• Books

    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes & Booker Reading Update

    The Sense of Ending

    This was my first Julian Barnes book, and I don’t think it will be my last. I’m curious about his other works now. I think I rather enjoyed myself even though there were few real characters and a perplexing ending.

    The themes of the novel are those of memory, history, self-awareness, and mortality. I think given the shortness of this novella, Barnes tackled a lot in a short period of time. An excerpt from the book:

    I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not, except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbours, companions? And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealings with others. Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it: some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of. (p 44)

    As I read this book, I didn’t expect much in the way of plot movement and so when the plot did move by Tony, the narrator and protagonist, receiving a money from the will of an ex-girlfriend’s mother, I was intrigued. From then on, I chased the novel’s ending for more on the mysterious Adrian and the full story about him, Veronica, and Sarah. I kept waiting for the twist; there was such a build up to it.

    I wasn’t annoyed with any of the characters even though it seemed there was not much to give them credit for. Tony is self-obsessed, but I didn’t mind his take on things. He’s analyzing himself and the whole story seemed to be about him thinking back on his life so I could understood the self-reflection. I was irked with Veronica who kept saying, “You don’t get it and you never will!” and I just kept thinking, then tell him about it! She seems to have regressed since young Veronica was about to communicate to Tony about somethings, but not about ‘this’ (or whatever it is he needs to get) even after their meetings?

    When I reached the last two pages, I was perplexed with the ending. Tony said he understood, but I felt dumb because I didn’t. I had to go online and read other reviews and blogs to realize that I was suppose to question the ending and what had really happened. Did Tony block out so much of his memory? Why the money from Sarah? Lots of questions. It did make me think which is good enough for any book. I wasn’t irked by the lack of ending though.

    Books this reminded me of: You Deserve Nothing (which was the last book I read and fit with the earlier chapters of this book), Ian McEwan works such as Atonement, Amsterdam and Solaris, and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea (not sure why other than it’s a Booker by an English person – perhaps it was the self-obsession). Barnes and McEwan have the dry and philosophical English contemporary literature that the Booker panel seems to love. I don’t hate McEwan, but I actually think I was less annoyed with Tony in The Sense of Ending than I have been with any of McEwan’s narrators. Makes me wonder why I’ve already read three McEwan novels, but I digress.

    I think Barnes has said that you must read the book at least twice to get it. I doubt I will even though I did enjoy this book for the most part. I wasn’t as annoyed or irked with the ending or the seeming plot holes as other readers, but I’m not that involved. Maybe I am just use to literary novels (specifically, Booker winners) having these kind of endings. At least I didn’t want to throw this one across the room like I did God of Small Things.

    Have you read this book and what did you think of it? What are your theories on what really happened? Or did you not care at all?

    Here are a couple of links on what other readers thought of the book:

    The Man Booker Prize forum thread on the book
    The Aslyum Book Review with lots of comments on it

    Read on March 28th, 2012.

    ***
    The Man Booker Prize Reading List Update

    Since this blog was defunct for three years, I know I’ve read at least five Booker prize winners in that time. Here is an updated list of of all the Booker Prize winners I’ve read so far. I’ll do a Pulitzer post in the future.

  • Books

    Booking Through Thursday Relating

    BTT this week is about fictional characters:

    Are there any fictional characters whom you have emulated (or tried to)? Who and why?

    What literary character do you feel is most like you personality-wise (explain)?

    I don’t think I have tried to emulate any character specifically, I have admired and respected some characters as I would some people in real life. For some reason, the narrator in Gilead comes to mind. Also, when I was very young, I did want to be some of the characters in books like Wendy in Peter Pan if only because I wanted to have adventures.

