Sunday, March 29, 2009

Books on my Wishlist

Oh, why do I want books that are impossible for me to buy?!

I've struggled in vain to search for these books by Indu Sundaresan. Wag na lang kaya akong umasa?! Hahah. If you can get this book, please by all means get it and send me a line or two. I'd probably die in frustration in envy :D

Here is why I would love to get my hands on The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses:

Taken from
"The Twentieth Wife tells the story of India's controversial Empress, Mehrunissa, who later became known as Empress Nur Jahan of the Mughal Empire. She was the daughter of refugees fleeing Persia for India. She grew up in Emperor Akbar's palace grounds because of her father's position in the royal court. At the age of eight she sees Prince Salim and decides she will one day marry him.

Salim and Mehrunnisa fall in love over the years, but are unable to marry because of Mehrunnisa's bethrothal to a soldier. Despite time and distance their passion for one another does not die.

Intertwined with this love story are the accounts of the politics of the Mughal Empire, not only in relation to who will succeed Emperor Akbar, but also politics within the women's quarters.

Taken from Google Book Search:
"The love story of Emperor Jahangir and Mehrunnisa, begun in the critically praised debut novel The Twentieth Wife, continues in Indu Sundaresan's The Feast of Roses. This lush new novel tells the story behind one of the great tributes to romantic love and one of the seven wonders of the world -- the Taj Mahal.

Mehrunnisa, better known as Empress Nur Jahan, comes into Jahangir's harem as his twentieth and last wife. Almost from the beginning of her royal life she fits none of the established norms of womanhood in seventeenth-century India.

Mehrunnisa is the first woman Jahangir marries for love, at the "old" age of thirty-four. He loves her so deeply that he eventually transfers his powers of sovereignty to her.

Power and wealth do not come easily to Mehrunnisa -- she has to fight for them. She has a formidable rival in the imperial harem, Empress Jagat Gosini, who has schemed and plotted against Mehrunnisa from early on. Mehrunnisa's problems do not just lie within the harem walls, but at court, too, as she battles powerful ministers for supremacy. These ministers, who have long had Emperor Jahangir's confidence and trust, consider Mehrunnisa a mere woman who cannot have a voice in the outside world.

Mehrunnisa combats all of this by forming a junta of sorts with three men she can rely on -- her father, her brother, and Jahangir's son Prince Khurram. She demonstrates great strength of character and cunning to get what she wants, sometimes at a cost of personal sorrow when she almost loses her daughter's love. But she never loses the love of the man who bestows this power upon her -- Emperor Jahangir. The Feast of Roses is a tale of this power and love, the story of power behind a veil."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Murder: Asian Women Do It Better

The story begins with four friends-- Masako the seemingly level-headed 'leader' of the group , Yoshie the long-suffering and self-sacrificing mother of two, Kuniko the vain who spends more money than she can ever afford in a lifetime (and the least sharpest of the group), and Yayoi the timid--- working the graveyard shift for a Bento-making factory.

Each of the women in the book has a story to tell. Their lives are trapped in hard circumstances and dreary daily routine alternating between work and home. Each one of them has a hopeless, dysfunctional relationship with either their husbands, their family, or themselves.

43-year-old Masako's cool demeanor and hardened heart hides her depressing relationship with her son who hasn't opened his mouth to speak since three years ago. Masako's husband, driven with his own work has simply ignored all other inhabitants in the household and sleeps apart from his estranged wife.

At 50, Yoshie is the pillar that holds her family together as she cares for her invaild yet manipulative mother-in-law and her teenage daughter who has recently developed some strange habits like dyeing her hair and aquiring items that she nor her mother could not afford. Yoshie is hard pressed to find money to make ends meet, and yet she could not afford to take on and shoulder another debt.

Kuniko is 29 years old and has long been drowning in debt with her excessive sprees, buying the latest replicas of designer bags, shoes, suits and other things. She lived with a good-for-nothing partner in her apartment, but after a while he leaves her taking all the savings that they made and since then has never been found. Kuniko is at a loss, sinking with all her mountain of bills and debts, with creditors at her heels. But that doesn't stop Kuniko as she lives from paycheck to paycheck to buy her a fashion item or two, and then budget her remaining money to buy food and pay her rent.

The lovely 34-year-old Yayoi completes the group. When she's done with graveyard work she becomes a full-time mother and homemaker often cutting her sleeping hours to a few measly hours to spend time her two sons. The situation with her husband, Kenji, worsens over the course of their marriage. He becomes a philanderer who gambles away money at an underground club, obsessed with a stunning hostess who has no interest in him except to take his money. The plot thickens as Yayoi breaks down and snaps when she finds out that he has emptied their life savings. That night, she murders Kenji with her own two hands.

The friends come together gradually as Yayoi asks for help on how to dispose the body and plan to cover up the entire thing to get the full amount of Kenji's insurance, costing up to millions. Lured by Yayoi's promise to split the money, Yoshie and Kuniko agree immediately while Masako has a strange reason only she understands. The story continues in a grisly, bloody manner as the women become deeply involved not only in one murdered body, but in several...

