The Reading Forecast

It’s Monday again. That means it is time to talk about my reading again. Fun times. I’m kind of exhausted so sorries about the lack of pep in the post. I should probably write this tomorrow when I am full of verve but I feel like writing the post right now so…

Last week, I started reading Moth and Spark and found that it totally didn’t work for me so I DNFed it and moved on. Then I discovered Martha Wells and oh my jolly goodness, it was love after a rocky start. Here are the books I managed to consume in the past week.

  1. The Ships of Air by Martha Wells
    5 stars. Requires separate post.
  2. The Wizard Hunters – Martha Wells
    See above.
  3. The Iron Tonic – Edward Gorey
    Typical Gorey.
  4. What Do Women Really Want? Chocolate! – Donna L. Barstow
    Somewhat funny.
  5. Bayou vol. 1 – Jeremy Love
    Beautifully drawn and sensitively executed.
  6. Nine Ways to Disappear – Lily Carre
    Superlative.
  7. Nola’s Worlds – Matthieu Mariolle et al: vol 1
    Cute.
  8. Nola’s Worlds – Matthieu Mariolle et al. vol 2
    Ditto.
  9. Nightingale’s Nest – Nikki Loftin
    Tragic, poignant, beautiful.
  10. Zombillenium 2 – Arthur de Pins
    Fantastic.
  11. Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley
    Very good. Review this week.

Currently Reading

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I’m about halfway through this and enjoying it very much.

To Read In the Coming Week

  1. Long Lankin – Lindsey Barraclough
  2. The Riverman – Aaron Starmer
  3. The Gate of Gods – Martha Wells
  4. Sisters – Raina Telegemeier
  5. Other assorted graphic novels. I checked out a bunch from the library.

A Mid-September Book Haul

Books mentioned:

  1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  2. The Original of Laura – Vladimir Nabokov
  3. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  4. Escape from Lucien: Amulet 6 – Kazu Kibuishi
  5. Sisters – Raina Telgemeier
  6. Bombay Blues – Tanuja Desai
  7. iCover – Sadaf Syed
  8. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
  9. Skip Beat, 3 volume bindup – Yoshiki Nakamura
  10. The Colour Master – Aimee Bender
  11. Zombillenium: Human Resources – Arthur de Pins
  12. The Good Little Devil and Other Tales – Pierre Gripari
  13. A House Without Mirrors – Marten Sanden
  14. Diplomacy of Wolves – Holly Lisle
  15. Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley

 

 

Post Post-Grad Studies aka Now What, Jose?

Yesterday I defended my thesis successfully. I got an approval form and all. I even got cookies, brownies, hugs and flowers. People said VERY nice things about the novel I wrote and while I am still disbelieving that my book deserves that much praise, I am happy that I’m done with the school part of life.

But last night, the uncertainties set in. I’m done with school and now I have to find a job. Actually, it’s imperative that I find a gig that actually pays me money instead of cake because I need to pay back loans and stuff. But now what? Who am I now? I find myself in a liminal space usually occupied by people who always skirt the edges of society not choosing to participate but not willing to set themselves apart either.

I want to live now. Experience things. Probably shatter some glasses, plates and hearts. I want to buy stuff, see vistas I usually can’t. I just want to live.

But I need to do something. I’m going to start research on book the two because until I find a job, I cannot actually do anything fun because money. Ya know? And reading because, well, what else would I do?

I think I’m most sad about losing my bus pass. Sighhhh. I love my bus pass.

Maybe more (whiny) blog posts in the future of this blog. My apologies in advance.

Afsara: A Story in Fragments

So I wrote this story for creative writing class and the reaction wasn’t verypositive and I understand why, especially from a North American p.o.v. So I figured I’d post it here for your reading pleasure (maybe).

 

 

Afsara

My name is Afsara. I am not an angel.

There is no point in pretty words dressed up in golden shine tarted up splendor. No point in that. And no point in you. Or me. And yes, the syntax has gone haywire and there’s a definite lack of empathy for the apostrophe, why, we breathe capital letters at the end of sentences, fuck your conformity.

 

This is the story that tells you how to make a ghost. You take a girl. You take her in all the ways you know how and learn the ways you don’t. You take her and then you break her and then you leave her out in the rain during winter. Come spring, she’ll be a ghost. Gray. No matter what colour she started out as.

