Monday, October 6, 2014

Latest Book Haul!

The anatomy of my bookshop trips used to consist of (1) a new novel tucked in my arm, (2) my wallet a few bills lighter, and (3) a wee whisper in my ear that urges me to start reading the book in my commute home. Now that I have towers of to-be-reads that may or may not be collecting dust bunnies at home, I make it a point to stop…hoarding…for a while and start ticking off the Unreads List.

BUT when you have an annual event like the Manila International Book Fair or MIBF, it’s hard not to splurge. Everything on the shelves is discounted and your money felt more and more like a transient thing in your pocket every passing minute—and you don’t care. There’s no way to tame a bookworm’s inner junkie in a place like that.

That's But 01. But 02 is: when you feel a bit under the weather and you need something to cheer you up.




Because to tell you the truth, I only bought a handful of books from MIBF. The rest are either given to me as a gift or bought on occasions when I’m feeling  a tad sad. Yeah, I roll like that. Anyhoo, without further ado, here are a few information about each novel.
  1. The White Tiger by Aravind Diga. Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.
  2. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. Follows the story of Madison, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.
  3. Invisible Monsters: Remix by Chuck Palahniuk. Injected with new material and special design elements, this book fulfills Palahniuk's original vision for his 1999 novel, turning a daring satire on beauty and the fashion industry into an even more wildly unique reading experience. NOTE: I’m done reading this and I love it! Full review to follow!
  4. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. September returns to Fairyland where she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. Sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
  5. Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman. A collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds—collected and introduced by beloved New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.
  6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
  7. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Follows junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs.
  8. Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan. Collection of “witch” stories from the biggest names in fantasy and young adult literature, including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Diana Peterfreund, Margo Lanagan, Peter S. Beagle, and Garth Nix.
  9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Deftly interweaving the lives of the blind Marie-Laure and German orphan Werner set during WWII, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
  10. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. A tale about a disintegrating marriage and a phone call from the past—and not just from anyone’s past, it’s from the past self of the Georgie’s—the protagonist’s—husband. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but Georgie feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. (Thanks for the gift, Mamu Kit!)

Like a brainchild of Morpheus himself.

A Book is A Dream that You Hold in Your Hand

Hooray, Tagaytay!

Since late June, my friend Eliza and I began religiously sticking to our weekend morning routine—completing a minimum of 15 laps around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and, if the sun’s kind enough to not scorch our faces after 8:00 A.M., a round of seaside zumba.

This Saturday, however, we switched off our "health buff" mode for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Tagaytay City. The verdict? Super worth it! But with all those bulalo and mushroomburger goodness sitting on our bellies that night, we just had to go back to jogging the next day. Thank god it’s a holiday. :)


Up and eating in the ‘Sky’

Ferris Wheel
Wheel in the Sky.

With no itinerary or definite plans, we took a bus to Olivares and talked about wanting to try ziplining in one of the famous parks in the City. We planned to get off at the nearest tricycle bay where we could get a ride to Picnic Grove, Peoples Park, but the bus broke down and we had to transfer to another bus. Then this jeep came rushing in front of us, its barker yelling a thread of places that are unfamiliar to me except one: Sky Ranch. No argument between me and Eliza here: we just smiled at each other and hopped on.

There’s a crowd at the ticketing area when we arrived at Sky Ranch. Not wanting to join the then sun-drenched mob, we opted to have an early lunch.


Bulalo One does not simply miss eating bulalo when you’re in Tagaytay.

Craving for a bowl of hot bulalo, we sought for a place where we could get it without leaving Sky Ranch. Sandwiched between fastfood chains we found Leslie’s Restaurant—already jam-packed at 11:00 AM—and enjoyed our bowl of the tasty beef shank and marrow soup.

We prepared to line up at the ticketing area after lunch. However, we noticed how the crowds were not depleting and that the place was slowly being wrapped in fog. Now, we would like zipline through something that is…well, green. Not through sheets of white, cold smoke. Sky Ranch is okay, but we'd love to see trees while ‘soaring’ through the air. Eliza then suggested going to Picnic Grove, saying it’s greener there.

Lai and AiObligatory selfie with Eliza before leaving Sky Ranch :)

Eagle eyes

And it’s true! The place is lush and verdant, ideal for our coveted activity. So we bought our tickets, strapped on the harnesses, and off we go!

The moment we were launched forward, I felt like I was somewhat loaned the perspective of an eagle darting through the air. (Seriously, I couldn’t help but feel a tad poetic when I was there). Flying was an adulterated form of bliss—there was a refreshing kind of freedom in the experience, and I wished so hard it would last for more than a few seconds shy of three minutes. But hey, geniis nowadays require compensations too—400Php for a “two-way” trip? Next time, maybe. You didn't know? I'm a royal cheapskate.

ZiplineAnother bucketlist item ticked off :)

So yes, we did opt for a “one-way” zipline trip to the other side of the grove, squealing with excitement at the start and then keeping silent with awe as we drank in the beautiful surroundings.

Taal ViewingAdmiring the Little Beauty.

While waiting for our (free!) photograph, we took walks and marveled at beauty of the Taal Volcano from a distance. On our next trip here, Eliza promised, we’re going to take a boat ride to the Taal lake to get a closer look at it.

 IMG-20141005-01614 …of course, another obligatory selfie with Madamme.

HOME of the Orange Madonna

A few hours later, we decided to visit the Tierra de Maria Chapel in Nature’s Park that we passed on our way to Picnic Grove. Our attention was arrested by the fifty-foot orange image of Mother Mary—or more specifically, of Our Lady of Manaoag. We learned later on that the chapel was called HOME or the Haven of Meditation and Enrichment, and that many devotees from Manila and other cities are visiting the place for prayer and worship.

IMG_20141005_143506 Sending out sun-kissed stares.

The place was couched in a well-manicured flower garden. It was small, but it shelters a lot: there’s a symbolic “Wedding at Cana” wishing well, a religious store, different paintings of the Stations of the Cross, Forgiveness Corners, halls covered with the Calendars of Saints, and even a fish spa. People who visited are deep in solemn prayers; they were lining up to touch the image of Christ inside the Church (which, of course, I didn’t take a picture of out of respect).

Well and Stations 
Mama Mary's Religious Store

We got to take a closer look at the Mary statue because the chapel has a meditation deck on the third floor. From there, the Taal Volcano could also be seen.


We’re not only there for sightseeing, of course; we said our own prayers and wishes before leaving the place.


Chow again

Come merienda time, we’re craving for burgers: Mushroomburgers! Hey, they say calories don’t count on weekends, right? :)  The last time we went to this place, we were just wet-behind-the-ears college students on a trip with their favorite photography professor. In some form of salute to all the memories this place holds for us, we…gobbled down one burger each. Cheers!

Mushroomburger! I MISSED YOU!


Chow Time

Eliza got herself a Royal Burger with fries while I munched on the Mushroom Burger Melt with mushroom fries—the carbs are so going to hurl me back to square one on my ‘fitness routine’, but I didn’t care at that time. We had fun, talking about the trip and about the most random of things, ranging from how I spotted a guy that is a dead ringer of my DTI crush (What?! I allow my inner teen out sometimes) to how Elai is jokingly plotting pseudo-revenge on some girl, soap opera-style.

The sun was nearly gone when we got out the bustling diner. Before making our way to the Manila-bound buses in the nearest terminal, we bought pasalubongs (Loumars buko pie and tarts!), a few articles of clothing from an ukay-ukay, and tasty three-piece, almost-flour-free calamares on the sidewalk.

___

At the end of the day, when we have arrived in Manila, we promised to go back here and try all the other things we didn’t do here. Horseback riding? Cable car? Boat Riding? You name it. We’re all doing that on our next trip here. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bookwormism Update…at last!

Dear friends and fellow bookworms (if by some miracle you’re still coming here),

I’m back! I know it’s been ages since I last updated this or any of my other blogging sites. Aside from the important offline commitments that have temporarily divorced me from my laptop, I have submitted myself to a Social Media Sabbatical. I hoped it would help me de-stress and give me more time with my loved ones—and it did. After over three months of that, I thought it’s about time I come back.

