2013 Reading Resolutions and Required Reading for January!

It’s already 3 days into 2013, but I’m going to say this anyway: Congratulations for surviving the “apocalypse” and the roller coaster that was 2012 (for me, anyway)!! *throws confetti* And because it’s the first post of the year, I think it would be fun to join a reading challenge that will add some spice into my reading adventures for the year. Are you ready? This year, I’m finally going to join this! 

Required Reading: January

It’s a challenge hosted by the awesome-possum Tina over at her blog. She explains it best, so I’m going to ~*casually*~ lift the mechanics from her blog entry about it:

Required Reading is a reading challenge that is really about getting some books off the Mt. TBR. Just as the name of the challenge meant, Required Reading is about choosing some books that must be read within the month. It doesn’t have to be the only books you read in a month, but they should be read (or at least, started) before the said month ends.

I had some rules on this last year that really applied to me, but in case other people want to join me, here are the rules:

  • Books chosen for the challenge should be in the current TBR pile as of the month of the Required Reading post. So if you decided to join at March, the books you choose for the month should be in your TBR pile as of February.

  • Galleys and ARCs can be included.

  • Posting reviews aren’t necessary (but don’t you want that out of the way, too?).

  • I’ll be posting a theme every month but you don’t have to follow that. You can choose a theme for yourself if you want to — what’s important is the books that you put there are books that you want to get to reading.

  • Lastly: have fun. If you don’t finish a book, it’s okay! If you finish it, then…feel free to reward yourself with something. Like a new book. 😀

I think I’m going to enjoy doing this, because despite my abysmal powers of organization, I actually like planning what I’m going to read ahead of time. Even though I often like to wing it and just read whatever I haven’t read yet on my shelf, there is always that one book (or two, or three) that I personally need to read. That’s my reading resolution for this year, by the way – to make sure to read what I plan to read, no matter what other book I spontaneously pick up. Oh, and also to try everything within my power to not fall into a blogging slump (as in, at least post something per month!). I know the following year will be challenging for me time-wise, what with thesis stuff coming up, but I’m taking baby steps to being more organized. I even made spreadsheets and everything, inspired by my super organized bookish friend Angus

So what’s in my list for this month? There are only two:

  and 

                           Les Misérables by Victor Hugo                                               Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I don’t think I’ll be following a theme monthly, but based my picks this month, the theme would have to be Film Adaptations. Then again, I just realized that I always scramble to read the book before the movie anyway, so maybe this will be the recurring theme after all!

Also, if I manage to squeeze in another book after these two, I would read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I’ve read the synopsis, and it got me interest. Also, I actually really want to see the movie for this too. 

I’m pretty sure these books will keep me busy throughout the month, but since I originally planned to read 75 books this year, I hope I get to read some more, too. If not, well, there’s always the sem break to look forward to, for catching up. 

Looking at my books this month, I’m actually pretty excited. I think this will be another marvelous year of reading for me, don’t you think? January always gives me so much hope and excuses to start something new. I love it!

So, what’s on your list? 

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{Book Review} After Dark by Haruki Murakami

After DarkA short, sleek novel of encounters set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami’s masterworks The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.

After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency—the interplay between self-expression and empathy, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.*

It was the last week of 2012 before I realized that I had blog challenges for myself. While I have given up the 2012 Debut Author Challenge for naught, I remembered that my personal challenge to finally read a Haruki Murakami book once and for all still has hope. I happened to have a copy of After Dark ready, and because I was sick for a couple of days, I had all the time in the world to devour all 191 pages of it.

Managed to cram a review in before 2012 ends! Which is in, like, 9 hours. (Philippine time, GMT +8)

 

So how was my Murakami experience? The first and only word that brands itself in my mind at the moment is surreal. This is a story set after hours – after the sun has set and dissolving as the sun’s rays penetrate the horizon. Unlike what you would expect for a book set in this time frame, though, the pace is rather slow. Murakami has a way of weaving strange curiosities into his writing, making you feel like an entity that is invisible, and everywhere all at the same time. I don’t know if this was brought on by being in my sickbed, but reading the whole thing felt like a dream. Details and such just floated beyond me, and what remained was an odd mixture of desolation and a burning desire to understand what was going on. I felt like I belonged to the world of Mari and Takahashi and the other characters, people who seemed so mysterious and fascinating in the veil of night, wandering as everything is cloaked in impenetrable darkness dusted with the light of the moon.*

One of my favorite quotes from this book was by Mari Asai:

“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper.”

