TSS – Small changes

We are one month into the new year and there have been some very subtle changes to Regular Rumination in the new year.  You probably haven’t really noticed them – they’ve been personal goals that I’ve been trying to fulfill slowly and surely.  One small thing I have changed is adding a unique title to each of my posts.  I decided to do that because I really had only two or three titles that I would change slightly.  Such as Review – Title – Author, TSS – Date.  Maybe once in a small while I’d have a uniquely titled post, and honestly I can’t really tell you if it made any difference, but it seems important to have a title that properly evokes what the post is about.  So tell me, does that make a difference when you’re reading a post?  Do you even really notice the titles of blog posts?

I’ve also been trying to make my posts more well-crafted.  This has been a very personal goal over the past month or so.  I became a little disappointed with the overall quality of my reviews.   The writing was less than great and a lot of times I felt like I was just posting to post, even if I didn’t have  a clear idea of what I wanted to say about a book.  It became more important to have a post for you to read than to really spend a lot of time with a post.  Part of the problem is the fact that I have less time when I’m in school, so I would rush to finish a review.  I realize now that I would rather have a well-crafted review than four posts a week.  Maybe that should have been obvious, but to be honest, at the end of last year it really wasn’t.   Maybe if this hasn’t been as noticeable as I think, that’s probably a good thing, but I hope that the quality of my posts is better than it once was.

Well, that’s all for this Sunday.  I have lots of things to think about, but for today I will be reading In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker and Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa for class.  What are you reading?

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Poetry Wednesday – Sherman Alexie

This Poetry Wednesday, I thought it would be fitting to include poems from Sherman Alexie because I just reviewed his novel Flight.  I love it when authors cross over from poetry or fiction – often you can see the influences of fiction on their poetry and poetry in their fiction and this is certainly true of Alexie.  Alexie talked about the event that he describes in this poem during his interview with Nancy Pearl that I posted yesterday and I didn’t know he turned it into a poem until I tried to find a poem to post today.  I love it.

Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World

The morning air is all awash with angels
Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is most among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because

He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,

I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father

Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.


This poem is absolutely beautiful and full of grief.  But he expresses it so beautifully and simply.

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Call me Zits in Sherman Alexie’s Flight

Sherman Alexie is one of those authors that everyone loves and for good reason.  He’s ambitious, witty, fearless and unbelievably creative.  I’ve been interested in picking up more of his books recently, especially after reading and loving The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianTen Little  Indians and some of Alexie’s poetry last year.  I’ve also been listening to Nancy Pearl’s podcasts on my commute and one of her older archived interviews was with Sherman Alexie right after he published Flight, which is, as far as I can tell, one of his least popular books to date.  It did not sell well and has received very mixed reviews.  Something about the way Alexie talked about his narrator Zits really made me want to read it and I suggest everyone go watch the video!  If that doesn’t make you want to read Flight, I’m not sure what will.

“Call me Zits,” the novel begins, introducing us to one of the most original narrators I’ve read in a long time.  He’s a half-white-half-indian teenager who has been wronged by life, a not uncommon tale, of an absent father and a loving mother who dies when Zits  is young, forcing him into an uncertain life going from foster care family to foster care family.  After one particular incident with a new foster care family, Zits is arrested and while in jail he meets Justice.  Justice convinces him that he can bring his mother back, but only if he kills someone in a revenge murder.  So Zits shoots up a bank and is killed by a police officer, dying immediately.

But that’s not where Zits’s story ends, that’s only where it begins.  As Alexie explains in the video, he becomes “unstuck in time” like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five, going from one moment in American history to the next.  At each moment, he experiences a revenge killing of sorts, making him relive the moment when he made the decision to shoot the bank.  Zits inhabits the body of all sorts of men and boys throughout history – men who betray their wives, soldiers who betray their army, even a little boy who is asked to do an unspeakable thing.  Each time he feels the guilt multiplied until he cannot understand making that decision over and over and over again.

