It all started at a #romanceclass meet-up, when Mina mentioned that she dreamed of writing a Sweet Valley-esque type of series, but set in the Philipp...moreIt all started at a #romanceclass meet-up, when Mina mentioned that she dreamed of writing a Sweet Valley-esque type of series, but set in the Philippines. Everyone who attended that class had read Sweet Valley at some point in their lives, so it was a pretty exciting idea. We all started chattering excitedly about it, like where the school would be and the activities, and started calling dibs on characters in the school - the jock, the teachers, and the like. Stories started getting written over the next few months, a website was set up to house the stories, continuity was established, and now, the first volume of the book is out. (Well, almost out, because as of this writing, it's still a few days before the launch. :D)
The stories in Luna East were cute and fun, and there were no two stories alike. I liked how there were so many eyes to see high school in, and so many people to rub elbows with. Since this is just volume 1, the stories barely scratch the surface of what could be happening inside the school, but it's a good start to get yourself acquainted with the environment. True enough, it felt like the school was a playground for the imagination, and reading through the stories got me more excited to finish mine, and mention some of the characters who were already in the other stories.
And that's my favorite part of this, really - the continuity. I've always loved it when characters have a cameo appearance in other stories. I loved how one character would even have speaking lines in other stories, giving them more depth. Don't you love it when authors work with each other and come up with completely original stories? :) (And if you've read #romanceclass novels, you'll probably spot a familiar place used in several stories, too. :D)
I didn't study in a school like Luna East, but even so, reading this was almost like I was back in high school. In a good way, though, because my high school life was pretty tame and I could use a little excitement. As the summary said, the stories here are mostly about love -- you know, the high school kind of love. Crushes, unrequited love, love-hate, unexpected type of love from the popular people to the people who consider themselves nobody inside the halls of Luna East. But more than love, they're also stories of friendship -- from kids who grew up together to kids who just got to know each other. You might see yourself in one of these stories, because even if the setting is completely fictional (and artsy), and even if you never had to wear unnecessary vests, high school is pretty much a universal experience for all of us. You might hate it or like it (or like me, you're pretty ambivalent about it), but there's always that one (or two, or three) high school memory that you will always tell the friends you meet post-high school.
But yeah, even as I read this, I found myself shaking my head at times while saying, kids these days. Hmf. Seriously, though, the first volume of Luna East was such a fun read. Come and see what's inside, and you might just find a spot for yourself. And when you do, perhaps you'd like to write about it? :)
I spotted this book on another blog, really, and didn't really think of it until my friend posted about it on his blog. I was curious, only because of...more I spotted this book on another blog, really, and didn't really think of it until my friend posted about it on his blog. I was curious, only because of the first post I saw, and when I had a chance to borrow it from my friend, I jumped on the chance. I like short story collections, and ever since I read my first Carver, I felt like it was the kind of book I can manage back then. I wasn't in the mood for a lot of books, so maybe something like this would shock me out of the slump. Or at least, the bright yellow cover would, somehow.
No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of stories from Miranda July, who...I really have no idea who she is. I don't even know what the stories were about, so I really, really just took a chance on this book. This book contains stories of women, mostly, stories of ordinary things. People who do things, who are in search for things, who lost things. These are stories of the seemingly ordinary things that become extraordinary with the way the words were woven and how these simple things came about in each story.
I liked this well enough. I liked the ordinariness of it all -- the quiet and the commonplace things in the stories, and how they all translate into something that made me think and wonder if the story was real, or perhaps just the imagination of the character. I guess a little mistake I made when I first started to read this was to compare it to Carver. They're very different -- Carver's stories (from the one collection I read, anyway) left my heart in a bit of disquiet, like there are questions you want to ask but are kind of afraid of asking. July's stories, while some of them have the same effect as Carver, are different in the way she tackled things and left me thinking about how her stories just end, and there are no questions that I don't want to ask.
Here's the thing: everyone seemed to be so sad in this story. Not the heartbreaking sadness, but just a tinge of it, like these characters need a little hug or something. Sometimes, I feel like I need a hug after I read some of the stories, because I wished I could say something to the characters to ease them of things.