    As for who I am like, this is difficult to answer. I’ve read so many books with so many characters. There hasn’t been an instance where I feel a character is a GPOY or Gratuitous Picture of Yourself (Myself). I once took a Jane Austen quiz and it told me I was Elizabeth Bennet and I do agree that Lizzie and I have the same sense of humor. Along the line of the classics, when I read Jane Eyre, I saw a bit of myself in her mostly in terms of her pragmatism and her sensitivity. I can’t be like these characters though in terms of their romantic lives. It is actually a bit limiting to encapsulate myself from one character in a novel. Most stories don’t even tell you everything about the character or their journeys. So it is a bit apples to oranges for me.

  • Books

    You deserve nothing by Alexander Maksik

    you deserve nothing

    This book is on this series “Tv Book Club”. Since I read at least a couple of books from each series of the show, I have decided to put it as a tag. As of this review, I have not seen the show’s segment on it and may never so I can’t speculate on what the panel said or thought.

    When I heard about the premise of the book, I was interested by the setting of Paris and the illicit nature of the relationship between two of the main characters. When I first started the book, I found the prose is a bit strange and clipped, cool. There was a bit of second person narrative or rather the main characters seem to talk to themselves and refer to ‘you’ a lot. Still, after the initial pages, it was mostly first person.

    I went through this book much quicker than I thought. It was an easy read though it had some darker issues about growing up, isolation, and ultimately, loneliness. The author is good at describing loneliness. There were some very Paris moments in the book which I enjoyed as that is one of my favourite cities.

    You deserve nothing is adult fiction, but allegedly the author based it on his own experiences. I can see that because a lot of the feelings in the book and the situations seemed real. I could see how people at the age were and remembered it. Though, these kids had vastly different issues than I did. I didn’t relate to their disillusionment of Will the main character, but I understood it.

    There is one sex scene in this novel that is actually well written. I find most sex scenes in novels either badly written or unremarkable. In this novel, it was well done and fitting for the characters and the scene.

    The ending and a lot of the novel reminded me of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I’m not sure I actually liked the ending of this book; it just seemed to be just there. Maybe that was the point. I did want more from the characters.

    Read March 16th, 2012.

  • Books

    Return of The Sunday Salon

    It’s been awhile since I did the Sunday Salon. I’m not even sure if it’ll go though so this is a test post of sorts.

    So I have not been reading books very much this week, but I plan to do some reading today and tomorrow. Here are the books in the To Be Read queue:

    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
    Timeless (Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger
    Girl Reading by Katie Ward

    They are all fairly short, but I’ve been a bit busy and preoccupied to read lately. On the other hand, I’ve been reading. I always have to balance those two hobbies of mine out.

    This last week, I’ve been thinking about reading more in French. I try to read at least one French book a year, but it is very difficult. It takes me months to read French book. I started Bel-Ami in 2010 and to be honest, I still haven’t finished it. This is a bit frustrating as a reader since I am a relatively fast reader in English. French slows things down. I’ve asked my francophone friends for recommendations of French books that are easy to read. I am not bilingual, but I do understand most French oral conversations.

    Do you have recommendations for French adult/YA adult books? I rather read new books in French and not books I’ve read in English already too. I am open to most genre of my books. Thanks.

    Have a good week everyone!

  • Beauty & Skincare

    Lansinoh Lanolin

    Lansinoh Lanolin

    Lansinoh Lanolin has had a high rating and repurchase rate on MUA for awhile now. I’ve known about it for a year, but was hesitant to purchase it just as a lip balm for the night. Still, after working the calculations, the quality of the product and how long it would last (one 56g tube, probably over a year), it is better value than most lip balms and the Vaseline I was using on lips before at night.

    This makes my lips feel and look fuller the next morning. I barely use a lentil size drop on my lips. Also, I never have to use a lip scrub since this product makes it easier for me to exfoliate my lips the next morning. My lips are better than ever with this product.

    Lanolin is the sheep’s version of sebum, the human oil which moisturizes our skin.¬†When you consider you are paying for 100% pure, medical grade lanolin that is safe for babies and everyone else, it’s worth it. I have only used this on my lips though other people like it for their cuticles, feet, and the advertised, as a nipple cream.