One thing I think is clear from reading Flight is that we are all capable of revenge.  It can be a small thing, it does not have to be as big as murder, but that is a human feeling.  It does not matter what race you are or what gender you are or what age you are.  It is a powerful human emotion that can make anyone do something they will regret.  Zits’s story ends well, at least he tells us it does.  We are left at the end, unsure of what to believe or knowing what was real.  In the end, though, it does not matter if it was real or all in Zits’s head.  It does not matter if he killed in 2007 or the 1970s or the 1700s, or if he killed at all.  What is important is what he learned along the way – the danger of exacting revenge for something that no one could stop and the ability to forgive.  At least we hope he learned something.

Alexie, through Zits, provides so many insights that make Zits completely believable as a character, such as:

And then it’s the white kid and me.

He sits on the floor at one end of the cell.  I sit on the floor at t he other end.  He stares at me for a long time. He’s studying me.

“What are you looking at?”  I ask.

“Your face,” he says.

“What about my face?”

“It doesn’t have to be like that,” he says.  “They got all sorts of medicine now.  I see it on TV.  They got miracle zit stuff.  Clear your face right up.”

I’ve seen those commercials too.  The ones where famous people like P. Diddy and Jessica Simpson and Brooke Shields talk about their zits and how they got cured by this miracle face cream made from sacred Mexican mud and the sweet spit of a prom queen.  And, yeah, I’d love to buy that stuff, but it costs fifty bucks a jar.  These days, you see a kid with bad acne, and you know he’s poor.  Rich kids don’t get acne anymore.  Not really.  They just get a few spots now and again. (21)

This novel is so unique, drawing on influences from literature and popular culture, but making it into a completely original story that encompasses many aspects of our culture in one short novel.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: Bibliofreak.

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Waiting for love? in Waiting by Ha Jin

What struck me about Waiting by Ha Jin, was not necessarily what this novel said about love, but instead the way it used a love story to portray life in China under communist rule.  At the heart of this novel is, as the title suggests, is waiting – but it is not waiting for love, instead it is waiting for the public acceptance of that love.  The need for an outside source to defend and give validity to a relationship ultimately is that relationships destruction.

Lin Kong is a doctor in the army, stationed in Muji City while his wife remains in the remote Goose Village to raise their daughter and care for her husband’s ailing parents.  While in Muji City, he falls in love for the first time with a nurse named Manna Wu.  For the next 18 years, Lin is torn between the two women.  He has never felt love for Shuyu, and never had the chance to let a love grow between them.  What he feels for Manna is completely foreign to him, and over the years, as he waits for his wife to grant him a divorce, his feelings for Manna become something that he cannot explain or define.

Every aspect of Shuyu,  Lin and Manna’s lives are controlled by the government and it marks every decision and move they make.  Manna and Lin cannot be together because the army forbids it.  Lin cannot divorce Shuyu because the government will not let him.  When one character gets raped, she cannot tell anyone because the government would not believe her.  It’s a comedy of errors that is as heartbreaking and frustrating.

She got up from the bed, went over to the wardrobe, and took out the box.  Removing the padlock, she opened the lid, whose underside was pasted over with soda labels.  A roll of cream-colored sponge puffed out, atop the other contents.  She took the roll out and unfolded it on the bed, displaying about two dozen Chairman Mao buttons, all fastened to the sponge.  Most of them were made of aluminum and a few of porcelain.  Their convex surfaces glimmered.  On one button, the Chairman in an army uniform was waving his cap, apparently to the people on parade in Tiananmen Square.  On another he was smoking a cigar, his other hand holding a straw hat, while talking with some peasants in his hometown in Hunan Province.

“Wow, I never thought you loved Chairman Mao so much,” Lin said with a smile.  “Where did you get so many of these?”

“I collected them.”

“Out of your love for Chairman Mao?”

“I don’t know.  They look gorgeous, don’t they?”

He was puzzled by her admiration.  He realized that someday these trinkets might become valuable indeed, as reminders of the mad times and the wasted, lost lives of the revolution.  They would become relics of history.  But for her, they didn’t seem to possess any historical value at all.  Then it dawned on him that she must have kept these buttons as a kind of treasure.  She must have collected them as the only beautiful things she could own, like jewelry.  (251)

This is not the first time that an author has used that concept of waiting to explain or define a corrupt government.  One that always comes to mind for me is a movie:   La Muralla Verde (The Green Wall) is a Peruvian film that uses the same mix of waiting, inevitability and senselessness; it is a very effective combination that, unfortunately, paints an accurate portrait.  Waiting has received mixed reviews as a love story, but as tragedy it succeeds.  Lin is a tragic character above all else, unable to rise above his own indecisiveness to have a fulfilled life.  Instead it is a life filled with waiting, always waiting for the happiness and love that never come.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: Books of Mee, A Striped Armchair, A Book A Week, Book Awards Challenge.

