Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

Thank you, Lisa, for saving me. I had been in a reading rut and you just rescued me. 

Rose McKenna went from stay-at-home Mom, to volunteer Mom, and then Hero Mom. But very quickly, she also found herself in the middle of a controversy - and it was her family versus the whole town. 

This latest novel from Lisa Scottoline isn't the gripping legal thriller like all her other novels that we've read so far. It took awhile for the story to warm up to me, but it eventually did. It wasn't as page-a-turner as Daddy's Girl was, but it doesn't mean that it's not worth your time. 

Central to the story was social media and how quick we are to judge someone without listening to their side of the story. A few months back, I had it in my head to write a post with this title: I am scared of Social Media. I couldn't articulate it well so I didn't get around to writing that article, but I thought of it after we figured in a car accident. While I was sitting in the driver's seat, collecting my wits, I was also thinking about what the people passing by must think about me. After all, my car was upright and we were not injured. While the delivery van that slammed into me was on its side, with the driver bleeding with wounds on his arm. To an outsider, it would have been so easy to judge that it was my fault and that we caused the accident. But it really wasn't. And there was my hubby and his ill-temper raising his voice at the other driver and his companions. Remember Amalayer? I didn't watch her video and only learned the full story when they featured her on MMK. That's how harsh social media could be. 

Another thread that got me hooked on this novel was how Rose's predicament was related to the problem of peanut allergies. No, her daughter wasn't allergic to peanuts. 

Have you heard of anyone in the Philippines being allergic to peanuts? I don't know anyone who is. And I'm pretty sure we don't have training that tells teachers to have kids with such allergies eat away from the general population. It sounds like a really challenging situation to have to deal with. Like we saw in the movie Horrible Bosses, simply touching an empty zipLock container of Peanut Butter Sandwich may cause a lethal allergy attack. 

I've seen those on chocolate labels and labels of other food products, something that goes along these lines: "produced on equipment used to manufacture nut products." I never used to pay attention to them, but reading Save Me, I realize that those labels are life savers. And if companies fail to disclose that information, they could cause many deaths. 

But Rose's near encounter with death, or the death of her daughter, wasn't because of peanuts. It was because of an explosion that causes a fire in the school cafeteria. Now that's all I'm  going to say about it. You'd have to read the book to know more. :) 

Monday, May 4, 2015

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I’d been seeing Nick Hornby’s books before and I’ve always known that High Fidelity was what the John Cusack movie was based on. I don’t know why I never got around to reading it. And when I did read it, I have mixed feelings about it.


Rob Flemming owns a record store. Is that what he’s wanted to do all his life? It was hard to tell. It’s actually hard to tell if he knew. In fact, it doesn’t seem like he knows much about what he wants out of life. Reviews of this book have him described as a spectator on the sidelines, Laura (the girlfriend that recently dumped him) says that he’s not living his life, and that he’s forever waiting for what’s going to happen. He cannot commit to anything or anyone because his afraid to miss what else might come along. Do you know anybody like that?

Typical guy, huh?

I think I didn’t take to this book right away because Rob was really a loser. And not an endearing loser at that. He was a snob who judged people based on their record collection. OMG. What would he think of me? I don’t have a proper record collection, and I don’t really have a top 5 of anything. Really. I thought of myself as a music lover (a long time ago) and I still do love music, I’m just not into remembering everything all the time and not into making lists (did I just justify myself there?). That’s how crappy Rob made me feel. Hah!

Oh well. Watching the movie was better. I’m not saying that I liked the movie version over the book lest book lovers the world over wage war against me. It was a better experience for me though because I’d already known the characters, and I like John and Joan Cusack. I also liked that Jack Black played Barry, Rob’s annoying staff at the Championship Vinyl.

It was a sign of how much Laura understood and loved Rob that she was able to do something for him that Rob really liked – deep down inside him. He would probably never have realized it for himself, or if he did, he might not have done anything about it. Bringing back the Gaucho for Rob to DJ was a great idea. Owning a record store turns out be one of the top 5 jobs ever. He was living a life he wanted after all, he just had to realize it.

