Wednesday, November 3, 2010

About November . . .

+JMJ+

This is an awkward post for me to write because I barely survived October, the month when Horror movie connoisseurs are pelted with requests for "scary" recommendations. Picking movies for other people is like building a glass house and handing out stones at the house warming party--or at least that has been my experience.

Picking books for other people is almost exactly the same, but with hand grenades instead of stones. My recommendations hardly ever go down well. (Do you suppose that might be due to the way I preface them with comparisons like these? Hmmmmm . . .)

I'm not really sure what the criteria for choosing our books is, and my original idea, from when I was still expecting to be "Miss October", was Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear all of you cringing from here, but this novel really is an incredible expression of faith. Undead faith, yes, but faith nonetheless.) Since then, I've mellowed out a bit and have settled on two possible picks for November. I figured that if I gave everyone more of a choice, I wouldn't be hated so much in the end . . .

#1) Po-on by F. Sionil Jose

Since we had so much fun reading poems from New Zealand last July, I thought I'd suggest something from my own part of the world. Po-on is the one Filipino novel I automatically recommend to anyone who is curious about Philippine literature. It is an epic--a Historical spanning ten of the most tumultuous years of the Philippines, which saw the end of Spanish colonisation and the beginning of American rule. The whole nation's history becomes the central character's personal history.

The above is a rather dry description, so I'll just point you ladies to my non-review of Po-on and my character sketch of Istak Salvador on my blog.

#2) The Other Shepards by Adele Griffin

Just in case everyone would prefer some lighter--or at least shorter--reading, here is a Young Adult recommendation. YA and MG are the genres which take up most of my shelves, so trust me when I say that one doesn't have to be part of that demographic to enjoy them.

A few years before the two Shepard sisters were born, their three older siblings died together in a huge car accident. Although they never knew them, they are haunted by their memory every day, living in the same house the three grew up in and even going to the same school. And it turns out that their lost sister and brother are the toughest act in the world to follow, especially in their own parents' eyes. I mean, how do you compete with seemingly perfect ghosts who have taken the best of your parents' love with them?

There is an element of fantasy here--which I guess is something to be aware of if you prefer your fiction as realistic as possible. And if you don't mind another shameless plug, I wrote about The Other Shepards very recently, too.

17 comments:

Melanie B said...

Enbrethiliel,

They both sound intriguing. But I think I'd lean toward #1 because I know nothing about the Philippines. It looks like I can even get it through my library -- so long as it's the same book. The English title of the copy I found is Dusk but the catalog listing shows Po-On as the uniform title.

Emily J. said...

#1 sounds fascinating, but my library is not so multicultural as Melanie's, even though our church, right across the street, has Mass in Tagalog once a week.

I'm always happy to read YA fiction, too, although this sounds like a girl book. I need something to keep my 13yr old son's interest. He's taken to checking John Grisham and Tom Clancy books out from his school library. I had him read Heart of Darkness to feed his love of suspense, but I htink it was a bit heavy.

Melanie, your last comment on A Song for Nagasaki definitely could have been a post, but I know what you mean about determining when to post and when to comment. Likewise, I finally finished the book two nights ago, and I have some thoughts ranging but no time to compose them into anything other than a meandering comment. I'd love to read some of Nagai's writings - and learn a little Japanese. I appreciate the author's gift of mentioning the poetry of the ideograms. I also loved the scene at the end of the book of the author asking the teacher to sing by Nagai's grave. I keep meaning to copy out some lines from the letter Nagai wrote to his son about living lovingly to live well, but instead I'm commenting here.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Melanie: Yes, Dusk is the international title. I forgot to mention that in the post, so I'll go and update it now.

There are also some affordable used copies available on Amazon, if anyone has trouble finding this in a local library.

Emily: There's no getting around it: The Other Shepards is indeed a "girl book." =P Does that mean another vote for Po-on/Dusk?

PS--I wish my thirteen-year-old brother were as interested in books as your son! What I call leisure reading, he calls a chore.

BettyDuffy said...

I'll add my vote for Po-on/Dusk just so things don't get complicated.

Emily J. said...

Hey E, I don't have anything against girl books, especially since at some point my 8 yr old daughter will finish all the Magic Fairy books, if that author will quit writing new ones. I just need some ideas for young teenage boy books - beyond HP and Percy Jackson, but not quite ready for adult fiction. I want to read the Mockingjay series, but the library doesn't have them. The market for teenage boy books is not very lucrative. But Po-on sounds fascinating - we didn't learn much (anything?) about the Philippines in World History class. Maybe the boy'll like Po'on, too ...

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Oh, I'm afraid Po-on will be too heavy for such a young boy. It's definitely fiction for adults alone.

Has your son tried the Alex Rider books? I might not be a boy, but there's something about a teenage superspy that I find irresistible, and I fairly gobbled these books down in uni. (The first three books are my favourites; after that, it's hit and miss.) There's also Artemis Fowl, which has been described as the "anti-Harry Potter." (I always think of Alex and Artemis together because I discovered them at the same time.)

I also know a boy your son's age who loves the 39 Clues series. He lent me the first five books, one of which was written by the same author who gave us Percy Jackson. Off the top of my head, I'd describe it as a cross between the globe-trotting Amazing Race and the history-rewriting National Treasure. It's also interactive: each book has a pack of collectible cards with alphanumeric codes that you can use on the 39 Clues web site to do your own playing.

I'm sure I'll be able to come up with more suggestions later . . . =)

BettyDuffy said...