Without further ado here’s one of the recent happenings in this booknut’s life:

New home for the babies!
After saying he had read one of my Facebook posts about wanting a new little home for my books (an actual joke I shot at a friend who asked me what I wanted for my birthday), my father built me a largish hanging bookshelf in my bedroom.

bookshelf01 - Copy

And of course, you didn’t think I’d miss taking a selfie with a “shelfie” when I finally have a decent mini-library in my bedroom now, right?

shelfie

Of course not. But to give this photo an excuse for a good purpose, here’s my current read: the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m 800 pages in and enjoying it! Theo Decker is a wonderfully flawed (albeit unlikable) character and I’m captivated by the way he handles the slew of ideas and memories in his head. It gives the narration a very real feel to it, almost as if the text is part of a transcript of some obsessed kid’s free-flowing thoughts.

The book’s a big doorstopper, though, and I could only plough through it slowly because I’ve got just my shuttle bus rides to work and an hour before bedtime as my reading time these days. :(

How about you guys? What are you reading?

____

(On the next Bookwormism Update, I'll talk about my recent acquisitions and my purchases at this year's Manila International Book Fair! Stay tuned!)

Book Review: The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5 stars)

bookjacket Book jacket design by Alex Gebhardt

Certain books can prove that back-cover blurb staples like “haunting”, “riveting”, and “powerful” are churned out especially for them. On the first read, you know they are a gem; on the second read, you’ll realize there are smaller precious treasures in them that you haven’t seen the first time you encountered before. It doesn’t matter how many times you have heard or read their tales; when you reach their last pages and you decide to dip into their worlds again, the experience would just amplify the reasons why bits of starred reviews are strewn on their covers.

Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner, is one of these books.

It is my second time reading this book, and I must say rediscovering its beauty is a satisfying reading experience. Walled by themes of love, friendship, family, and loyalty, The Kite Runner at its core is a long journey for hard-won self-redemption that our young Afghan narrator, Amir, embarked on. For the most part it is a raw bildungsroman starting in 1975; it zeroed in on Amir, his betrayal of his best friend Hassan, and how a single event followed and haunted him to adulthood.

With the tumultuous politics during the last days of monarchy and the subsequent invasion of Russian forces in their country as its backdrop, The Kite Runner stands out as a clear picture of Afghanistan at that time. Hosseini unfurls the story with an obvious fondness for his craft. There is warmth as he describes the then-peaceful Kabul, and there is poignancy in how the annual kite-fighting event somehow symbolizes the fragility of the unconventional friendship between the two main characters (it’s important to note that Amir is a well-to-do Pashtun while Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant).

Every page shows vivid brushstrokes of Afghan culture—colors that continue even when war broke out and marred the picture. With simple prose as his only tool, Hosseini doesn’t hold back in stringing [flinch-inducing] descriptions of violence the same way he doesn’t hold back when talking about agonies, of emotions that make a punching bag out of a young heart until its owner changes into a different person. That is one of the things I like the best about this book: Amir is as human as a human boy can get. He loves Hassan but he is weak and insecure; he falls prey to jealousy and fear for more times than he could count, and he would rather choose the safest way out…even if it means having to break a relationship he can never repair again.

Good plot twists abound, and there are no real dry moments in the book that would make a reader put this down. Moments that broke my heart the first time I read the book didn’t lose their hold on on me. It is that powerful.

As a whole, The Kite Runner is an account about seeking personal salvation and a historical piece that is relevant to our society even today. I’d read this book—in some of the words of one of the characters—“a thousand times over”.

Giving this novel a very well-deserved five out of five stars.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finally 23

“Wish I could give you some kind of foolproof Guide to Your 20's now,” I told my sister Aila when she turned 20 last August 1. “Unfortunately I think I still don't know squat from Shinola about life at this stage either. So...let's figure it out together?”

Turning 23-Blow the Candle Another year older.