TSS: Some serious thoughts

It has been an interesting week, both in blogging land and in my personal life with the start of a new semester and it seems that I really have had a lot to think about.  I’ve been somewhat silent on many of the issues at hand, at least on my blog, I have been vocal in the comments, but it is important to me to publicly say what I think, because adding one more voice to the crowd is important.

There is first, of course, the question of whitewashing on book covers.  Magic Under Glass is a book I have not read, but it is clear that Bloomsbury made another big mistake.  I do not condone this and while I will not be boycotting the publisher (though I completely support those who are), I want to make it very clear that this is not okay.  It is completely unacceptable and I have a responsibility, as a reader, a reviewer, a purchaser of books, to make it clear to all publishers that yes, I (a white, middle class 20-something) will read and review and love books by POC.  This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad.  This is about reading about and becoming aware of  different cultures, and trying to understand.   With understanding, comes respect.  Thankfully, the blogging world is quick to respond to such things, and several new resources have arisen in the past week to help readers like me, who want to diversify their reading and make a point to put POC authors and books about POC characters in the spotlight.

Readers Against Whitewashing
Diversify Your Reading
POC Reading Challenge

Join one, join two, join three.  Or don’t join any, but do something if this is important to you.  Because no matter how small your voice is, and I know that in this big publishing world my voice is very small, you have the opportunity make someone listen.  So take advantage of that, use your blog for good.

But it is not all about POC.  It is about reading books that make a difference.  No, reading is not always about making a statement, but sometimes it is.  Why was I embarrassed when I was reading Twilight in public?  Why are some adults embarrassed to be reading a young adult book in public?  Because the book you choose to read says something about you, it informs the observer about you, whether you like it or not.  It just might get someone else reading the same kinds of books you are.   Not every single book I choose to read will make a difference, but I should make a point to tell you about the ones that will.  That is my philosophy and that is what I plan to keep doing this year.  One of my new years resolutions was to use the reading challenges I have joined (Women Unbound, GLBT Challenge, POC Reading Challenge) to make my reading more diverse and to raise awareness about people and cultures and issues that are different from my own.  Or even to explain, in the best way I know how, things that make my experience unique: by giving you a book to read.

Other thoughts on Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online, 1330v.

Thoughts on the publisher’s decision about Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online.

More thoughts on diverse reading: A Striped Armchair, Shelf Love.


In other news, I have some giveaways to announce the winners of!  Chosen by random.org:

The winner of René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez is:


The winner of Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias is:


The winner of a button from The Strand New York is:


Email me your addresses to regularrumination@gmail.com and they will be on their way!

Poetry Wednesday – Elizabeth Bishop

I hope you are as excited for the return of Poetry Wednesday as I am!  It got lost in the holiday shuffle, but it’s back in business, which coincides nicely with the announcement of Clover, Bee & Reverie: A Poetry Challenge that I’m hosting with Jason.  Today I am feeling sick of winter and cold after that warm spell we had last weekend.  I just have no time for this stupid thing called winter and I am really desperately holding out for spring.  One thing I miss most most are thunder storms and I adore poems about lightning and rain and thunder.  If you’ll remember, I already posted one poem about this from Mary Oliver, so when I opened up Elizabeth Bishop’s The Complete Poems 1927-1979 and the second poem I read was about a storm, I knew it was meant to be.


Dawn an unsympathetic yellow.
Cra-aack! – dry and light.
The house was really struck.
Crack! A tinny sound, like a dropped tumbler.
Tobias jumped in the window, got in bed –
silent, his eyes bleached white, his fur on end.
Personal and spiteful as a neighbor’s child,
thunder began to bang and bump the roof.
One pink flash;
then hail, the biggest size of artificial pearls.
Dead-white, wax-white, cold –
diplomats’ wives’ favors
from an old moon party –
they lay in melting windrows
on the red ground until well after sunrise.
We got up to find the wiring fused,
no lights, a smell of saltpetre,
and the telephone dead.

The cat stayed in the warm sheets.
The Lent trees  had shed all their petals:
wet, stuck, purple, among the dead-eye pearls.


For me, what really makes this poem, are those last two lines.  They are beautiful, but describe destruction, and refer back to the hail that we were shown at the beginning.  It’s a lovely poem that shows just how closely fear and comfort, beauty and destruction are connected.

Grief and humor in Looking for Bapu

“The wrinkle-nosed woman turns again.  ‘You’re brave to wear your turban, young man.  With all the anxiety!’

Young man?  Mr. Singh must be at least forty.  ‘I’ve been honored to wear this turban for many years,’  he says, holding his head high.  ‘Throughout history people have fought and died for the right to wear it.  I will not take it off  now.’

The woman purses her lips.  ‘Well, you’re very brave.’  She turns ahead  again, and the line begins to move, finally.  I glance sidelong at Dad.  He looks Indian, but he whistles ‘American Pie’ in the shower and reads the Seattle newspaper in the morning.  My dad is not what anyone calls him.  My dad is just my dad.  Is it brave to be what you are, I wonder?  Brave to just be yourself?” (pg 63)

Continue reading

Character driven family drama in The Summer We Fell Apart

When I first began reading The Summer We Fell Apart, I instantly fell in love with the narrator Amy, the youngest daughter of the Haas family and her innocent analysis of one summer in her life.  Her mother is an actress and her father is a writer and both are overly dramatic and uncaring.   They hurt each other and ultimately hurt their children, though perhaps unintentionally.  Amy, a high school student, is not only dreading the departure of her favorite brother George for college, but also trying to understand Miriam, the slightly older exchange student who comes to live with them. Her voice was touching and innocent, but still aware that her life and the lives of her siblings were changing forever that summer, when their father finally left their mother.

When I realized that the different parts of the novel were from different perspectives, one part for each Haas child, I was disappointed because Amy was so unique and I absolutely did not want to leave her. Fortunately, each and every single character surprised me: I enjoyed all of the characters and their respective sections of the book.  Each voice managed to be unique, while at the same time bringing new insights to the character.  It was a very perfect example of how to pull off this style.  Too often with alternating narrators or changing narrators, one becomes more believable or more enjoyable to read than the other.  Antalek never falls into this this trap, instead each section informs the reader about a character’s motivations.

The title to this novel is somewhat misleading as this book does not only take place during one summer, but it’s about the consequences that summer had on the family for many years to come.  We are first introduced to Amy and George when they are in high school, but end when they are in their late twenties/early thirties.  I was instantly drawn to Amy in her introductory section and Antalek was smart to allow Amy to begin the story, because she did not quite understand everything that was happening and that allowed the story to be unfurl gracefully, with each child revealing a little bit more.  George, the younger brother, also had a wonderful voice that I loved immediately.  He falls in love with the fathers of one of his students and it’s a really touching love story.

I really wasn’t looking forward to Kate’s section because of the descriptions of her provided by George and Amy: overbearing and rude.  However, this is really where Antalek proved that she knew what she was doing.  Kate’s section helped me to understand her character, and even though I didn’t always like what she was doing, I at least got where she was coming from.  Finally there is Finn’s section, the shortest, but one of the most important.  The culmination of the consequences of that summer in one tragic event brought the children and their mother together again to face their responsibility and their injuries.

The Summer We Fell Apart really surprised me.  Though the subject matter was heavy, it is a very hopeful novel that acknowledges not only the ways that families can hurt us, but also the way they can comfort and shelter us, even when we are least expecting it.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours.  Next stop: Dolce Belleza.

TSS – An Announcement

Good morning!  I hope you’re having a wonderfully lazy Sunday morning… or a productive one, if that’s how you roll.  That is definitely not  how I like to roll, but unfortunately that’s how it has to be this morning.  I’m heading back to school today, so I’m packing and getting ready for some long driving.  I’ve read a lot of great books this week, which will be reviewed… eventually.  I have been feeling very overwhelmed the past few days and I’m not sure why.  There’s nothing going on that’s particularly overwhelming, but I think it’s just the pre-school jitters.

Anyway!  I have some very exciting news.  After much planning and deliberating, Jason and I are finally ready to go public with our brand new challenge for 2010!  I know that you are already signed up for a billion challenges, but this one is really worth making it a billion and one.  A lot of bloggers have been talking about wanting to read more poetry and Jason and I decided that we should have a more inclusive challenge that incorporated more genres of poetry.  I started the VPR Poetry Challenge back in May, but it was only for  twentieth century poetry.  This challenge gives you a lot more room to explore different time periods and genres.   The challenge is called Clover, Bee & Reverie: A Poetry Challenge, after one of Emily Dickinson’s poems and I’m super excited about it!

Can I entice you with pretty buttons?

There might be some opportunities for mini-challenges and guest posts and who knows what other surprises along the way!  Head on over to the blog to sign up and we really can’t wait to see you there :D

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Mrs. Dalloway is a beautiful novel.  Pure and simple: I could leave my thoughts there and be perfectly content with that.  (But don’t worry, we all know I won’t!)  There is not  much of a plot in this short novel, instead it is a collection of musings and events in one day in the life of four people who are vaguely interconnected in post-WWI London.  Mrs. Dalloway is throwing a party that evening, and while  she is shopping, she thinks about her decision to marry Richard Dalloway instead of Peter Walsh.  We then follow Peter Walsh as he walks through London, comparing the city that he remembers of his childhood to this new post-war city.  While in the park, he observes a young couple who are Rezia and Septimus.  Rezia has been caring for Septimus since he returned from the war, psychologically unstable and depressed.  Even though this is really Mrs. Dalloway and Peter’s story, the prose that accompanied Rezia and Septimus’s story was the most beautiful and interesting.

Changing from character to character was  like floating on air.  That’s the best metaphor that I could come up with and it’s still an imperfect description.  We begin with Clarissa musing about the day in June:

…in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved: life; London; this moment of June. (3)

(June had drawn out every leaf on the trees.  The mothers of Pimlico gave suck to their young.  Messages were passing from the Fleet to the Admiralty.  Arlington Street and Piccadilly seemed to chafe the very air in the Park and lift  its leaves hotly, brilliantly, on waves of that divine vitality which Clarissa loved.  To dance, to ride, she had adored all that.)  (5)

Can I just say that Woolf uses the semicolon beautifully?  Clarissa then begins to reminisce about her old love, Peter:

For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say? — some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for  people… (5)

When all of the action of the story takes place in one day, time becomes very important.  The original title of the novel was The Hours, just like the novel that Michael Cunningham wrote based on Mrs. Dalloway. There are constant references to the passage of time, though the actual time of the novel is fluid and nonlinear, with the characters weaving in and out of reflection and action.

She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.  (6)

She heard the click of the typewriter.  It was her  life, and, bending her head over the hall table, she bowed beneath the influence, felt blessed and purified, saying to herself, as she took the pad  with the telephone message on it, how moments like this are buds on the tree of life, flowers of darkness they are, she thought (as if some lovely rose had blossomed for her eyes only); not for a moment did she believe in God; but all the more, she thought, taking up the pad, must one repay in daily life to servants, yes to dogs and canaries, above all to Richard her husband, who was the foundation of it — of the gay sounds, of the green lights, of the cook even whistling, for Mrs. Walker was Irish and whistled all day long — one must pay back from this secret deposit of exquisite moments, she thought…” (21)

Mrs. Dalloway is a very sensory novel, and no character expresses those senses better than Septimus (though Mrs. Dalloway tries):

“…and Septimus heard her say “Kay Arr” close to his ear, deeply, softly, like a  mellow organ, but with a roughness in her voice like a grasshopper’s, which rasped his spine deliciously and sent running up into his brain waves of sound which, concussing, broke.  A marvelous discovery indeed — that the human voice in certain atmospheric conditions (for one must be scientific, above all scientific) can quicken trees into life!  Happily Rezia put her hand with a tremendous weight on his knee so that he was weighted down, transfixed, or the excitement of the elm tree rising and falling, rising and falling, with all their leaves alight and the color thinning and thickening from blue to the green of a hollow wave, like plumes on horses’ heads, feathers on ladies’, so proudly they rose and fell, so superbly, would have sent him mad.  But he would not go mad.  He would shut his eyes; he would see no more.