Hunger games is good, Em. You're boys will like it.

Also, Mrs Darwin votes for Po-on, though her internet axcess is posing a challenge for her posting here.

Melanie B said...

Emily,
I'm a bit spoiled, I admit. The nice thing about Massachusetts is that the local libraries play very well with each other. Our town is tiny and the library is not big at all; but it's in a network with a bunch of other local libraries on the South Shore and all the catalogs are in one online database. I can go online from home and place a book on hold from any library in the network. And if our local network doesn't have something, I can get interlibrary loan from any library in the state almost as easily. Including many of the academic libraries. (As you know, we have just a few colleges round here.)

My first thought in recommendations for your son was Hunger Games. Boys that age are so hard to find books for! We had the same problems with my nephew, Dom's godson. He's a huge bookworm and I remember when he was about 13 or 14 he declared that having read The Lord of the Rings, there was nothing left worth reading that he hadn't read.

Oh and on the subject of Nagasaki I agree about the poetry of the ideograms. Loved that and would have liked to delve into it a little deeper. It does make me want to learn Japanese, though I also recognize that that is totally a pipe dream at this point in my life.

Emily J. said...

Artemis Fowl books and 39 Clues he's finished - and enjoyed. All three of my older kids are looking forward to getting their hands on the new Riordan book. He'll also read classics when prompted: he liked Mark Twain, loved Sherlock Holmes, tolerated Great Expectations, liked RLStevenson, did not like the Ralph Moody books or GA Henty, only so-so on Call of the Wild. Prefers fun, easy books - but I throw in reading assignments every once in awhile. I'll have to look for Alex Rider.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Now I feel really bad that I haven't read The Hunger Games yet. =S

Emily, you had me going to my bookcase just to look up new suggestions. I think Susan Cooper's older five-book sequence The Dark Is Rising is decent "old school" YA Fantasy. But he's probably already read those, too!

Another popular series is The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence. It's about four children in Ancient Rome--a sea captain's daughter, her Jewish neighbour, her Nubian slave (whom she sets free; don't fret!), and a beggar boy whose tongue has been cut out--who investigate the strange things going on in the ancient world. The series also features a fantastic supporting cast. It has the continuity we'd expect from a good TV series . . . which is probably why there is a series on British TV. Even if you don't like mysteries, I think the historical details and the humour are great!

But YA aside, I guess it will be Po-on/Dusk for November, then! =)

Emily J. said...

You know what, E, we listened to The Dark Is Rising one vacation, but never went back to those - good suggestion. I think Susan Cooper was the first real author I ever met. She came to our elementary school when I was in fourth grade and spoke to the upper grades in the library. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I think there's a newspaper photo somewhere in the archives (drawer) at my parents' house. Don't know The Roman Mysteries books either, but sounds interesting. I wonder if the TV series is available somewhere online...

So does Po'on have lots of sex and violence since it is an adults only book?! I'm going to order it right away.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I wouldn't say lots of sex and violence (I hope that's not a let down--LOL!), but there are a couple of women who are raped, typical injustices from the colonial government, and some wartime atrocities. None of it is gratuitous at all, but it's all quite emotionally draining because, for a great part of the novel, the characters we identify with are powerless to fight back.

I remember being very affected by one scene, in which an attacker concealed himself and his victim behind a patch of cogon grass--and for about a week after reading that, I couldn't drive pass cogon grass without feeling guilty that I couldn't help her.

PS--My favourite book in Susan Cooper's sequence is The Grey King, which is fourth in the series. Did you get that far?

Melanie B said...

Well I picked up both Dusk/Po-On and The Other Shepherds from the library today. Looks like I'll be indulging in both of Enbrethiliel's choices this month.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Oh, wow! I feel such a sense of responsibility now, Melanie. ;-)

I do hope you enjoy them both. =)

Melanie B said...

Aaaahhhh! And I just realized that I left The Other Shephards at the doctor's office this morning and I'll have to wait until tomorrow to fetch it as they are closing now. I guess I'll have to go ahead and start Dusk tonight instead of waiting till I finish.

Melanie B said...

I got The Other Shepards back the next day and finished it on Friday. A good YA pick. I kept wondering how I'd have approached it had I read it before I had kids. Because in some ways I felt a much stronger identification with the parents than with the children. I kept wondering how I'd relate to such an eventuality as the death of several older children and subsequent birth of younger children who had never had the opportunity to meet those older siblings. What a challenge. Of course the one thing that is never mentioned is faith. The parents seem to have a degree of hope that is remarkable, deciding to have more children after a tragedy that tears many couples apart. And yet despite their good intentions, they seem to live in the past so much more than in the present. I'd like to think I'd avoid some of the pitfalls they get stuck in; but of course it's impossible to predict how exactly you will respond to something so dramatic.

I kept waiting for the brothers to appear. And I wondered why only Annie other than the appearance of three strangers might have given away the plot twist too early.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My guess was that the two youngest daughters were completely unplanned and that the parents thought they were too old to have more children. Which made their new daughters both a grace and a surprise they weren't prepared to live up to.

I'm the sort of reader who is shocked and delighted at the ending of Daddy Long-legs (when everyone else says they saw it coming from miles away), so I think I could have read about three strangers in this book and not figured out who they were. =P But I think Griffin justifies having only Annie through Holland's musing that the person she really needed at the time was an older sister. Not necessarily all the "other" Shepards, but this particular one.

And while I can see how the novel could be expanded so that the two sisters get to meet all their lost siblings, I'm happy with it the way it is. =)