This book is just utterly, OUT THERE. It's dark, deep, and distressing. Not to mention that the book is not told by a cop or a detective trying to solve the mystery, but told by the murders themselves. I'm not one to like murder and mystery genre much but wow, this is the reason why the author, Natsuo Kirino holds the Naoki Prize in Japan's Top Mystery Award.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Books on My Wishlist

The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth

Book Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth of York trusts that her beloved father’s dying wish has left England in the hands of a just and deserving ruler. But upon the rise of Richard of Gloucester, Elizabeth’s family experiences one devastation after another: her late father is exposed as a bigamist, she and her siblings are branded bastards, and her brothers are taken into the new king’s custody, then reportedly killed.

But one fateful night leads Elizabeth to question her prejudices. Through the eyes of Richard’s ailing queen she sees a man worthy of respect and undying adoration. His dedication to his people inspires a forbidden love and ultimately gives her the courage to accept her destiny, marry Henry Tudor, and become Queen. While her soul may secretly belong to another, her heart belongs to England.

If you happen to have a copy that you want to sell... :3 I'm looking out for it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Finally, I have a bit of free time in the evenings (6pm - 9pm) to do the things I normally would not have the luxury to. Now I can go out and have fun before the mall closes, watch some DVDs in the bedroom before the kids go to sleep, and read this nosebleed-inducing book which is around 5 or 6 inches thick? ; ;

I got this book late last year from Bookmooch and until now I haven't the chance to read it yet. It's a daunting challenge to finish the book, it's the thickest piece of paperback novel I will have to finish.

I'm well used to thick books, as I have thicker books in my shelf like Irish Myths, Legends and Folklore by W.B. Yeats, The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pesl and so on but it's understandable because they're hardbound and the paperback version of those are just the normal size you'd expect.

But man, A Suitable Boy is frightening. My nephew, Hisashi, asked innocently how many years it would take me to finish. He's so cute!

I started this just last night, and I quite like it! Though I've always known I would love the story. I've watched out for this book since forever and I'm so lucky to find someone generous enough to part with it. It's hard to find a copy of this as I can't find it in National Book Store, Powerbooks, and Goodwill Philippines.

I'm looking forward to trying quarter of a chapter per night. Or a whole chapter if get into the thick (haha no kidding!) of the story enough. Though the review will not come for a long time! :D

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beauty Behind the Veil

"Kabul Beauty School" is the story of Deborah Rodriguez and her journey as a volunteer worker in Afghanistan. She has her own personal reasons why she chose to focus her energies into helping the women of Kabul uplift and help themselves. Deborah, or "Debbie" as she is fondly called by those who know her, realize that there are rigid rules and conduct guide that Afghans place on their tradition-bound women. The cultural gap seems too wide to cross and sometimes both the Afghan women and Debbie have a hard time in all their communications, and it's not just a problem of language, too.

Back in America, Debbie was an expert beautician. But little did she know that fate had another plan for her other than being part of a volunteer U.S. medical team. She uses her expertise and mastery of the beauty industry to realize that she just might give the one of the most helpful service to all the women presently living in Afghanistan: a grand scheme to set up the Kabul Beauty School.

This idea was not just to make a salon right smack in the middle of a war-torn city, but to create a whole academy for Afghan women who have always placed a high price on beauty and have a long-standing and proud culture of beauty salons before the Taliban burned the establishments to the ground. Debbie spearheaded the campaign in the midst of challenges and death threats from extremist opposition. Through the help of beauty companies and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School was formed and had its first batch of trainee beauticians in 2003. Debbie trained the women to master the fundamentals of cutting hair, coloring techniques, and makeup. The School's goal is to empower the women to become financially independent through the income that they will be generating from their work in the salon.

The Kabul Beauty School was a success. Western and other foreign women from different peace groups, and wives and daughters of diplomats who have been living in Kabul have now a place to go for a good haircut, manicure, hair dye that they desperately need. The Afghan beauticians who have passed the School's training are now earning cash that they have never earned before and being a part of the Kabul Beauty School now gives them a sense of power, which is a surprising feat for a country so traditional that women were never seen as anything of value.

Debbie's story is full of energy, humor and packed with power. It is a story about the women who have struggled and are desperate to survive. Sadly, after going through fighting against cultural restrictions and bureaucratic battles, the Kabul Beauty School was shut down. But the book remains a testament of solidarity in the most trying of times and the coming together of the women of Kabul in an effort of freedom and independence.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Love, Liberation and Literature

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is set in the early 1970's at the onset of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Universities have closed down, scholars were exiled or thrown in jail, and books, deemed dangerous, were confiscated and burned in city squares. Anti-intellectual ideas were at an all-time high and the regime had managed to overthrow modern thinking. Online history classes at online universities should be able to teach you more about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

This novel by Dai Sijie is a story about two city-bred and educated teenage boys, 18-year-old Luo and the 17-year-old unnamed narrator of the story. Both were sent to be "re-educated" in an extremely remote mountain village called Phoenix of the Sky.