 

You killed my family and called it liberation.  You spilled so much blood that the ground bled for weeks afterwards. And while I was screaming myself hoarse not knowing who to mourn for first, you were being awarded medals for valor. How much courage does it take to kill one village full of women, children and old men?

 

Grief has the sharp taste of sour oranges. It numbs your tongue and steals your appetite. Grief is a symphony, a musical performance, each note designed to rip your heart out in a crescendo of little bulbs of pain.

Grief is the memory of a day perfectly frozen in the past. It is a song played on the radio. A voice whispering in the dark. It is a chipped blue china cup that your mother loved and that survived the carnage when she didn’t.

Grief is the memory of your last fight with your sister. The words you spoke when you shouldn’t have. The words you should have said but didn’t. Grief is that last smile she gave you, the smile that forgave you anyway.

And when the grief spills over, there is madness. Insanity is just a lullaby around the corner. It is the memory of how many smiles your lips used to be capable of that breaks you. Insanity is when your mornings drown in dew and the length of your fingers are all wrong and your eyebrows seem unable to make that climb down from your forehead back to your eyes – insanity is when you cannot hear yourself think because the grief inside your head is too loud.

 

I was recruited at the funerals. There was a woman whose smile had the jagged edges of a broken window. There was a man whose face was scarred diagonally as if someone had tried to cut through his face into his head. They told me that there were three stages to  grief: pain, numbness and acceptance. Acceptance? I laughed. You would have too. Then they collected the pieces of me that still remained and offered me a way to get even. They told me that if I followed them, I would be able to hurt you. So I did.

 

Sometimes I tie myself up in sentences and throw myself in bursts of black ink on pristine white paper. Ruining it. Making it as I am: smudged and unformed.

 

After I had banked the grief and could think again, I started to learn. Life had meaning once more. It had purpose and anger. The man with the scarred face took me to a place in the mountains where there were others like me. Girls poised on rooftops, cliffs and other precipices. There, they taught us how to fall.

 

My days were spent upended, suspended in a phantasmagoria. Reality peeked from behind the shabby curtains in a musty room belonging to someone who wanted to stay firmly entrenched in yesterday. We sought identities desperately in cups of tea that the English call their own but that actually belong to someone else. But who are we to deny the coolness of the shade during London afternoons when the entire world is in a teacup and scones glut themselves with clotted cream? Who were we then?  Little girls unlearning themselves. What have we become here in the mountains with the rage and the rain and the full stop to our lives a date marked in red on the calendar?

 

Briefly, I mourned us all. For the people we were and the dreams we had.

 

The training bore quick results and vans full of little girls leave the mountain house daily. They don’t come back. We don’t expect them to. Tomorrow is my day. It’s near. So near there are only minutes until the day reaches out with its ice cold fingers and traces the end on my skin, in lieu of the henna I will never wear.

 

It’s not a specific tragedy that steals the sleep from my eyes tonight – it’s the ever present realization, as soft as gossamer wings beating against bare skin – that there is a lack of language, a lack of heart and a lack of me in these words that keep getting colder. No dreams of heat. No feelings of passion. A cold blanket of eternity – a darkness without stars. Just an image of a thought falling apart on itself. A sharp separation of the soul from the body. These words, these cold words, the lack of passion – I have emptied myself of meaning. Who am I? what am i? why do I matter? Do I matter?

 

I want to talk about a candle. A lit candle in a dark room. Flickering in the breeze that wafts in through a window slid open. White, shabby curtains, the walls are gray stone. The candle does not give much light. Barely enough to illuminate the bed that is sparsely made with a faded sheet that has seen better days. The candle is halfway melted, the wax has accumulated on the earthen dish in which the candle stands. There is someone on the bed. A brown body, lying awake. Shorn hair, a white t-shirt, and pants bunched up at the knees. A young girl. She has thin unmarked arms, the scars are all inside.  She is lying on her chest and the only thing that breaks the silence is the gentle sigh of her breathing.

There are no pictures in the room, no personal decorations. Nothing that would indicate that someone lives here – except for a closet in the far corner of the room, away from the window. Carefully hidden in the shadows so that barely any light falls on it; it is immense. Made of mahogany with tall doors; grooved and padlocked. There is a chest inside the closet. A chest that contains the wrong sort of things. Windows, you can call them. Windows to another world.