But they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive.  And the leaves being connected by millions  of fibers with his own body, there on the seat, fanned it up and down…” (16)

I think that might be the most beautiful passage in the whole novel. Ah!  It gives me chills.  Isn’t it just absolutely wonderful?

…this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing — nothing at all.  She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street,this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.  (8)

I really feel as though I could quote from every single page of this book, but I’m going to try very hard to avoid that.  There are several important themes or questions that are being asked in Mrs. Dalloway: there is the question of identity or the way we see ourselves and how important that is to the way others see us, time and the  importance of the mundane in forming our own definition of ourselves.  There is also, of course, the question of love and what love can mean:

But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away), this falling in love with women.  Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton.  Had not that, after all, been love? (23)

This novel is so melancholy, but at the same time very aware of the beauty and simplicity a day can hold in it.  Everything in the eyes of these four characters becomes beautiful, even death.  We are all only given a short time on earth, so we might as well enjoy it and find that beauty:

The word “time” split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time.  He sang.  Evans answered from behind the tree.  The dead were in Thessaly.  Evans sang, among the orchids.  There they waited till the War was over, and now the dead, now Evans himself– (50).

Shredding and slicing, dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day, counselled submission, upheld authority and pointed out in chorus the supreme advantages of a sense of proportion, until the mound of time was so far diminished that a commercial clock, suspended above a shop on Oxford Street, announced, genially and fraternally, as if it were a pleasure to Messrs. Rigby and Lowndes to give the information graüs, that it was half-past one.  (73)

Mrs. Dalloway is not quite what I was expecting.  It was so short and beautiful, and yes it was very stream of conscious, and it definitely helped that I had read and seen The Hours, which is based on Mrs. Dalloway.  There are some things that I probably would have missed if I hadn’t had a basic knowledge of the plot, because many things are carefully veiled beneath Woolf’s beautiful language.  There were times when I got lost in the prose, but at the very least it was always beautiful to read. She had such a wonderful eye for things and her descriptions are really unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  I loved this  novel and I’m sure that I will be reading it again one day.  I’m so glad that the Woolf in Winter read-along pushed me to read this.

Thank you to all of our hosts, especially Sarah who is hosting the read along today.  Other hosts: Frances, Emily & Claire.

The Eternal Smile will show you the way

The Eternal Smile is a collection of short comics by authors and artists Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories).  The comics follow different characters and even have very different drawing and writing styles, but all have the same theme: nothing is really ever how we perceive it and it only takes one event (or one scene, or one word) to change our world view.  All three sections had a lovely twist at the end that really solidified the strength of these stories.

Duncan’s Kingdom is  about a young soldier who is determined to marry his sweetheart, who just happens to be the princess of the land.  When her father, the king, is killed by the Frog King, the princess announces that whoever avenges her father’s death with the head of the Frog King will earn her hand in marriage.  Duncan, with the help of his adopted guardian The Patchwork Man, goes on a journey to avenge the king.  Along the way things are out of place and Duncan begins to question the very foundation of his kingdom.  The twist at the end of this story was not necessarily unexpected and I liked it, but I think it was the weakest of the three stories.  This is not necessarily a fault of the story, but the other two were so strong.

I thought that Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile was going to be my least favorite comic.  At first I really didn’t like it and was going to skip it entirely.  I just didn’t love the story and thought it was kind of boring and I didn’t understand the point.  And then I did understand the point and it ended up being my favorite of all.  I don’t want to give anything away, but if you are reading this and consider giving up the story, don’t.   I think it’s the strongest and most imaginative of the three.

If Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile is the most imaginative, then Urgent Request is the most beautiful.  I really loved it and the message it sends is a good one.  Janet Oh works at a boring, dead-end job and her life is as gray as the color on the pages.  However, when a Nigerian prince emails her and asks for her help, her life suddenly turns colorful for more than one reason.  I loved the twist at the end of this one.  It was much more contemplative than the other two stories and the beautiful watercolors added to that. There is one particular panel of this story that is just gorgeous and I would love  to have it on my wall.