I waved being a twenty-two-year-old goodbye last August 24 and here I am, still feeling like a lost little kid. There’s no point in denying it—I’m pretty much stuck in the same boat with my (not-so-) little sister, whom I sometimes felt is more confident trudging through this life than I am.

But hey, instead of diving headfirst into the melodrama preceding and tailing my 23rd birthday (I’m afraid I ran out of the best roundabout ways of saying I got one year older without sounding like a loser with Peter Pan syndrome), how about we take a peek at the little celebrations surrounding the date first?


Peace and quiet

Aside from the regular cake candle-blowing, the presents, greetings from neighbors and old friends, and the traditional distribution of pansit-filled takeaway tubs and ice cream cups, I celebrated a relatively quiet birthday at home.

AtMyKaffeWith my cousin at our newest “little pink haven”, MyKaffe

In the afternoon after going to church, my cousin and I dropped by this darling little cafe downtown and talked over bittersweet frappes until the sun set. We chatted about the most random of stuff, from planning things to execute in the near future and constructing little stories of the strangers passing by the coffee shop.

The day was as run-of-the-mill as it could get but it was both peaceful and fun, just the way I liked it. It has always been like this—I’ve never been much into booze (my alcoholic history so far consisted a triangulation of vodka-soaked chocolates, punch, and red wine) and loud stay-out-all-night parties since time immemorial. I prefer small celebrations with people close to my heart.


Signed with a “Smile”


It was quite the opposite at work. Two days before my birthday, I received a bouquet of roses and a typewritten letter from an unnamed sender.

Flowers?

And what a ruckus it caused! The bosses were not around that afternoon. I was the one signing and receiving packages—samples from stamp pad suppliers, memos from other offices, that kind of stuff. When the flowers arrived, I didn’t know they were for me.

Uy, roses!” I exclaimed with a smile when I saw them, signing the receiving stub a nice old lady handed me. I asked who I should give the flowers to, and was totally confused when she read my name from an envelope. My first reaction? “WHAT? But I didn’t order any flowers!”

I didn’t know what got into me but I began laughing my head off. My officemates flocked around me then, exchanging theories while examining the long-ish letter that was signed with nothing but a smiley face. I have zero idea who sent the gifts, but based on the note it was someone I interacted with in another office. It was a tad creepy, I admit, but it was sweet all the same. I thought the sender wrote the letter with utmost honesty; it carried a somewhat apologetic tone, with a timidly hinted promise of someday revealing his identity. I’m not sure if  “Mystery Guy” is reading this right now, but if he is, I give him my heartfelt thanks!

(I pity those people my officemates pinpointed as “Prime Suspects”. There’s a guy in a neighboring office who got cornered a lot and forced to admit. The poor thing! But no, I didn’t think it’s him.)


‘Artist’ for a day


Two weeks later, we planned to prepare a gift for the DTI Secretary’s birthday. My immediate supervisor asked if I could make caricatures. Because I somewhat dabble in doodles and drawings, I said I could try.

After a nine-to-five seminar on the exact day I was told to finish the drawings, I opted for an overtime stay at the office. I was intent on burning the midnight oil but dear ol’ Morpheus loves me a lot, and it wasn’t long before I nodded off (two-and-a-half hours in dreamland, tops). Fortunately I managed to finish the whole thing the next day and was extra-relieved that the folks who requested it liked it.

'Artist' for a day “Signing” the finished caricatures

In truth, having the chance to draw again was a present in itself. When I started working as a government employee, I barely had the time to pick up color pencils or paintbrushes. Sure, I sometimes doodle in the margins of my old journal, but it wasn’t the same as finishing big drawings that people actually requested to be done. It was a refreshing feeling.

KMIS My ever-supportive officemates and the finished caricatures

Later in the afternoon, our director-in-charge called for a meeting. We’re all aware that since the arrival of our new DIC, it will be a tradition to bring cake for the celebrants of the month. Everyone was in what we call the “rush-ian” mode that day so I didn’t expect them to bring out the new ‘office surprise’. But they did; in fact, it was the second agenda of the meeting!