Now let’s look at my life. I’m a senior manager at a BPO. Was this was I thought what I’d end up doing? Definitely not. I used to want to be a rebel. To go up the mountains, take arms, and fight for liberation. Things changed. I got involved in the Children’s Rights movement and I thought that that was going to be my life’s work. Things changed again. And ten years later, here I am somewhat successful in a career path I never thought I’d take. Am I happy? I’d have to say yes. Would I rather do something else? A month and a half ago I’d have said YES! In fact I was on my way to discover for myself what that something else was going to be. But things changed up at work and I’m busy again and liking what I’m doing. So I guess I’m staying put for now.

All that’s left is to have a Gaucho revival for me.  I need an event or an activity that would make me feel that all those years haven’t been wasted. That I am making a contribution to the world. Now what could that event be? But seriously, even without one, I think I’m good. I have no doubt that what I do daily actually impacts other people’s lives in a big way. Or something. Hah!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Paano Ba ‘To?! by Bianca Gonzalez

What do I not love about this book? Maybe it’s the fact that we are nearly the same age (I’m likely two to three years older than her), or that we were both December 2014 brides, or it could be because I watch her so much on TV, but I found her words relatable. Her intended audience seem to be the younger girls – late teens, early twenties – but that doesn’t stop me from smiling and recounting my own experiences as I flip through the pages.


The book has eight chapters: Family, Friendship, Love, Career & Money, Failures, Fashion & Beauty, Purpose, Self. Each chapter starts off with a Q n A, and then followed by Real Stories. Then there will be something from a celebrity/ies, before closing with 10 Things from Bianca that’s specific to the topic. At the end of each chapter is a page where the reader can become part of the book: there is a prompt and ample to space to write. I think I love that about the book – along with the sticker sheets. Soon, I will be using those prompts for blog posts over at Verabear.Net. Watch out for that. Smile

Each chapter, and all over the inside front and back covers, you can find quotes and hugot lines. Kudos to the author for getting calligraphy artist Abbey Sy to work with her. Apart from the wonderful type found all over the book, the doodles (I assumed they are the author’s own) all over encouraged me to write on the book too. Maybe it’s because of all the marginalia from the book I read before this one (Ex Libris), but it just felt right to react real-time by writing down my thoughts on the white space around the text.

Marginalia and doodles - Paano ba to

There is not much more to say, in terms of a review, other than to recommend it for others to read. I think that there is so much we can already learn from other people’s experiences and if it saves us from having to make the same mistakes – then that’s the real bonus.

One more reason to recommend this book to young women is that she sounds and feels genuine. Authentic. She owes up to the celebrity status, but she also uses that status to spread good. She does not try to convince us that she was perfect as she was growing up, and definitely didn’t try to come off as if she knew exactly what she was doing. That’s what makes her credible. She experienced life the way many of us did/do. Throughout the book there is also the sense of gratefulness – she acknowledges that she has been given a lot of opportunities and that what she has achieved now is a combination of her hard work, and the help of others around her.

I really like her, I like her example. And I would love for my nieces to get to know her thru this book, and maybe have her as one of their life pegs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with absolutely everything that’s mentioned in the book, but I support the overall message that it tries to convey.

I do hope she writes another book, although I’d imagine I’d get bored if it would be exactly the same. As a follow up project she should release the type art that served as dividers for the book. I actually want to tear them off now and hang them in frames. (I just looked at the new Get To Work Book by Elise Blaha and her calendar page illustrated text are perforated so you can easily detach and hang as art print! That's exactly what they could have done with the lovely type pages on this one.)

Type/Quote - Paano ba to

Congratulations to Bianca Gonzalez-Intal on the success of her first book. I believe it’s been reprinted. In fact, I’m really happy about the local publishing industry as a whole. There’s been a number of books released recently that out sold really quickly. And it’s nice to see people at work toting a familiar book and reading during breaks. I have at least two more locally published books on my list to read. Make Your Nanay Proud was something I really enjoyed flipping thru earlier this year. Truly inspiring.
Are you reading Paano Ba ‘To?! Share your thoughts!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where do you find the time to read?

If it isn't obvious yet, I am a reader. :) Even at my busiest time, there is always space for books. However, this is not to say that I have read every book I own, or every book I wanted to read. 

And I know that there are many of you out there, who are just like me who often say: 

So many good books. So little time.

And when people are new to the fact that I read a lot, this question is sure to be asked:

Where do you find time to read?

Some just flat out declare: 

I'd love to read, but I just don't have the time.