Did the title of the collection mean something? I guess so. It is what it is, I think: No one belongs here more than you. I may be over thinking it, but maybe these stories are really just about belonging, and how we long for that. I don't think all the characters in the stories found a place to belong, but as a reader, I hoped that they would still somehow find it, or that it would somehow found them, in their own fictional worlds.
Okay, I'm rambling. There were several stories that I wasn't fond of, but the interesting thing was the first and the last few were the ones I really liked. I started this on a high, then the excitement lulled, and just as when I was already resisting the urge to skim, I got to the last stories and found that I really, really liked them. My favorite, of all, is Birthmark,a story about a woman who had her port-wine stain removed from her face and her husband who didn't know anything about it, and how this birthmark affected them. It left me with very fond thoughts with the book after.
Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You is a good read, especially for people who are fond of short story collections. It's not exactly my favorite, but I would read another July book again, given the chance. Plus that yellow cover and simple text is just something I would want to have printed and framed to remind myself that yes, no one belongs here more than you.
My friend JL lent this book to me because he wanted me to read one story, The Art of Understatement. But when I saw th...moreOriginal post from One More Page
My friend JL lent this book to me because he wanted me to read one story, The Art of Understatement. But when I saw that this is a Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo collection, I decided to read it, anyway, since I really liked the author's other collection, Catch a Falling Star.
It's been a while since I finished reading this collection, and I am honestly struggling a little to remember what I liked about this. I liked what my friend recommended to me - The Art of Understatement left me feeling wistful, and wondering about my own writing. There were some familiar stories from Patriciang Payatot, which is the content of Catch a Falling Star. Several favorites, though, other than The Art of Understatement:The Warrior, which tells the story of two estranged friends who see each other one last time before one of them dies; The Tale of the Spinster and Peter Pan, a woman whose routine is disrupted by a young man in a rock band; The Ghost of La Casa Grande, an interesting take on a family history and how a mother tries to help her daughter get her happiness; and The Painting, a kind of story that seemed fit to be told around the campfire.
I am still quite partial towards Patriciang Payatot stories in Catch a Falling Star, but Sky Blue After the Rain is a good short story collection from Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, and is worth the read. It's the kind you'd want to go back to every now and then to get your fix of a well-written short story with lots of Filipino flavor. :)(less)
I attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a weddi...moreI attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a wedding videographer. But I really, really like attending weddings, because it's such a happy, happy day. Plus, I really like hearing wedding vows.
Anyway, my wedding weekend read was Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which I borrowed from Angus when I got the chance to check out his bookshelf. This is my first Carver, and the first time I have heard about him also because of Angus' rave review. This is a collection of short stories about people who talk about, well, love. I figure it may be a fitting book to bring since it's a wedding and all. What do people talk about when they talk about love in weddings?
Before I go to the proper review, let me tell you what people talk about when they talk about love in a wedding. Weddings are happy, happy days, not only for the couple but also for everyone who came to celebrate with them. It's funny, though, how people often look forward to the wedding and see it as a "happily ever after", when it is really just the start of something new. The priest gave this lovely homily during my brother's best friend's wedding that had all of us laughing and me thinking really hard. He talked about good memories and bad memories, and how ten, twenty years down the road, the couple will lose a lot of things: their youth, their health, their money. And when people lose these things, when life gets difficult, sometimes it's harder to hold on and remember your commitment. And then he reminds them that they're not the boss of each other, and getting married in the church - in front of God and in front of the people - is their promise of giving up the right to give up on each other, no matter how hard life gets. Then they said their vows, and...it was so real and so beautiful.