Though this collection is not necessarily as strong as American Born Chinese or other graphic novels I’ve read lately, it certainly deserves a spot on your list of books to be read.  It’s a quick, enjoyable read and has me really interested in Derek Kirk Kim’s other work.  Fans of graphic novels will find a lot to love here.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: Chasing Ray, Book Addiction, things mean a lot, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On.

Nicaragua & LGBT rights in Meet Me Under the Ceiba

It is purely serendipitous that the book I’m reviewing  the day after posting what the GLBT Reading Challenge means to me is a novel that has GLBT rights at the forefront of its plot and motivation.  Meet Me Under the Ceiba, written by Silvio Sirias, is the  chronicle of the murder of a young woman named Adela by an unnamed researcher who became fascinated by her death.  Through a series of interviews with her family, friends and even her murderers to try to piece together the events leading up to her death and her last moments.

This book is not necessarily a mystery: we know who her murderers are from the very beginning and we know exactly why they killed her.  The narrator uncovers small mysteries that paint a clearer picture of Adela’s last day on earth, but what this is really about is giving Adela a fair representation, trying to uncover the lies that have been protecting her murderers.

Adela, a lesbian, was passionately in love with the beautiful Ixelia, a gorgeous young woman who had been abused her whole life and was eventually sold by her mother into a relationship with Don Roque, a powerful and cruel older man.  When Adela tries to rescue Ixelia from her fate, crosses the wrong paths and Don Roque and Ixelia’s  mother, Doña Erlinda, decide to get rid of her once and for all.  Adela’s story is tragic and heartbreaking; you spend most of the novel hoping that something will change, that Adela will be uncovered as alive.  She was so obviously loved in her small community.

I learned a lot about the state of LGBT rights in Nicaragua and it is very difficult to read about.  In Nicaragua and much of Latin America, being part of the LGBT community means that in the eyes of some people, you are less than a person.  During the investigation and the trial, many people simply referred to Adela as “la cochona”, the dyke, never using her name.  Adela is reduced to nothing but her sexuality, she no longer has an identity.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba begins with a quote from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García  Márquez: “none of us could continue living without an exact knowledge of the place and mission assigned to us by fate.”  There is certainly some inspiration from Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Sirias’ narration, but it is more straightforward in Meet Me Under the Ceiba.  There are many intriguing levels of narration since the story is told completely in flashbacks and interviews, the painful reality is that because Adela is no longer here, we will never really know what happened to her.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is an important novel.  It addresses Nicaraguan LGBT rights and also the failure of the judicial system.  Most importantly, it paints a tragic portrait of one woman’s unfortunate death in the hopes of stopping future deaths.  Siarias’ story is based on the true murder of Aura Rosa Pavón and at the end he describes which aspects of the story were fact and which were fiction, but in the end I am so grateful that Sirias told this story, because it is absolutely one that needed to be heard.  I definitely recommend Meet Me Under the Ceiba, not only for the important issues that it puts out into the open, but also because it is a highly readable novel that will keep you an edge.

Silvio Sirias will be visiting Regular Rumination today to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave a question in the comments!  The author has generously offered to do a giveaway!  If you are interested in reading Meet Me Under the Ceiba, there are a couple ways you can enter this giveaway.

To enter:
+1 for a comment, +1 for asking Silvias a question in the comments, +1 for a tweet or a blog post, +1 for following
Please leave a separate comment for each entry!   This contest is open until Sunday, January 17.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is part of BronzeWord Latino Book Tours and will be making the following tour stops this week: Book Lover Carol, Brown Girl Speaks, The Tranquilo Traveler, Pisti Totol, Mama XXI, Farm Lane Books, Sandra’s Book Club, Latino Books Examiner, Una in a Million.

I received Meet Me Under the Ceiba for review from the BronzeWord Latino Book Group.  You can purchase Meet Me Under the Ceiba on Amazon.

8:15pm: There’s still plenty of time to ask questions and have them answered, but I just wanted to say thank you so much to Silvio Sirias for visiting Regular Rumination today!  It’s been so wonderful having you here.

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