Here's the truth. I don't often have the time either. In fact, I didn't get to read much last year. 

Was I busy? Stressed at work? Preparing for a big life event?

No. Not really. And, Yes. 

My days were full, so I guess I was busy in a way, but it doesn't feel like I was too busy I couldn't pick up a paperback. In fact, I picked up a new game - FarmVille 2 on the iPhone. I also spent lots of time with my Loom Bands. 

There were days when work was stressful, but it's a far cry from three or so years ago when I was spending long hours at work. Last year was actually the first time things got lite. So no, I can't blame work for not having had time to read. 

Yes, I got married last year!
 But no, the wedding preparations didn't make me too busy that there was no time for an ebook or no space for a book in my bag. 

Fact is, I tried to read more and just couldn't.  There is no other way for me to explain this. Many times I'd pick up a book and I'd read a few lines, a few pages, but I get nothing. No reaction. Nothing clicks. So I put it down and try again another day. Or I try another book. And so on. 

It was frustrating, but it taught me something: You have to be ready to read. It's not enough to just want to read. For me, it wasn't about not having time to read. It was as if there was a barrier to reading. 

So what is one to do?

MAKE time to READ

Does it sound like I'm contradicting myself? This is for those of you who feel that the barrier to reading is time. Schedule reading into your daily activities. It could be 15 to 30 minutes after each meal. Or it could also be part of your night-time routine when you wind down for bed. Get in 5 pages before breakfast. Pick a schedule and stick to it. 

For those really, really busy with WORK, errands, and house chores, this means always toting a book along with you so you can use the pockets of time when you do nothing but wait
  1. Read a few pages at the waiting area at your doctor's appointment, or anywhere you need to wait in line. 
  2. Scan a few lines while your food cooks
  3. A chapter or two during your commute to and from work 
  4. Read while the little one watches Hi-5 or is busy building a tower, or setting up a road rally. 
  5. While the husband is out shopping, I read in the car, or at a cafe. He doesn't need fashion advise from me (be sure to regulate the cash he has on hand!)
If you find yourself mindlessly clicking thru online articles, one after the other, evaluate whether you'd rather finish your book instead. You have time.

Don't force it 

If it doesn't spark your interest after a few pages. Let it go. It doesn't mean it's a bad book, or that you don't have to ever read it again, it just means that now's not the time for you to read it. 

That's how it was when I read Wicked, which turned out to be one of my favorites. Same thing with Revolutionary Road. And again last month while reading Love Walked In

So if you and your book don't click, just move on to the next one. Don't force it. That's why it's also important to -

Have more than one book accessible to you

If it's still reading time when you realize that book 1 isn't your thing, pick up another book. Or open your reading app and start actually reading one of your ebooks. 

If you are a true bookworm, even if you're more of the old-school reader like me who prefers the touch of the page and the smell of books old and new, you already have a growing digital book collection. Now's the time to open that Kindle app and get reading. 

Setup your reading space

I read while sitting upright, but I can be just as comfortable lying down. Find your own spot where there isn't a lot of distraction. 

While vacationing for the first time with my husband's family last year, my spot turned out to be a lounge chair at the second-floor balcony. At home, I can sit anywhere. I also find that I really like reading at the driver's seat - while parked of course. 

Challenge yourself

Goodreads has really helped jump-start my reading year 2015. In January, I decided to read along with the monthly book discussions with The Filipino Group. We are reading High Fidelity all through April.  

I also set a goal of reading 15 books this year as my 2015 Reading Challenge. Since I didn't read much last year, I figured 15 is achievable. I hope to read more though. You can check the widget on my sidebar to know how I'm keeping up. :)

So I hope I've helped convince you that you can read more, NOW. Do you have other tips to cultivate a reading lifestyle?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Have you ever heard of a Traveling Book? I am a member of The Filipino Group on Goodreads and we currently have three of them.  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman is the 3rd traveling book, but the first one I've been fortunate to receive and read. 

It took me five days to finish the 162-page book, but I probably would have finished sooner if I really wanted to. This is a collection of essays and each one, to me, was relatable. So relate-able that I was compelled to write a response to the essay, or to the marginalia from previous readers.

As you will see in this photo, readers before me have enriched the book with their comments. I followed suit and enjoyed the exercise. Truly enjoyed it.