    Price: $12.99CAD before tax for 2 oz/56g tube at Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada. This is the only place I found it out of Wal-Mart, Loblaws/Superstore, and Rexall. It was found in the baby aisle.

    Pros:

    • Moisturizing and unlike Vaseline/Petrolatum jelly based balms, it covers and absorbs into your skin and lips
    • Long Lasting and thick
    • A little goes a long way
    • Scentless – Some people may disagree. I am biased since I work with lanolin enriched wool frequently so I don’t even notice it
    • Shiny, can be used sparingly as a gloss and lip stick base
    • Multipurpose – lips, cuticles, elbows, stretch marks, hands, etc.
    • 100% pure medical grade lanolin, safe enough for babies.

    Cons:

    • Just a tad sticky
    • Thick and hard to push out of the tube if store in a cold room
    • Price
    • Please check as people do have lanolin sensitivity and allergies.

    Conclusion: My HG night lip balm. Definite repurchase.

  • Books

    Booking Through Thursday – Anything I can do you can do better

    My first Booking Through Thursday in over three years! This is one of my favourite Memes.

    Patricia asked:

    Ever read a book you thought you could have written better yourself?

    My immediate answer is “probably”, but I am not a writer. I have low regard for my ability to do so. I have done creative writing as a teenager, dabbled for fun in it again as a university student, and I even done a couple small shots of fanfiction. That is for fiction, but even for academic papers, I find it difficult to write a lot or with great passion about it. I find it difficult to finish stories I started up, and they say great writers can find stories and characters in themselves and take life. I can find some stories in me, but they don’t want to dragged out or even worse, all my characters seem wholly two dimensional. I compare them always to my favourite books which are often classics or award winning novels.

    Though, perhaps I could ghostwrite things if I have the material at hand. An outline, established characters, etc. This really shows how limited I believe my writing capabilities are.

    In general, I probably have read a couple of bad books enough to think I have written them better. I just can’t remember these exact titles. I am good at picking out books which I generally like and usually, I can’t even think about writing something better. It’s not something that really comes into my head when I read a book that is mediocre or worse. I just rather think I hadn’t read it at all.

  • Knitting & Crafting

    First Work in Progress (WIP) Wednesday

    I have resolved to blog more about knitting so I will be doing Tami’s WIP Wednesday and Finished Object Friday when I can. Lately, I haven’t been knitting too much and to be honest, the last project I did, I hated. Rarely do I hate the end result as much as I did this Andrea’s Shawl I was working on. It wasn’t the pattern’s fault really, mostly it was one of the yarns. Anyway, I have something else on my needles now.

    The Garter Yoke Cardigan from Knit.1 Fall/Winter 2008. I wanted to make this for a long time. I can’t even remember why. I finally got a copy of the pattern. Here’s my tiny amount of progress:

    WIP 21/03/2012

    I started this project last week, and I usually knit faster than this, but I’ve been doing other things lately so I haven’t been knitting as much.

    I am using Patons Classic Wool. I got it on sale at Michaels the other week. I noticed that Patons changed their yardage so now you get twenty less yards per skein. Three of the skeins I got still have the old yardage, but this change is Patons way of adjusting for higher wool prices. I don’t dislike Patons, but to be honest, I do feel I should just save up and buy better wool. When it goes on sale, it is very cheap and affordable, but now with the shortened yardage, I will probably not buy this yarn for pullovers anymore.

    I have been struggling not to buy yarn these days as there has been a Crazy Zauberball calling my name. I shouldn’t since my yarn stash is overflowing. I can’t live beyond my yarn means especially given my tenuous situation. Is the yarn calling and you must say no?

    Since I am a knitting monogamist, that’s it for me this week. The weather is warmer so I am less sitting around knitting and more cleaning and exploring.

    Have a good rest of the week.

    For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami’s Amis.