Then, I spent time with my parents over the weekend, and I took the time to observe how they treat and interact with each other. My parents have been married for 30+ years, and sometimes I think I take that for granted. That weekend, I saw how they act around each other, and I realized how their love is that quiet, enduring love that I also want for myself. There are some things that my mom would say or do that, if I were my dad, would rub me the wrong way and I would say something back in defiance...but my dad does nothing. Instead, he smiles, and just takes it and does something. My dad would do something, or say something that, if I were my mom, would feel like it lacks emotion or affection, but I see that my mom doesn't see that. I see how they're around each other and how they support each other and how they love us so much, and my heart just swells because I see a glimpse of what the priest said, and I see what kind of love I want, and the one that I wish I would be able to give, too. Imperfect, yet strong and enduring.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love isn't too romantic -- in fact, sometimes I think it's not romantic at all. It's not like the romance books I usually read, with fluff and cheese andswoon and kilig that makes them so fun to read. No, Carver's collection of short stories about love is about love in many forms, but it dealt with love after all the kilig and swoon and cheese and fluff are gone. Most of the stories are melancholic in its nature, and for a moment, it didn't seem like the right thing to read on a wedding weekend. But it seems perfect, too, because this book somehow set my thoughts straight -- or at least, gave me a different perspective, after the reception is over and the wedding fuzzies have started to fade.
Most of the stories in this collection are stories of lonely people, or people seeing lonely people, or people talking about old experiences of loneliness that is related to love. The realness in these stories is what got to me: this is what could happen, days, months or years after the wedding day. These stories can happen, but it doesn't mean that it is the only ending. Love doesn't mean mistakes won't happen, or your loved ones will always be healthy or you will never fight. It's a little bit more complicated than that. The stories were short and the writing was simple, and sometimes I get surprised when a story is over and I wasn't exactly sure what it was supposed to tell me. But as I read on, I realize that these stories are fragments of love in its everyday form, during the hard parts, and also, in some of the happy parts, too.
I liked most of the stories, but three stories stood out: After the Denim ("He'd tell them what to expect! He'd set those floozies straight! He'd tell them what was waiting for you after the denim and the earrings, after touching each other and cheating at games."), Everything Stuck to Him ("Things change. I don't know how they do. But they do without realizing it or wanting them to [...] he stays by the window, remembering. They had laughed. They had leaned on each other and laughed until the tears had come, while everything else - the cold, and where he'd go in it - was outside, for a while anyway.") and the title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love ("I'm telling you, the man's heart was breaking because he couldn't turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife."). When I was done, I found myself rereading parts of some of my favorite stories (especially the last one), and then sitting down at home and thinking about love.
Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don't think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.
Let's have a toast. I want to propose a toast. A toast to love. To true love. (p.141)
This is my first Carver, and I don't think this will be my last. :)
When a couple gets married, it's easy to think that only their lives will change since they're really the star the wed...moreOriginal post from One More Page
When a couple gets married, it's easy to think that only their lives will change since they're really the star the wedding and the marriage that comes after. It's easy to think that way since all spotlight is turned to them, but have we ever considered what happens to the lives of the people around them? Case in point: one of my closest friend's sister got married last December, and she told me that she and their youngest sister spent the next few days crying because they missed their sister so much. You'd think the sister who got married was all happy because she was now living with her husband, but no -- the married sister was also crying her eyes out of homesickness and separation anxiety for the people at home.
There wasn't much drama in my home when my brother got married, although it did take me a little time to get used to the fact that I can't just barge into the condo where my brother lives anytime I want, or he can't stay too late at our house because he has another home now. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I love my sister-in-law and there's no discord among us. I just needed some time to adjust to the fact that my brother's priorities had changed, which meant ours had to as well.
This is what Marla Miniano's latest book, From This Day Forward, talk about -- how the lives of the people around the couple are also changed once two people decide to get married. Similar to one of her previous books, Table for Two, From This Day Forwardcontains interconnected stories that revolve around a major catalyst: main characters Nala and Nicholas' decision to get married. There's the story of Nala's mom when Nala tells her that she was engaged, and Nicholas' mom who goes off to see an old flame after finding out about the engagement. There's Nala's best friend, who lost the guy she loved and could never get him back, to Nala's cousin who had a complicated relationship with her boyfriend's best friend...who is also incidentally, the groom. The stories are told in different formats and styles -- the straightforward storytelling, third and second person POV, poetry, letters and diary entries -- but all revolving around the two main characters, their families and their friends.
