Category Archives: Books

Read anything, read everywhere.

Easy question

Day 7: Do you read? What are your favourite books?

I’m just going to skip over the first question and jump into the second.
(Because who doesn’t read nowadays? Sure, people may spend more time on the internet and social media, but there is still an aspect of reading there even if it’s in the medium of memes or photos. But let’s assume this question refers to the traditional form of reading books – the ones that you carry in your bag, have stains from drinks or the rain, and uneven spines from the sinful deed of sitting it face down on a paused page because you forgot a bookmark.)

1. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (because wizards, broomstick flying, charms and spells, unicorns and dragons, battle between evil and good, fun characters, all the exciting and good stuff that a kid wants to read growing up. Up until my mid teenage years I clinged to the hope that maybe I would receive a letter late, and had multiple dreams of attending Hogwarts, as a Gryffindor, of course.)

2. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne (because the characters are so darn lovable and the stories charming. There is such simplicity to his writing style that tells these little stories about a boy and his imaginary stuffed toys that pulls at everyone’s nostalgic desire or fond remembering of childhood innocence and imagination.)

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (because it gave me chills and almost made me cry which means I was moved by some powerful storytelling. If you haven’t heard of it, this one’s about a girl and her love of books tied into her relationships with family and friends in the setting of WWII. The drama and reality are very strong in this novel, it is both a joy and a heartbreaker to read.)

4. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner (because it made philosophy fun and interesting for a ninth grader. I learned about the history and development of philosophical thought through a story of fantasy and mystery. Epic.)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir (because it’s smart, compassionate, sarcastic and genuinely funny, and probably better than the movie adaptation that just came out. It’s about an astronaut’s quest to survive on Mars, need I say more? This was actually the first book I fully read on a kindle on generous lend from a friend which was novel since most of it is written in journal logs, so the digital words appearing and disappearing on the screen made reading feel super techy. )

 

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True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey: Book Review

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Morning reading in Texas hill country.

Oh, boy.

Often my eyes are drawn to books with award stamps printed on the cover. This book was no exception but certainly surpassed my expectation. The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey won the Man Booker Prize in 2001 with a gripping story and well rounded characters described through the rough, honest voice of an Australian bushranger. Edward “Ned” Kelly writes to his daughter his life story revealing his true character and the oppressive circumstances he experienced since the beginning of childhood to being a reputed outlaw.

It is hard to try to condense the plot without giving anything away because of the book’s many memorable moments, but from the very first pages we know that there is death of at least one individual in this novel. And because the central theme is power abused by authority, the entire book can be seen as a battle between the police and the people. But that makes it sound so boring and this book is not, packed from start to end with adventure, humour, compassion, and characters that feel like they exist in real life.

Ned Kelly is by far my favourite character, partially because he is the protagonist and author as well. The reader grows up with him through trials and triumphs and gets a glimpse of a strong, loving, intelligent, and most unfortunate soul. Sympathy is found for the Kelly family and the small gang, especially Joe Byrne, who is tortured between his personal safety and his friendship with Ned. These two are the ones I found most empathy with as they faced adversity together and protected the two younger members of their “gang.”Other striking characters include the crude and fearless Harry Power, famous outlaw who took Ned as an apprentice; Ellen Kelly, beloved mother of Ned, a widow determined and headstrong to provide for her family; and Mary Hearn, a young and cunning woman only more loyal to her children than to her prince.

The ability to create such human characters comes from the raw voice of Ned Kelly, who although considers himself uneducated, actually writes with remarkable observance and conviction. At first it takes adjusting to read sentences with prominent slang and inconsistent punctuation, but the style merges with the character and becomes an endearing reflection of Ned Kelly himself. It is storytelling at its best, when you can hear the voice of the narrator, especially when it is formed in your head from printed words!

In fact, one of the themes found in this book is actually the power of the written word, as Ned Kelly tries to clear his name through letters. His quest to gain a national audience portrays one aspect of government control over the media and public perception. Like “V for Vendetta” or “Robin Hood,” the journal series sides with the proletariat and has a feel of folk/legend lore. This book is the most realistic out of this comparison because of its diverse content between daily mundane activities and horse-riding, gun-shooting action.

All in all, one of the most powerful points of this novel is that there are no “bad guys,” even though Australia’s police force is painted in a particularly bad light. Life isn’t fair and humans make mistakes. I looked up the real Ned Kelly on the internet and his history is full of controversy, either hailed as heroic or criminal. I am glad this novel has told a story of this man from a personal and justified point of view because it is beautiful, happy, sad, and piercing. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey lives up to its golden award stamp and is a book that will sit on my mind long after I’ve closed its pages.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie: Book Review


Two boys are sent to rural China to be reeducated during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. There they discover a suitcase of banned foreign books and befriend the beautiful daughter of the local tailor. That’s it in a nutshell. A charming novel that is easy to read but may be too short and simple to hold much weight in time.

The story reminds me of a folk tale with a fair amount of whimsy in the narrator’s voice and the setting of the countryside and mountains that creates some beautiful imagery. At some points, the poetic language can begin to sound like a fairy tale, but that is often cut short by bits of history and realism in the cruelty of the authorities against intellectuals and the dire conditions the boys must endure to return home. It is also worth noting here that the book contains some graphic scenes in violence and romance that can cause offense or stomach queasiness.

An aspect of this story that has me on the fence is the characters. Our main heroes and heroine, to me, are the typical ‘kind but somewhat misunderstood’ good guys. They are not completely bland but not captivating in a “I LOVE Harry and Ron and Hermione and I want to be their friends!” kind of way. The supporting cast contains an old hermit and a by-the-book friend with glasses who evoke stronger feelings in the reader towards them than the main characters. The overall mildness of the characters, however, does create ordinary voices that we can relate to and make it hard to label a villain, which is true in real life. Still, I think I would’ve liked a little more depth to the characters so I can remember their individual qualities months after reading about their adventure.

The adventure itself, is quite unique and fun. It is a coming of age story, and also one that celebrates culture, specifically literature and music. The discovery of banned books and folk songs changed these characters’ lives and makes me grateful for the range of resources from all over the world we have access to today, especially now thanks to the internet. Although history is not my favourite subject, I think it is important to understand our past because it shapes our perceptions on life and our roles in society. In the end, that’s what this book is about.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a relatively quick-paced and enjoyable read, if you like the premise. As I’ve mentioned before, there is an ordinariness to the plot that portrays life as it is without the melodrama, which some like and others don’t. It’s a nice little book and I would recommend it – I recently discovered that they made a movie from it, which may be interesting to look at – but if you asked me if this is one I would read over and over again, honestly, probably not. Except maybe the ending. I won’t give it away, but yeah, the ending is pretty great.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Take the pencil (NaPoWriMo #20)

CS Lewis

(From quotesnsayings.net)

Like a cyclops wearing an eye patch, we’ve never been able since our birth
To know what has been printed on life’s next chapter
Like a pig snuffling truffle treasure buried deep under the earth
Detectives searching for clues hinting a happily-ever-after

Like a grain of salt in a spoon of sugar, how every choice will affect
Our daily cup of tea or coffee, is an elusive mystery until
The present is a ghost, we watch curled up on the couch to reconnect
Reading the miraculous events recorded from our will

Like holes in swiss cheese, what makes or breaks an ego
Can be answered twice by what we do or what we don’t
Identity as fluid as seaweed in waves, hidden in the gutter – no.
Wait anxiously for the turn of each page? I won’t.

I will be the generator of my own word.
And my story will be heard.

—————————————————————————-

Life is too short for waiting so take that pencil and write! Fill the blank pages with the future you’ve always dreamed about, because you are the only author of your personal book of life.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” ― Stephen Fry

Cartoon by The Persichetti Brothers

It is fair to say that the population of VHS’s, floppy disks, pagers, and Tamagotchis have dwindled due to their new and improved counterparts – will the same happen to our beloved books?

OR   Readers Edge  ?

Popularity of the e-book has soared over the past year as readers find the sleek appearance and convenience benefits of the product highly appealing. The e-book is light and portable with a virtual database that can contain many more books than one could imagine carrying from the library. With this single surfaces tablet, many books can be read with the swipe of a finger. No slipping bookmarks, heavy loads, risks of paper cuts, or yellowing, stained pages – pretty neat, I must admit.

Already with the advances of technology in all aspects of communication and media, printing industries have suffered losses and are buckling down for the onslaught of superior smartphones and computers with their apps and internet resources. But, despite, all this, the good ol’ sheet and glue books maintain their influence in society. Just like digital notes can never replace hand-written pencil and paper ones, looking at words on a screen is just not the same. I guess it’s all about the senses…

Having each printed word in a slab of a book feels like having a world in the palm of your hand. The whole idea, concept, story created just for you from the author just able to sit on your lap. You’re not just looking at a single page, but hundreds packed to form this compact, spacially efficient block – the WHOLE COMPLETE work, not just a little piece at a time.

Cartoon by Jim Whiting

There’s nothing like moving your fingers across the pages or rifling quickly through them feeling a breeze in your face. The words are concrete and real, and so are the sheets on which they have been stamped. Each page turn is an exciting exercise as a flipping noise reveals another man behind the curtain.