CAKEFIGHT-vert-vert With Tita Au, whose birthday is also on August 24

Groggy with sleeplessness and giddy with mirth, I sang along with the group when they belted out a raucous “Happy Birthday”, as if I’m not one of the two people they were singing it for. By the end of the song I was beginning to become sugar-buzzed again, as I was not-so-secretly snatching bits of icing from the corners of the treat.

BlowtheCandleAttempting to blow out the candle again after failing to do it the first time
(“Hey! I’m asthmatic, remember?”)


KMIS birthdayThe Knowledge Management Information Service (KMIS) family again

We ate, talked, and took a lot of pictures. I was still physically tired—we’d still have to move the desks afterwards because we’re starting the Big 5S Day that day—but somehow I didn’t feel like going away from the crowd and resting for microsleeps, like I usually do whenever I’m on “low-batt” mode. Somehow, the happy energy of these people are rubbing off on me. :)


And we get to the melodrama

When the celebratory aura temporarily peters out, I know I’d be thinking again. Over-thinking, actually. Who doesn’t?

It’s quarter-life crisis, they say. Going back to what I said to my sister, I know going through these years while having someone by your side—be it a sibling, a friend, or just someone who has the same lofty dreams—would cushion some of life’s succeeding blows. It doesn’t necessarily mean being dependent on the other person; just knowing you’re not alone ploughing through all of this, growing through all of this…well, it does make a difference, doesn’t it? Even a little bit?

I know what I want, and I’m figuring out what to do to get what I want. Like the average young adult, I’m just being assaulted by doubts, and I just have to win my small battles against them.

Anyhow, my birthday this year is full of thank-you’s and hopes. I’m aware I’m blessed and I’m grateful for that. There are people who love me, people I love back, people I love more than they love me, and people who—to quote a character from Orange is the New Black—“aren’t smart enough to be loved back.” (I kind of have loads to say about love too, but that’s topic for a separate post).

My stars are still up there, and giving up is not on this little dreamer’s vocabulary…and I don’t think it will ever be. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)

FangirlByRowellPhoto from Imgarcade 

No book screams “I’m your soulmate!” louder than one that requires zero effort to connect with you, the kind of story that makes you believe the author has planted a bug in your room so she can document your daily life. Expectations like this bubbled up when I picked up Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling “nerd power ballad”, the aptly titled Fangirl.

As what one can gather about the title, the proverbial fanatic lifestyle takes center stage in the book: gushing obsessively over fictional characters, staying up all night writing or reading fanfiction, creating fanart, buying collectibles, beefing up fandom vocabulary (I kid you not), and getting heavily involved in “shipping” (which, by the way, has got nothing to do with deliveries and packages). Cath, the main protagonist, has been living this life ever since she became a Simon Snow fan.

The Simon Snow series is a Harry-Potteresque magnum opus, complete with witches and wizards with a little bit of vampires thrown on the side. Cath and her twin sister Wren were addicted with the series—are in Cath’s case, since it seems like she’s the only one who still couldn’t let go of the fandom. Cath finds that college is a completely different world, and she’s going to have to go through it on her own. Wren doesn’t want to be roommates this time; she’s stuck with a cool albeit churlish roommate, an always-smiling farmboy who may or may not be her roommate’s boyfriend, an ambitious fiction-addicted classmate, and her dad whom she really can’t leave alone.

The book’s lynchpin zeroes in on Cath’s struggles as her current situation pries her out of her fandom-induced, antisocial-ish shell. It asks: Can Cath do this on her own?

A truly warmhearted tale, Fangirl can succeed in anchoring itself in the hearts of its target market. For one thing, Cath is easily a Tumblr girl! (What fandom-loving soul doesn’t frequent the Internet’s wild blue yonder that is the Tumblr nowadays?) Rowell knows all too well that the first big step in capturing your audience is to make your audience care for your character, and Cath is the perfect heroine she needs to achieve that goal.

However, you need more than a heart-magnet character to make a good story. I have no problems connecting with Cath; she’s practically 80% of what I was back when my time pie graph consists mostly of expanding my knowledge about my favorite shows and books. Reading about her is some kind of a throwback experience.