There’s a darkly whimsical element in the book that kept me curious all throughout. This wasn’t even a plot-driven kind of book, but because of Murakami’s skill, I enjoyed it in all its passiveness and floaty quality. Honestly, I still don’t know what to make of it. I still couldn’t understand the deal with Mari’s sister, Eri, and her peculiar sojourn into the television set, among other things. However, I’m choosing to just go with the flow and accept my inability to understand, so that I can appreciate the way it was written, and because it is beautiful.

*Aaaand here was my attempt to sound poetic. Forgive me. I had Moonlight Sonata playing in the background and I somehow got into the zone.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

191 pages
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original Language: Japanese
Published: 2000
Genre: Fantasy, Magic Realism

2012 Debut Author Challenge

 That’s right, guys. I’m joining another challenge! This time, it’s hosted by Kristi of The Story SirenThe challenge here is to read 12 debut young adult or middle grade (YA/MG for future reference) that are released this year. I’ve read First Date so far prior to joining this, but it still counts! All right. 11 more to go! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Oh yeah. 

 

Want to join? For more details, click here! Happy reading!

{Book Review} First Date by Krista McGee

Addy Davidson is the last girl in the country who wants to be on the new reality TV show to win a date to prom with the President’s son. She’s focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn’t even audition for it.

But she got selected anyway.

So she does her best to get eliminated on the very first show… right before she realizes that the President’s son is possibly the most attractive guy she has ever seen in person, surprisingly nice, and seemingly unimpressed by the 99 other girls who are throwing themselves at him.

Addy’s totally out of her comfort zone—but that may be right where God can show her the most about who she is . . . and who she was meant to be. -NetGalley

*Review copy from publisher

I really liked this book, hence the four stars. Even though the plot is sort of cliche and predictable, I liked how cute it was and how Krista McGee incorporated Christian belief into it through Addy, the book’s protagonist. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the characterization was well-thought out, and each one has a distinct personality. It was easy to relate to them, especially Addy, and why they did what they did in the story was understandable. Also, I loved how this book, despite initially seeming to be a cute love story at first sight, managed to make me return to my faith with a renewed vigor and understanding. It is also admirable how the insertion of things related to religion is not stifling; in fact, it was just right. Not too much to alienate people of other religions, for instance, and not too little that it did not make any effect.

I admit, I am a sucker for well-known/nobody pairings, which is partly why I chose to read this from my ever-mounting TBR pile. It’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think? A reality TV show to be the prom date of the president’s son? It was partly intriguing, partly preposterous for me. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Wow, what a guy. A reality TV show just to pick a date? Really?’ and believe me, I thought that throughout the first parts of the book, but Jonathon (not a typo, that’s really how it’s spelled) proved to be endearing, so no problem.

What I wished I could have seen more of was Addy’s relationship with the other contestants. I mean, she had her roommate (trailer-mate?) Kara as her buddy throughout the duration of the show, and it was finely established that the other girls hated everything about her, but I felt bad at the lack of closure. Much as Addy wished to help change people for the better, she was able to do that with only a few people – which is really remarkable, I’m not complaining – but I wonder what would have happened if the other girls finally softened
and were ready to be friends with Addy. Still, I guess that lack of that made this a bit more realistic, so it’s okay.

I really enjoyed First Date. I haven’t read much Christian fiction, and I hardly knew this was one before reading it, but I have no regrets! This is Krista McGee’s first novel, and I like it. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her work in the future if I were you!

PS By the way, this counts if you’re joining the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

In a nutshell…
Paperback, 336 pages
Rating: 4/5
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Published: January 10, 2012
Language: English

Genre: YA, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Haruki Murakami Challenge 2012

This blog is still relatively young, and I’m still trying to understand how this really works – while running one – so I decided to join a challenge and spice things up a bit!

As you can see, my challenge is something related to that author whose books you always see propped up prominently in your local bookstore, and whose name you probably pronounced slowly the first time you read it. Yup. In this challenge, the rules are simple: read at least one Haruki Murakami book this year, and write a review about it. Okay, let me admit this: I have never read any of his books. I know, I am missing something major here. I actually just found out this year that Murakami is male. I always, always thought he was female. Now I can’t wait to read his books! Keep an eye peeled for a Murakami review sometime this year, guys!

The Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 is posted by tanabata. To read more about it, click here.