The feeling of accomplishment when you get into a good read and you can see how many pages you’ve conquered and how far you have til the end. For peekers, being able to flip forward and skim the text that lies ahead just to make sure your favourite character doesn’t die. For sticklers, being able to scratch out that extra apostrophe or write in a missing letter to right the text with your own hand. I just love the idea of tracing your history with a book through all its individual pages. And the satisfaction of looking at the shelves and shelves of books you’ve collected over the years…

Cartoon by Jeffery Koterba for the Omaha World Herald

And who can deny that a book read often reflects a sentimental loyalty – yes, I’m basically trying to explain a love affair with your favourite novel. With turned up corners, faded covers, or dog ears, there’s something special about that book you’ve had for so long and almost know by heart and the battle scars it received to survive in your bag, inner jacket pocket, hands, or the wild outdoors. The wear and tear of a book shows that it’s been loved and is loved – it is valuable. The wrinkles and dents, the smell of aging paper, symbolize a friendship that does not show on a screen.

So I am biased, but I think the novelty of ink words on pulp-pressed pages compiled into something that you can see and feel in its entirety will never wear off. Old school books are for me, the real deal.

What is better: print book or ebook? [cartoon]

Cartoon by Sylvia Liu

I wrote the former words in August 2012, and since then have gained more appreciation for e-books. They have really opened a new world for self-publishing and save lots of money on production costs, making books more affordable. I never liked how technology continues to take over our lives, but a portable library is cool. The digital aspect saves trees too, now that I think about it. And so, in the same view as the quote which I used for the title, I would like to own an e-reader, but I love my printed library too; books will always be treasured, no matter what form they take.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Filed under Books, Just another person

Straggling between the lines

Me: And now, for some night reading.
Body: This bed is so comfy.
Brain logic: Pillow > Book. Shutting down… zzzzzz

(via All Other Things.)This has been me the past couple weeks. I seriously think I’m a borderline bookworm as of today since both my pile of overdue books and to-read list grow and grow and grow… Too many books and too little time!

I feel like I’ve been treading in a sea of school, dance rehearsals, and music practices, neglecting my favourite relaxing activity for the confused scramble of chasing things that I can’t always remember. It’s one of those hectic parts of life again. One with not so much sleep and lots of much missed reading.

Not just for books, but blogs as well. Ever since joining WP I have a growing realization of just how diverse the blogosphere is. There are less hours in day than needed to read everything I want to posted on that one day. So high fives all around to you bloggers, for producing the content that you do.

In the meantime, guess I’ll just keep carrying a book around everywhere as usual, in hopes of finding a few minutes to devour a chunk of text treasure.

Do you get reader’s block? What are you reading right now?

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Filed under Books, Oh Life

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore: Book Review

Let me just say that this gentleman is probably one of the funniest authors around. I’m not sure how many times I chuckled apparently not to myself while reading this; earning peculiar glances that I could only respond to by grinning foolishly, still laughing in my head, or hiding my face behind the covers; but it was worth it. However, as you can guess from the cover, this book’s got its dark side too.

In fact, it’s about Charlie Asher, a Beta male, who has been appointed a job as Death. Along with other ‘Death merchants’, Charlie helps human souls pass on to their next life, a responsibility which he must juggle while taking care of his family and second hand business. What follows is a battle between good and evil as forces from the Underworld threaten to take over. So it’s basically a hero myth, but with context, character, and style unlike any other.

Like I said, Christopher Moore is one of my favourite authors because I can always count on his books for a fun, dramatic read. The characters are colourful, the dialogue between them a zany train of thought, and you never know what to expect as you turn each page. It’s like every time you think you find and follow a straight path, wham! a glass wall appears changing your direction with a most surprising statement or event.

Characters include a Gothic girl chef obsessed with death, an ex-cop who is desperately lovesick and thinks everyone is a serial killer, a reflective homeless known as the Emperor of San Francisco, and two hellhounds named Alvin and Mohammed. But despite the randomness, everything fits, crazy antics contribute to the plot and ’embellishment’ descriptions become relevant; so when you step back, the winding labyrinth of a journey makes a beautiful picture.

In this case, it is the coping and understanding of death that is gained alongside Charlie’s development in his new career. The humour infused throughout makes the serious theme of death not so grave, and I won’t give it away, but leads to a satisfying and serene ending than can be considered enlightening.

One of the characters, Mrs. Ling, is an older Chinese woman who cooks and eats everything, including the deceased pets of Sophie, Charlie’s daughter whom she babysits. Clearly it is a hilarious stereotype, and though its true that Chinese cuisine consists of the strangest meats and parts, how is it really any different than a processed burger patty? All I’m saying is that isn’t it good not to waste anything? Then again I am impartial in the defense…

It is the first book in the series which I hope to read entirely in the future, and I recommend other books by Moore as well, particularly Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.
So, ending my rambling, if you like comedy, mystery, and everything unexpected then I say go for it.

Thanks for reading,
-thebookybunhead

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