The candle flickers, fights. There is a gust of breeze. The candle loses. The shadows deepen.

 

Fast forward then to ten hours later.

 

It is almost time. I have strapped the bombs around me. Theirs is a comforting weight.

It has been forty-five days and three hours  since I lost everything. Everyone. In an hour, I will burn.

Many people will die. Someone’s mother, someone’s father and someone else’s child. They will be mourned. It is too late to find my conscience. She died along with my sister. If it is hell that waits for me, then so be it. My anger will lift my feet and cover the distance from here to the middle of the field. Where you have gathered to celebrate your victory.

If there’s mercy, it will smell like smoke. I know that this world is pieced together by losses and life will move on despite the dictates of my broken heart. Nevertheless, I will burn. For the people I lost, for the country that is no longer mine and for you. Yes, you, snug in your belief of happiness and an ever after.

I was not born a monster. Remember that.

The Reading Forecast

Three days till thesis defence, you guys. I am both nervous and a bit nauseous because of reasons. But let’s not get into that until I absolutely have to. What I want to talk about is reading and how I’m enjoying reading so much after such a long time. I have given myself permission to read what I want to when I want to so even though I have books to review, they’re all books I want to read. I think having my Kindle stolen may have been a good thing because loss aside, it made me realize just how much I love reading physical books. There’s something to be said for convenience and the ease with which you can take books everywhere with a Kindle but if you are a tactile person like me, then feeling the page, the actual page and not a virtual manifestation of one, is priceless.

Books I Read Last Week:

  1. Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
    I’ll do a review of this but I didn’t actually like it as much as I had hoped to.
  2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
    This was fantastic. 5 stars.
  3. It by Alexa Chung
    Eh. 2.5
  4. Will O’the Wisp by Tom Hammock
    I liked this. The art was beautiful and the story solid. 4 stars.
  5. Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
    Cole was fun. 4 stars.
  6. Skip Beat 3 in 1 vol. 22-23-24 by Yoshiki Nakamura
    I love Skip Beat so this was an automatic 5 stars for me.
  7. Cast in Flame – Michelle Sagara
    The only thing that saved this one from being 2 stars is my hope that the next one will be better.
  8. Burn Bright by Bethany Frenette
    I enjoyed this quite a bit. 4 stars.
  9. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattermer
    I enjoyed this somewhat.

Currently Reading

  1. The Cabinet of Curiousities by Stefan Bachmann et al
    This is to my liking. Short themed stories. The book is huge so it’s going to take me a while to get through but I figure a story a day will suffice.
  2. Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard
    I haven’t actually started this one but there are dragons.

To Read in the Upcoming Week

When I finish Vigilante Poets, I think I’ll slip back into fantasy. I’m thinking about reading any of the following:

  1. Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
  2. The Riverman by Aaron Starmer
  3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Losing My Self In Three Different Ways

Actually, this post was supposed to me groveling for my lack of presence to anyone who cares but as it is, I think I’ll talk about something else instead. Identity. It’s a topic dear to me. It’s the theme of the book I wrote and it’s what I have been searching for ever since we moved from Fiji to Canada. I’m sure this search would have been present in Fiji but I’ll never find out because when I was there, I was sure who and what I was. I was limited by my economic and geographical situation but I had learned to construct myself in the narratives they provided.

When we moved, I found myself at a loss. I needed to write myself into the narrative of the Canadian landscape and with the Canadian way of being but I didn’t speak the language of the primary narrative was composed in. I spoke a version of the language but our sides didn’t measure up. I had so much taken away from me when we moved – I received a lot in return but at that moment, all I could see were the losses. I lost the physical land that I loved every single day, I lost the surety of my own self, I lost that intangible space in which I belonged and I lost my language. Losing my self, what made me me was compounded by the fact that I had no idea how to be someone else. I was an adolescent and at that time, everything is in upheaval but adolescence in Fiji means a whole different thing than adolescence in Canada – or it used to anyway. It took me three long years to stop feeling homesick and only when I let go of what I lost was I able to begin reconstructing myself.