If you've read Marla's Table for Two, From This Day Forwardhas a pretty similar structure, but instead of absolutely random characters who have little connections, we have a cast that have better connections with each other. I liked that about this book, and I felt that it was easier to get into the story of these people because of the closer connections. As usual, there's a certain elegance with the way Marla writes, each word chosen with care to deliver the right punch, but not too flowery that it feels too dramatic. I reveled in these words, and the characters jumped out at me, almost like they were real people instead of just people from a 144-page book. It feels like readers will relate to a bit of each story here, or maybe even find a friend in one of the characters.
I liked From This Day Forwarda bit more than I liked Table for Two because of the stronger connections, although I felt that the last story could have tied up the loose ends from the other characters better. But if we were to be realistic, anyway, when did loose ends in life ever tie up neatly? I liked how Marla ended the book with a quote from her first novel, almost like she was paying a homage of sorts to where she started:
Matter occupies space, and I know -- I guess I always have -- that I can only have space for the things that matter.
After reading this book, I realized that I have become a Marla Miniano completist too. :) I guess it was the right timing too because soon after I got this, I met her in person when I attended her Letters Out Loud event and had my copy signed:
So if you're looking for a quick, romantic and sentimental read, or if you have someone close to you who's tying the knot soon and you're feeling some kind of jitters but don't know why, then you probably want to pick up a copy of From This Day Forward. :)(less)
Lower Myths got me craving for more of Eliza's stories, so when I found out that Visprint released an anthology of her s...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Lower Myths got me craving for more of Eliza's stories, so when I found out that Visprint released an anthology of her stories, I knew I had to get it. A Bottle of Storm Clouds contains 16 short stories that have appeared in various anthologies, all with the same local fantasy goodness. I was so excited to get this one after the 2nd Filipino ReaderCon (I really, really wanted to win one, but alas, I didn't) -- and I wasn't planning to read it immediately to save me some local fiction goodness, but I couldn't wait, either. And so I read.
A Bottle of Storm Clouds is one of those books that you can't help but keep on reading but you also don't want to end just yet. I tried not to read this book too fast because I wanted to savor each story. There's something interesting and entirely different in each story -- some of them were creepy, most of them sad, but all had really good fantasy elements that stretched my imagination wider than it did before. :) I liked how Eliza hinged most of the stories with real human experiences like grief and sadness, family and friendship and love and even selfishness and life crisis. It's a good balance between magic and reality, and there are certain lines that meld them together nicely, like this one:
Magic. Amanda thought of clear skies and stars, steamed rice and fish, bagoong soaked in vinegar. A cup of coffee in the early morning, the feel of grass, the city lights. Clarissa. Her brother carrying her on his back, her parents dancing on the cool patio as it rained. The ground pounding with life. A poem humming in her head. (Siren Song)
My personal favorites: Ana's Little Pawnshop on Makiling St., Intersections, Sugar Pi, Parallels, Monsters, The Storyteller's Curse, Siren's Song. I think there's a story for each and every reader in this collection, and probably even for every mood. I liked this collection a lot, and if you want to read good, local fantasy with different flavors, get A Bottle of Storm Clouds.I'm sure you'll find a favorite in one of them. :)(less)
When the new year rolled around, I was more than ready to start a new book, eager to start filling my 2012 shelf. Howeve...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When the new year rolled around, I was more than ready to start a new book, eager to start filling my 2012 shelf. However, it felt like the books I was starting weren't really making the cut. I couldn't really get into it. It may have been just some kind of New Year blues or something -- I don't know. I received Astigirl as a review copy from Flipside on the first day of work and was all set to read it later in the month. Until decided to take a peek at it after work...and I could not put it down.