The rural community is made up of peasants, lowly farmers and merchants who were given the authority to teach and guide the boys away from bourgeois thinking. The two young men have noticed that the villager's ideas primarily based on their folklore and superstition, and what little the government feeds them. As the villagers sought to forcibly humble the teens' sophisticated ideals, they were given manual labor duties and other tasks that involves hard, distasteful and dreary daily chores involving fertilizing the farms with excrement and other wastes, and coal mining.

Life was pure drudgery and the only respite was a small stint watching films to be retold to the villagers. Other than that, it was back to the wastes and the coals for them. It was one fateful day that they meet a pretty and enchanting young girl, the daughter of a popular traveling tailor from another village. She was bright; had a sweet face and an engaging personality, and so it was not a surprise when Luo fell in love with her, though causing a minor rift between him and the narrator, who also found the girl to his liking.

It was at that time when they also met another young man being re-educated at another village, whom they befriended and called "Four-Eyes". The four have a complex relationship together, tight and bound as the spine of the prohibited books Four-Eyes was hiding from the entire village. These books were their ticket to rebel against and free themselves from the oppressive ideas of the government and the superstitious villagers. Luo stole the forbidden books to secretly educate the Little Seamstress. They pored over the contents of each bound books, read Hugo, Dickens, Romain Rolland, Dumas, and Tolstoy. The Little Seamstress focuses on these all new ideas and worlds that she was thinking and experiencing for the first time in her life.

Luo only wanted to introduce the Little Seamstress to a world where she has never stepped in before, through the trove of books. However, as the girl absorbs all the information she has begun to understand the world and her desires completely. Her transformation goes beyond what the two boys expected and the novel ends with the Little Seamstress leaving behind the entire village, the two heartbroken boys and all the backward ideas she grew up with. She fled the mountains as the power of these literature intoxicates and overwhelms her, but was the source of her freedom and liberation as the newfound ideas and ambition propels her to search of a different life for herself.

I was left hanging and astounded, but deep inside I've always believed that literature could literally transform a person and change his or her ideas in life. There's no more apt ending for this short but extremely wonderful novel full of the greatest literature in the world.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Aicha's Lucky Find No. 1


I have found this magnificent piece for me in Booksale last night. When I looked up at the tall bookshelf I couldn't breathe and I choked. I got it and was supremely gloating about this beautiful, perfect book that I've always thought was way beyond my means to get.

I love, love, love Pride and Prejudice. I adore to the fullest extent both the charming, clever Elizabeth Bennet and the most dashing and desirable Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

My Shelfari/Bookmooch wishlist consisted of:
* An Assembly Such as This (borrowed from a friend)
* Duty and Desire
* These Three Remain
* The Darcys & the Bingleys
* Mr. Darcy's Daughters : A Novel
* The Darcy Connection: A Novel
* The Second Mrs. Darcy: A Novel
* The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy
* Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife
* Mrs. Darcys Dilemma
* Two Shall Become One: Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy

and now I can strike another book off with flourish! :D

* The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy

I'm so excited to read my new, lucky find but I guess I have to wait?! I have a long list on my TBR pile. And I'm currently reading An Assembly Such As This! It would've been such a great next read. Boo, I have to go through at least 20 books just to read The Confessions.

Thursday, March 5, 2009 10th Anniversary has been one of the very few online stores to cater to Pinoy bookworms and readers. It's been 10 years now and they want to party like it's 2009! For their 10th birthday bash, they're giving away a signed copy of Interworld by Neil Gaiman yours for the taking as long as you enter your favorite Neil Gaiman quotes from any of his published fiction, non-fiction, or comic books in their blog comments section.

This is divine. I've owned and loved Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, Sandman: Book of Dreams and the elusive (and expensive!) Sandman: The Dream Hunters. So of course I'll enter this contest!
My most memorable quote will be from Sandman: The Dream Hunters where the Buddhist Monk journeys into the realm of dreams, gets lost, and finally encounters a man fishing on a pond.

I seek the King of All Night’s Dreaming,” called the Monk. “Am I going the right way?”
How can you not go to him?” asked the first of the men, “when all the ways are his?
-From Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami

My favorite quote:

"I'm looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortbread. And you stop everything you're doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortbread out to me. And I say I don't want it any more and throw it out of the window. That's what I 'm looking for."

"I'm not sure that has anything to do with love," I said with some amazement.

"It does," she said. "You just don't know it. There are times in a girl's life when things like that are incredibly important."

"Things like throwing strawberry shortbread out of the window?"

"Exactly. And when I do it, I want the man to apologize to me. "Now I see, Midori. What a fool I've been! I should have known that you would lose your desire for strawberry shortbread. I have all the intelligence and sensitivity of a piece of donkey shit. To make it up to you, I'll go out and buy you something else. What would you like? Chocolate mousse? Cheesecake?"'

"So then what?"

"So then I'd give him all the love he deserves for what he's done."

"Sounds crazy to me."

"Well, to me, that's what love is. Not that anyone can understand me, though." Midori gave her head a little shake against my shoulder. "For a certain kind of person, love begins from something tiny or silly. From something like that or it doesn't begin at all."

- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami