himself. But it is not because he is lonely. Or maybe it is.

Overall, the book is typical, but it is also not typical. It is a simple story. It is unlike other simple stories in that there is more to see beneath the simple story. Some may consider this boring. I think that it is interesting and awe-inspiring.

For me this was a nice read. Simple but not so simple. It is simply great.

PS: Writing in this style really takes the cake. It's simple enough, but my poor imagination and flowery vocabulary are sobbing in a corner. *snickers*

PPS: I've heard of friendly discord between Fitzgerald (who I am, at the time of writing, reading - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & The Beautiful and Damned) and Hemingway. Check it out.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Secrets of the Heart by Khalil Gibran

Secrets of the Heart
This is a book of 11 pieces, a mix of short stories and poems. They're all characteristically of a beautiful language - beautiful in the sense that they all seem a little too... ornate, too flowery. (I suppose it's the writing style that dominates that part of the world?)

Nevertheless, the themes quite surprised me. I see here breaks in tradition, calls for change, intriguing endings. These are not your usual stories - these are stories that are meant to wake something inside you, making you remember that there's something quite not right in the world. Indeed, there's a strand of activism carefully weaved in *almost* every piece.

Few pages, great read. Nice food for thought :)

Secrets of the Heart by Khalil Gibran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra

No Strings Attached
{ Disclaimer: I'm rather biased, especially after meeting Dorothea (Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life), Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) and Jane Eyre. Hah, apparently I don't know the "modern woman". Yes, I suppose I don't read much chick lit, so I can't properly judge this. }

This book is interesting, as it's not as gushy or romantic as opposed to other chick reads out there. It revolves more on the story, as opposed to the sparkling personalities and the sex (although the sex mentioned here is brief and, I suppose, tasteful), though, of course, this book talks about those too.

To sum it up:
-We've got the hot guy and the "cluelessly beautiful" girl.
> Interestingly, the "hot guy" has his own character, as opposed to the ones who seem to "live for their ladies". He's his own man, although he does seem rather perfect.
> The girl here is "unknowingly attractive", but what's interesting about it is that she's independent (of sorts?), and she knows how to act. She is, after all, 30 - and this book really talks about the issues of females (and males?) of that age.
-We've got the "ring of friends."
> Support group, though interestingly labeled the "Marriage Club" + Tonio . Hah, Tonio seemed to be a closet homo to me. (highlight for spoilers)
-We've got the drama, the "villains" (no black and white scenarios here, though), the relationship.

Overall, the story's ok, although I was interested in the portrayal of Carling. I have a respect for her, and I'm glad she had some self-actualization in the end.

Other notes:
(I typically need to be in a certain mood to read chick lit... But I suppose it's been a while.)

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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