  • TV

    Sungkyunkwan Scandal

    My first post about an Asian Drama. In the last year, I have watched and enjoyed Asian Dramas more. While I have watched them growing up, it was only recently that I actively sought and enjoyed them. I don’t watch a lot of them and there have been months where I don’t watch one. I am familiar with some Chinese dramas. I mostly watch Korean dramas now, but veer away from melodramas and like romantic comedies kind such as Lie to Me, Princess Hours, Coffee Prince, and Playful Kiss to name my favourites. I do like ones with more action and politics such as last year’s City Hunter.

    S-Scandal

    I started watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal or S-Scandal (2010) in anticipation of Rooftop Prince, both star Mickey YooChun and because of the premise of S-Scandal involves girl posing as a boy. This is a very typical Asian drama trope that I usually enjoy; Twelfth Night is one of my favourite Shakespeare comedies too. I also have never seen a Joseon koran drama or sageauk in full so I thought I should begin somewhere.

    This was really good and addictive as k-dramas should be. It had romance, action, suspense, comedy, and political intrigue. It also had even more good looking guys than usual. It was almost a reverse harem. I liked most of the guys, even the unblinking villainous one who only ever showed like two sides. I liked the drama seemed to be an ensemble one and had a lot of characters of various ages. Though, I do feel that some of the characters didn’t get enough depth and their endings were swept aside.

  • Misc & Site

    2007-2009 Weblog Entries Restored

    From 2007 to 2009, a WordPress weblog existed here at aquatique.net. It was hacked in early 2009 and at the time, I was doing my Masters degree and had no time to fix it. Since then, I’ve put off due to life and general procrastination. It always did come back to my mind though because I knew all my entries were in my database though I had deleted most things.

    When I finally got around to creating this new blog in January, I attempted to find a solution to restore the old blog. I couldn’t find an answer online for my particular situation. I didn’t care if it worked, but I needed my entries back. I had some valuable ones I knew.

    Finally, this morning, I went to wordpress.org’s support forums and got some help. Through that and the wordpress.org manual, I managed it. I learned a lot about MySQL editing this morning.

    When I got the old blog back on another folder, I found out that I had 426 entries and 850 comments from those two years! It was a bit strange going through my old entries too and also sad/nostalgic.

    It has taken hours. I installed about 4 versions of WordPress, went through all the tags, did my best to clean up the categories and consolidated things, and finally, individually imported each category through because it was too big to do it in one big installment.

    Having said that, some of the stuff is not completely consolidated. For example, Monthly Movies and TV has its own category now and they didn’t before, but I have imported most of the relevant old tags including those for things in it. It is mostly organized.

    It was important for my own sake to see my old posts again. It also was a window to my old self, since then, I have changed more than I thought. I will attempt to go back to some old habits like the Sunday Salon and Booking Through Thursday though. Even if my old blog readers are no longer around, my posts are. Go through the archives and enjoy!

  • Books

    The Number Mysteries by Marcus du Sautoy

    The number mysteries

    This is a book about math. I am not quite sure how to review it given my ineptitude in this subject.

    In recent years, I’ve made more of an effort to read more math(s) and science books. My background is purely in the social sciences, and to be honest, I once failed high school math and almost failed math at least two other times too. The math and I are not best mates, but I know many people have this issue. I have quick arithmetic skills all things considered, but anything beyond basic calculation including graphing, statistics, algebra, calculus, etc is very difficult to impossible for me. I also did not do very well in Chemistry, Biology, or Economics (which I was required to take in undergrad). I never took physics though at least three of my close friends have Physics degrees.

    I have a lot of respect for maths and the hard sciences. I am interested in them, but even reading these books, I find it hard to retain the information especially with physics and maths.

    In this book, I understood some of it because the author tries to put it in layman’s terms.There are lots of interesting things in it about primes, shapes, randomness, codes, games, etc. I understood some of the facts, but when it got to the hard numbers and equations, it really felt the information goes in one ear and then out the other.