When I thought I had finally comes to terms with the person I am or am beginning to be, the rug was pulled out from under my legs if you’ll excuse the cliched expression. I hadn’t realized, in my attempts to construct myself as a Canadian, that my Otherness will always be a loud unspoken presence in any room I am in. This was made very clear to me when a professor called me into her office after I had decided to do a creative writing thesis and spent thirty minutes telling me why I can’t write, how I was bad at writing and how I didn’t have what it takes to write a novel. I refuse to trivialize the incident by joking or commenting on her because though I may speculate about the reasons why she did all this, all I know for sure is the effect that thirty minute meeting had on me. The fact that this person who knew nothing about me apart from what she saw in two hour classes with minimal interactions over the course of one year could say so decisively what I was or wasn’t capable of threw me. At first I was distraught, then I was angry. And after the anger had passed, I was contemplative. I wondered why she thought she could say all that to me? Would she say the same things to other students in her program? She made a line between “her students” and how she was “so protective of them” and me. What did she see when looked at me?

The answer was obvious when I gave it some more thought. She saw someone who wasn’t her, someone who wasn’t her student. For whatever reason, maybe it was the way I looked, acted or conducted myself, maybe it was the colour of my skin, whatever, she constructed me as an Other. She read me as foreign and different from all the other students she claimed to love and protect. So obviously, though I had managed to constructed for myself a, what I thought, Canadian identity, I hadn’t done it properly. I was still different without choosing to be, even when I was actively trying not to be.

There were two ways I could have gone with this. Tried and failed to be the Canadian that professor wanted or embraced my differences. You can guess which one I chose. This is where the anger factored in. I figured that if they looked at me like I was an Other, I would make things easier for them and look like an Other. That’s when I put the hijab on. Admittedly, it was not the right reason to put it on but I kept it on for the right reasons – this will be a different post. When I embraced my differences, my Otherness, my lack of language ceased to matter. Just because I didn’t have the language to insert myself in the general Canadian identity, didn’t mean I couldn’t also exist. I would exist but on my own terms. My identity is obviously fluid and in flux a lot of times but I am not written in a language that no one understands. It’s just that some people choose not to.

So the above are two ways I lost myself unwillingly. The third way I lose my self is far more enjoyable and I’m complicit in this kind of loss.

Reading has always been an escape for me. An escape and a blessing. Even though it has become difficult to lose myself due to school and an overly analytical mind, when I’m reading a good book, I do willingly give myself over and cease to exist in my body and mind. I become wholly immersed in the characters (until the character does something obviously stupid and shove me back into my body and mind) and I experience the world through their eyes. That is what I look for in a book: world or characters that strip me from myself and take me someplace else. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds. It should, however, explain why I veer mostly toward fantasy than realistic fiction.

So there you have it. Not the post I set out to write but one I perhaps needed to. Thanks for reading.

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Knopf Canada
Source: Publisher

Elizabeth is Missing paints a dark picture of old age. Maud is old and lives alone. She has one daughter who takes care of her and a son who comes to visit her once in a while with his family. She has a friend, Elizabeth, whom she hasn’t seen for a while and a sister, Sukey, who went missing about seventy years ago. No one believes Maud when she tries to tell them that Elizabeth has gone missing so she takes it upon herself to find her. She finds clues, talks to people and ensures that everyone knows that Elizabeth is missing.

However, it is very difficult to be a detective when you end up forgetting all the clues you find. In fact, you end up forgetting why you woke in the morning or what you were doing two minutes ago. The novel plays with time as the narratives jumps back and forth from the time Maud was a teenager to the present day when Maud is definitely not a teenager. Maud’s sister disappeared without warning and stayed missing. Their family never got any disclosure and Maud never got over her sister’s disappearance.

Healey very beautifully captures the frustration Maud feels every time she is brushed off by younger people simply because she is too old. The readers are never told anything explicitly but instead are left to figure out the details of what is happening between Maud and her daughter, Helen, who, though a wonderful daughter, is somewhat lacking in her compassion to her mother’s age. Which is understandable because the generation gap, even between parents are children, are sometimes severe.

I really liked this novel. It has made scared to grow old but the story made me appreciate the important of family in one’s life. The mystery is intricately woven through the narrative and the climax is surprising but I absolutely loved how Healey stayed true to Maud’s character. Highly recommended.