But as the story went on, my initial vise-like connection to her loosened up. The story went a tad dry in what I expected to be its “oases”—parts I hoped to shape Cath up not just as someone who is an exact, superficial mirror of most of its readers, but as a real person that could coax out genuine emotions in me. I hoped she would develop into someone I could connect with not because we are the same, but because I feel she’s a real person that I could perhaps talk to or console. But that did not happen; the story dragged almost uneventfully for a while, with random speed-hitches in moment-of-truth scenes.

Be that as it may, I think it still holds a charm that a true-blue fangirl/boy would not be able to resist. There’s love, there’s obsession, there are fears, and there are hopes. There’s a decent cast of characters too (Reagan is my personal favorite); there’s the constant presence of geeky ambiance, and the satisfying feeling of an outsider that is wholly accepted by someone as she is.

I liked how there are “excerpts” from the Simon Snow books, Cath’s fanfiction, and even some ‘Encyclowikia’ entries strewn across the novel. They were an entertaining bit of  Fangirl’s “reality”, pulling the readers closer to its universe and making them part of it. Thumb up for the major props! :)

I could not say I enjoyed Fangirl in its entirety, but since I liked it for the most part, I’m giving it three out of five stars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Truer than if they had really happened.

All Good Books are Alike

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Monday, May 12, 2014

Home is where the books are.

For booknuts like me, the closest thing to home is a place that is also home to books…especially if they’re pre-loved. This is why I didn’t hesitate to go when my friend MJ invited me to two such places in Quezon City one Saturday afternoon. :)

Bookay-ukay

Bearing a name that is a pun on the Filipino word for thrift store (“ukay-ukay”) this miniscule bookshop in the Maginhawa Street, UP Village is a piece of heaven for bookworms.

Bookay-ukay

Shelves

Bookay-Ukay houses an impressive arsenal of cheap reads and hard-to-find titles, both pre-loved and brand new. Being a perfect Happy Hunting Lit Ground, it’s understandable that the whole place will look like a horror house for folks with an OCD-ish tendency to treat books like precious babies—for people who delight in seeing paperbacks in their proper shelf spaces, neat and all spines out (for people like me, basically).

But I guess it’s part of the shop’s charm. I imagine regulars rummaging through the shelves to find a book with a title, back-cover excerpt, or even cover art that will strike a chord with them. When they do find it here—I call it literary serendipity—they’d be too happy that they’d somehow forget to set the books around their newfound treasure upright again.  :) Ah, the footprints of a book-hunt!

cyclist stops by

The bookmarks

Staying for a few more minutes made me wish I live nearer the place so I can visit as often as I want, without having to go through a migraine-inducing commute because of the heat and hassle. Aside from books, the shop also sells CDs of underground music artists and various photographed and hand-painted/drawn bookmarks, which range from cute to creepy. :)

stt

I didn’t get to buy books from there, as part of my pledge to NOT spend money for new titles as long as I still have a towering TBR novel stack at home (needless to say I’m proud of my self-control). Anyway, it won’t be the last time I’ll visit Bookay-Ukay. I’ll go here again sometime soon, hopefully after I’ve devoured at least half my “unreads”.


Cool Beans Cafe

A few minutes’ walk from Bookay-Ukay is the small but cozy Cool Beans Cafe.

There’s a  friendly sign on the door saying “Please wipe your shoes before entering :)”, which reminded me of one of my grandma’s little commandments involving her immaculate white floor and all the kids in the house with mud-caked feet.  If that doesn’t scream home (and nostalgia!), I don’t know what does.

interior

Cool Beans

Cool Beans’ mini-library shelters almost all lit genres you can think of: there are  history books, biographies, magazines, comics, art books, photography books, poetry, essay anthologies, novels (Haruki Murakami! Arundhati Roy! Neil Gaiman!), and even a bunch of self-help titles.

