Recent Reads, July-August 2017


Since my last trip to Zambales was a whole three months ago, I thought I’d share my thoughts about the last few novels I’ve been able to pick up (‘pick up’ is kind of an awkward phrase as I read mostly through a digital screen these days).

I read to relax, to escape from reality, to place myself in a zone that doesn’t require deep mental function. I would love to choose books with a more conscious effort to develop a new knowledge-set – I’ll get to that within this month, when I go on that break (frankly I’m a little terrified. I think of my thoughts and plans now, and they all end in that hesitant octave-higher lilt. “I think I’m still OK?” “I’m not sure what I’ll do next?” “But I’m not really going anywhere yet anyway, ha-ha?” Sigh.) Anyway, here goes.

Reading Courtney Maum’s Touch couldn’t be more timely – I’m at a phase where I’m questioning my place in this industry, doubting my creative process and capacity, and quite honestly feeling burnt out with working and thinking off screens, social media, and push-button tasks all day. The protagonist, Sloan Jacobsen, is a trend forecaster working with a tech company. She observes people like me and gains a conviction that the next big trend will tactile, human connection. I felt like it was more of an op-ed than an actual piece of fiction – Maum herself worked on trends, has written columns about digital culture and fashion, and like her protagonist, lived in France for a few years. Maybe that’s why nothing was too consequential or gripping about the plot itself. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it because of the brisk pace and the dry observations about relationships – about how “a baby would be a peacekeeper” for estranged daughters, for example. It’s the sort of project I wish I could come up with in the future, too.

I went back to Kevin Kwan’s fun, ridiculous world of Crazy Rich Asians via his third novel, Rich People Problems. At first you assume these “problems” are more of the things that we loved from the first two books: squabbles on estate inheritances, running from paparazzis, grand proposals, and who gets to be on the Tatler’s cover next month. But on the last few chapters we get a plot twist about an important character that’s clearly written for a sweeping sepia-toned movie montage (not far-off as the the first novel’s being filmed right now). Frankly I didn’t mind – it was a reverent nod to Singapore’s history. Of course the main question is how did PH fare in this round? After his book tour in Manila two years ago, Mr. Kwan has thankfully gained a little more first-hand knowledge of the lifestyles of the Pinoy so-called rich and famous beyond our gated mansions. The result was just a perfunctory inclusion – still within an essential scene, though – you’d have to read the novel to appreciate it.

Almost halfway into Alex & Eliza – Hamilton in YA format written by Melissa Dela Cruz! And ohmigod, I’m loving it so far because I recently concluded a Regency Romance streak (see why in succeeding paragraph) and I’m still not over petticoats and swoons and muscles and I don’t even know why I’m admitting this aloud. I never got into the Hamilton bandwagon, I guess this is a better introduction as any? I’ll update this once I finish the novel!

So a note on the aforementioned, unmentionable romance novels set during the height of British elegance and high teas: it was a “project” because I love Jane Austen – OG queen of chick lit, can we discuss this, I need someone to discuss with on this – and to celebrate her 200th death anniversary last month I reread Pride and Prejudice and rewatched the 2005 film. Then I just ran out of things to read, and I just wanted to immerse some more into practical marriages and instant love stories and petticoats because just because you do not subscribe to these things IRL in your principles doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them as adult fiction. LOL. OK that makes no sense.

(And then for good measure, a paperback – Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time. I had to wait out traffic last night, forgot the Kindle at home, and picked this up, part of a long informal bucket list of books everyone has read except me because I love YA novels and parallel universes too much. I haven’t even really got that far into it, so nothing to say, except that, OK, I still get real books from time to time. Will get back to you on this!) EDIT: Not lost on me that I “found” this on the same weekend that I’m catching Atypical on Netlflix.

I’d love to hear what other people think of these books. I want to talk more about books, pleasepleaseplease. I also need recommendations – especially non-fiction books. What’s on your list?

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