Astigirl: A Grown Girl Living On Her Own Terms is Tweet Sering's account of how she turned into her own kind of tough girl. Tweet talks about a range of things: from a fan letter to Angelina Jolie, to a family discussion on whether Manny Pacquiao's politics, to how she let go of her finances, to how she decided to drop everything to follow her dream. She talks about serious things about a man she loves and her art, and how she was asked to write her grandmother's biography to seemingly not-so-serious things such as how she wants to strangle Bella and kick Edward as she read New Moon. With a warm, personal tone akin to a friend sharing her experiences to another, Tweet Sering makes her readers feel that if she can do it, then we can, too.
Ah. That almost slump I had was instantly gone after I read the first entry in this book. Astigirl is the perfect book to read for the new year. It's got all this freshness and honesty that no other fiction book can offer. I thought it would be all about the kind of toughness that I wouldn't be able to appreciate or relate to, but I was wrong. Think of this as sort of a Filipino version of Eat Pray Love, but less of the annoying over-privileged "I have money to travel all over the world" feel. In fact, Tweet talked about how she didn't really feel a strong attachment to money, something I know I had to learn.
I was kind of glad I read this on my Kindle because it makes it easy to highlight quotes. Believe me, when I got to the middle, I realized I was highlighting almost every other page. Maybe it was because of the new year, or maybe it was because Tweet Sering talks about things that every young Filipino woman is thinking but is too confused or too afraid to set out for: to do something meaningful. I would share with you my favorite quotes but they're too many of them, so you'll just have to read it for yourself. :)
Being nonfiction meant not everyone will agree with this, but it also means that it can be read again and deliver a different message altogether. Astigirl is a great book to start the year with, and I think it would also make the perfect gift for girlfriends and girl friends. I don't necessarily agree with everything and I thought some of the entries were a bit long, but I really enjoyed the book and I would definitely browse through it again.
So, if you're a Filipino woman in your 20's or 30's and if you're feeling a little beat from life or you need a little inspiration, get Astigirl by Tweet Sering. It will do you a lot of good, and hopefully, it will also give you that push you need to go after what you need to do to be your own Astigirl.(less)
When I was a kid, I had fond memories of reading about different Filipino legends for school. These legends were really...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When I was a kid, I had fond memories of reading about different Filipino legends for school. These legends were really made to teach a lesson to us kids to be nice, respectful and hardworking, really, and not just tall tales for bedtime stories. Most notable was the legend of the pineapple, which tells of a girl who felt lazy to look for what her mother was asking her to find and her exasperated mom wishes for her to have many eyes so she can find it and poof, she turns into a pineapple. I cannot remember, though, of a story talking about other Filipino legends, myths and epics other than the usual kiddie stories, save for Maria Makiling (the fairy that lives in Mount Makiling, one of the well-known mountains in the Philippines) and the Biag ni Lam-Ang (The Life of Lam-Ang), which I had to know because my mom is from Ilocos. So I was one of the people who knew almost nothing about Philippine Mythology that jumped at the idea of reading Alternative Alamat, a collection of stories from Filipino writers edited by Paolo Chikiamco (writer of High Society). Since I vowed to read and review more local fiction ever since I started this blog, I know I can't miss this one.