Its library-esque silence is only broken by relaxing music, the soft chitchats of its patrons, or someone’s drink being called out to them. And to my initial bafflement, the picture frames on the walls contain either nothing or just the filler paper indicating the frames’ sizes in inches and centimeters. Later on I thought it’s because they are maintaining that “soft launch” feel they were still bannering outside the cafe.

Cool Beans

pastries

Aside from their Highland coffees and frappes, they also sell pastries. MJ and I only get to try their red velvet cupcake, which admittedly wasn’t the best we’ve tasted. But hey, with a price like that, who’s complaining?

carbonara

Always on the prowl for the best pasta recipe around, I also tried out their Cheesy Mushroom Carbonara. For Php150’s the gigantic serving is enough for two. It’s quite tasty, too. :)

find

We sat there ‘til the sun set, just browsing through books and talking. The ambiance will make you stay for hours!

When it’s time to leave, I swore that I have to find more of cafes like this. :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review: Running with Scissors

Review: Running with Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Genre: Humor, Memoir
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)

Running with Scissors

Everyone has probably tried attaching punch line-hugging ends to the ‘when life gives you lemons’ proverb; I’ve heard phrases that are as hip as those involving tequilas and the beginning of a citrus monopoly. But I haven’t heard or seen anyone did it like Augusten Burroughs. Life has practically cannonaded him with thousands of lemons in his childhood and instead of feeling miserable about it, he used all the fruits to write his bestselling memoir, Running with Scissors.

The book follows a big slice of Burroughs’ childhood life. He was only a little boy when his parents—a manic-depressive poet mom with Anne Sexton delusions and a professor dad with "the loving, affectionate and outgoing personality of petrified wood"—divorced. His mom gives him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who is a dead ringer for Santa Claus: Haven’t Bathed in Weeks edition. Burroughs then  befriends the doc’s abrasive children, starts a relationship with a thirtysomething pedophile residing in the backyard shed, and slowly accepts that playing with electroshock therapy machine when things get dull, or substituting dog food for popcorns, or even consuming Valium like candies, are normal…as long as he lives in the midst of this Victorian squalor. But this is one thing he is 101% sure of: when you inherit a family as dysfunctional as the Finches, you’d know you’d just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

I was full of head-shakes, of smirks and snorts, of this-couldn’t-be-real’s, and of oh-my-god’s (in varying intonations) while reading the book. From the reactions Running with Scissors elicited from me, you’d know that Burroughs is a man of talent. I turn the pages and see his ‘70s to ‘80s life unfold in full color. I like how his style of storytelling balances between complete wack and sheer cynicalness. Aside from being mostly hilarious, his darkish tales are effective in a way that it makes his readers yearn for a life that is—in his own words—“fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal”.

But one does not need rocket science to know that behind all the gags and sarcasm, it’s not as funny as it sounds—a sad Burroughs must be somewhere beneath all the kookiness. Sure, there are stuff  that can be a real barrel of laughs at one point (scatological fortune-telling, anyone?), but on the other side of the scale there’s staging a suicide attempt to avoid school (supported eagerly by Dr.Finch), being sexually abused, the fact that you’re having guardians that cannot guide or guard you in life at all, among other things. It’s awesome that Burroughs can joke about the whole thing David Sedaris-style, but something tells me it would have been more honest if there’s a little poignancy thrown in there somewhere. He’s a bloody kid! I’m all for positivity, but no one is that positive; too much cynicalness for a situation comedy-like effect sometimes takes away all the humanity from a character.

Speaking of lack of humanity, that is my main beef too with the supporting characters. The author failed to sculpt them into something the readers can feel as real people, and I’m not even talking about their colorful craziness. They’ve become hackneyed paperboard-cutouts in a sitcom-ish set of tales.

Towards the end the book becomes more disjointed, the anecdote-chapters reading like standalone vignettes. It’s only on the page before the epilogue that Burroughs made an attempt at sentimentality, about how taking risks to reach his dreams is like running with scissors (or something to that effect). It was quietly hopeful, but the buildup to the moment was shabbily constructed that there wasn’t a big impact at all.

It was still a good read, although I’m having second thoughts about reading its sequel, Dry.