    Does the book showcase the fun that is maths? Sure, but I still find it difficult to understand all the concepts in it. To be honest, the longer I read the book, the harder it was for me to understand as I grew more and more impatient with finishing it. My physics friend who tutors students in A Level maths recommended this book to me, but did admit that some of the stuff towards the end is a bit complicated. Though most of the book is intended for people unfamiliar with the subject.

    I would recommend it though, but I don’t think I can fully appreciate it like some people.

    No idea when I started this book. Finished reading March 16th, 2012.

  • TV

    The Borigas Season 1

    The Borgias

    I knew Jeremy Irons was in this series, but Derek Jackobi and Colm Feore too? That pushed me into watching and also seeing a snippet of some of the production values. Though, they aren’t the only reasons I stayed.

    I don’t watch a lot of Showtime shows (Homeland was the other one I watched and liked recently), but I know they made this one to replace The Tudors essentially. I saw a few eps of The Tudors and while it its highs (James Frain, Natalie Dormer), it didn’t keep my focus and made me a bit bored by Jonathan Rhys Meyers whom I actually liked more before seeing him in The Tudors. I digress.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jeremy Irons in anything. Whenever I think of him, my mind goes to Brideshead Revisited and The Man in the Iron Mask (a guilty pleasure film for me). For some reason, I keep thinking him as the men in those films so watching him play an aging Pope was surprising at first. I think his acting is solid for the most part, but there were some times when he seemed to be slurring and inconsistent. When he was good, he was good though. Derek Jackobi is only in the first episode which is a bit of a waste. As for Colm Feore, he’s in the whole series, but his character is quite dour and scared half the time. I do like Feore; he’s got a reputation in Canada. He has a full frontal nudity shot in this series which is a bit random and surprising. I didn’t expect to see that much of him.

    All that said, the actor that I stayed for is Francois Arnaud who plays Cesare Boriga. He is perhaps the star of this series as he steals your attention even in scenes with the venerable Jeremy Irons. When I first saw him, he looked so familiar to me. Maybe I had seen him in some Quebec production or maybe he just looks so French-Canadian. He has a lot of chemistry with the rest of the cast and strangely enough, he huamnized his character too much. Cesare Borgia is a sociopath and in real life, probably was a psychopath. Jordan and Arnaud have portrayed him as less psycho than history has, making him more conflicted and a tad emo (in a good way). Usually, historical characters are made worse. In this case, he is a lot better, but still disconcerting knowing how Cesare will become worse and worse. Arnaud has a lot of chemistry with Holliday Grainger who plays his sister Lucrezia Borgia. She is also excellently cast and even looked 14 at the beginning of the series. Cesare/Arnaud has chemistry with everyone except perhaps his intended love interest Urusula. I blame this somewhat on the actress, but mostly on the bad writing of the relationship.

    All in all, a well acted and well designed series. The writing is not the tightest, but it’s vastly better than The Tudors or the terrible Camelot (yes I saw and those are hours i will never get back; still love you Eva Green). One last thing, I love the opening credits of this series. It’s snippets of the show interlaced with Renaissance art. It’s gorgeous and done with really good music. It is also a bit funny because I always smile when the goat appears. Most shows nowadays don’t do proper opening credits and even when they do, they aren’t that good.

    The opening credits for this show:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOoVtI9x91U

    Watched 27-29 February 2012.

  • Monthly Movies

    Monthly Movies February 2012

    Twilight BDThe Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (01 02 2012) – What is there to say really; it was fine. I feel the director didn’t take it all too seriously and there was some nice visuals in there actually. I also think that the two leads had even better chemistry than the previous films.

     

    Ladies in LavenderLadies in Lavender (10 02 2012) – This movie is sweet and sentimental. Not much seems to actually happen, and there are a few too many lingering shots. It’s set in the 1930s and actually, it feels like an old movie too. I liked it for the acting of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. They carried this film throughout and I really like any movies with a strong current of string music.