Ex Libris is a book about books and reflect much of how I feel about reading, and about my books. As for my own confession, there was a time that I was wont to be jealous or envious of the kind of books in Ms. Fadiman's library. I am not as acquainted to the classics as I would like to be, and much of the authors and great writers she mentioned I have never read. Does that mean she is a better book lover than me? Is she a better reader? 

I quickly corrected myself. As much as there are body image issues, it occurred to me that there may be, among book lovers, a book collection image issue. No matter what trash one might find in my library of books, if I choose to keep it in my library, then it means that in one way or another, that book struck a chord in me. So perhaps I should also rethink about my tendency to look at another's collection of books only to turn up my nose at all the Tagalog romance novels I see there. Just because I don't read those books means they are not good ones. 

Our home is overflowing with books. One thing that needs to be done is to curate our growing library. In the book, Fadiman wrote about the marriage of her library to her husband's. In my case, it won't be a difficult marriage. Alfred, my husband, is not as much a reader as I am. Still he has gathered a small collection of photography books and magazines, along with some graphic novels and short stories by Filipino writers. My parents are readers, but they have long learned to part with books they've already read. Perhaps it's all the moving we've done thru the years.

Already on my wish-list of home improvements is to curate our book collection. 

  1. List all the titles in every nook and cranny of our two-storey home. 
  2. Categorize between keepers and non-keepers. 
  3. Find the proper home for the keepers in the limited shelving available. 
  4. As for the non-keepers, that is yet another project to undertake. List them for friends to freely choose from; sell them for a bit of profit; or leave them on the sidewalk; or build  a little free library and put them on display. Non-keepers don't mean bad books, they're just not going to be part of our collection because we have to admit that we can't hold on to every book and magazine we buy. 
Anyway. How's your library?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

This book has been sitting on one of my TBR piles since the NBS book sale in January 2014. Anticipating having to wait in line for errands we had to take care of over the weekend (I first started writing this post back in November – don’t get me started on that), I grabbed it off the shelf and shoved it into my bag. As it turned out, I didn’t have a lot of waiting to do but I still found time to read. I was quite happy to have started and finished a novel over the weekend. 


The book was published in 2011. At the time of its release, the book and its author, Samantha Sotto, had been featured on blogs that I’d been following. More than the mystery that her character Shelley had to solve, I was more interested in reading a novel set in Europe, written by a first-time Filipina author.
There were no dull moments in Before Ever After. It wasn’t just the story of Isabelle and her ancestors that got me hooked. It was the virtual tour of Europe that was even more interesting. I had visited Pere Lachaise (a famous cemetery in Paris) before I turned 18, but I didn’t get to know much about the events that took place there. I also took that arduous walk up the steps of Sacre Coeur Cathedral and its tower – so while Shelley was describing it, I felt like I was rushing to keep up with her. I still dream of going on trips to Europe, and the story took me for a ride that further fueled my longing.

Apart from my bias for the setting, I was gripped by the sadness, the emptiness, that the main character felt after having lost her husband. It brought to mind writings of another blogger who counted the days since her world was turned upside down by the sudden death of her husband, and her transition from happy parents of two kids, to single mom of two. It was something i couldn't, and wouldn't, grip.

What’s gripping is the story. I can’t explain it. I can’t say that it was well-written. It actually felt rough around the edges, in a manner of speaking. But it was good. What’s conflicting to me was that it felt like reading serious historical fiction, but with a chick lit vibe. You know what I mean? I won’t even try to explain.

It is a recommended read though. I wonder when her next book comes out?

To know more about what the book is really about, here’s the book trailer.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mini Library at Papemelroti

While waiting for lunch to be served at RUB a few weeks ago, I took the time to finally checkout the mini library outside the Papemelroti flagship store at Roces Avenue. I see those shelves often when I pass by, but this was the only time I got to get up close and personal.


I was right! Just like the Little Free Library, those two bookshelves were free for all. People are encouraged to take a book or leave a book. Or both. Of course, I had to take one!

My pick was a children's classic - Laura Ingalls-Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. I hadn't read it before though I've heard of the author and the Little House series in the past. There was a good variety of books on those shelves, definitely something for everyone.

I'll have to go back one of these days to drop off a book from my own stash.
I really wish I could have my own free little library outside the house. It's a wonderful way to share the love for reading.

Have you seen this mini library? Would you take or leave a book?