The thing I like about anthologies is that it doesn't require as much commitment as a full length novel does. You can read one story, stop and go back to the collection after some time without feeling lost. But the thing is, I never really wanted to stop reading Alternative Alamat because I keep getting surprised by the stories it contained. There were times when I thought that I wouldn't like the story I was reading after a few paragraphs, and then I end up really liking it in the end because of some kind of twist. I think there's something for everyone in each story in this collection. Ana's Little Pawnshop on Makiling St. (Eliza Victoria) reminded me of those stories I read in our literary folio in college, with its YA-ish, magic realism charm. Harinuo's Love Song (Rochita Leonen-Ruiz) and Keeper of My Sky (Timothy James Dimacali) with their lyrical prose, were haunting and sad tales of a love that shouldn't have been and couldn't be. There were stories that gave different perspectives on some of the Filipino goddesses all bearing the same first name Maria but all with different personalities: Conquering Makiling (Monique Francisco) for Maria Makiling, Beneath the Acacia (Celestine Trinidad) for Maria Sinukuan, and The Sorceress Queen (Raissa Rivera Falgui) for Maria Malindig. There were stories from legends that seemed like a stranger at first but then turns into something more familiar: Offerings to Aman Sinaya (Andre Tupaz) deals with how we have turned from the old fishing ways to the newer ones that destroy the oceans; Balat, Buwan, Ngalan (David Hontiveros) seemed like meta fiction of sorts since it mentions a book of local legends that was published and launched. Then there were the fun things, like alternate histories, that picks on the two times that the Filipinos fought back from the Spanish conquerors: The Alipin's Tale (Raymond G. Falgui) and A Door Opens: The Beginning of the Fall of the Ispancialo-in-Hinirang (Dean Alfar). And if you have ever read any of the Trese comics, then you're in for a treat here because The Last Full Show (Budjette Tan) is a story that shows a side of Alexandra Trese not shown in the comics. It's hard to pick favorites among the stories because they each had something different to like about it -- the writing, the treatment of the myth, the characters, the twists. There are also illustrations in the book too (done by cover artist, Mervin Malonzo), that are also based on Philippine myths and perfectly complements the content. It's really a treasure trove of the things that make the Filipino culture so rich and colorful, and I'm pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Alternative Alamat also contains a few appendices about notable Filipino deities, interviews with experts on the field, tips on researching Philippine myths and a glossary of terms. While it may seem that these things were included in the book for foreign readers, I think it's also for Filipinos like me who know almost nothing about Philippine mythology. I think this makes Alternative Alamat more accessible to readers, regardless if you're a Filipino or you've lived in the country for a while or you're just a curious reader who's interested in the title even if you have no idea where in the world the Philippines is.
Is there anything I don't like about this? Well, I just wish that it was a little bit longer. I truly felt sad when I read that the anthology was closing with Dean Alfar's story. But having this book out in the wild now doesn't mean it has to stop there, right? After all, there is always an option for a second volume. ;) And also, a print version would be nice. So I can gift this to friends who refuse to get an e-reader. :D But other than that, there's nothing else I would nitpick on. I think all the things I wrote up there sufficiently says how much I loved Alternative Alamat. I've never felt more prouder to be a Filipino when I was reading this. Somehow, I felt that this book and the stories in this collection were mine -- mine because I am a Filipino and the stories found inside is a part of my heritage. :)
So if you're one of the people who received an e-reader for Christmas, or you've had one for a while and you're looking for something really new to read for the new year, then imagine me pushing, no, shoving this ebook to you. If you're going to get one new ebook before this year ends or if you're going to buy a new one as the 2012 comes in, make it Alternative Alamat. You won't regret it, I promise. :) (less)
I got this book a year ago during the book launch, not because I knew the author or I was even really remotely intereste...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I got this book a year ago during the book launch, not because I knew the author or I was even really remotely interested -- I got this simply because I wanted to support local authors and their work. Of course, with the not-so-high interest level, I pushed this down my TBR until I finally pulled it out so I can finally read it. Paper Cutsis a collection of stories from journalist/writer Pam Pastor based on her adventures in her "crazy life". I liked the idea, given that I'm a blogger myself, although I doubt that my life is as crazy as hers.
I enjoyed Paper Cuts for the most part, especially the ones where the author shared anecdotes about her family. There's nothing like crazy family stories to set the tone of a non-fiction book. I also liked her crazy commuting/cab stories because I share the same things too. However...my enjoyment kind of stopped there. After some time, I just couldn't relate much to the other parts of the book. It feels like maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I wanted to have the same adventures as she did -- meet different celebrities, go around the world for her job and party when there's time -- but I'm actually quite happy with my own life. These stories were good to read, but it's not something that I would probably gush about, unless they were my own experiences, that is. But knowing (boring) old me, I don't think I'll even reach as many crazy experiences like that.
It's not a bad book, per se. The writing was very witty and again, there were several stories that made me chuckle, but I was a bit apathetic for the rest of the stories. It's just one of those books that I am not a part of the intended audience. But you know what, maybe that's why I haven't heard of the author until her book came out -- maybe it's because we're just in entirely different circles. Overall, it's an okay book.(less)