Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

You are doing a Freaking Great Job

For Christmas 2015, I received this small gem of a book from my colleague Amor. You are doing a Freaking Great Job and other reminders of your AWESOMENESS.

I love this book. It's a compilation of lines and quotes to remind you that all will be well. Each page is done beautifully, sometimes I feel like tearing it off and giving it away as a card or putting it up on display at my desk. The only thing that keeps from doing that is my selfish desire to keep them all in one place so I can look upon them again some other time. 

Here's a sample page: 

Every day at our Operations Team Huddle, we end our session with a quote off this book. I just flip through until everyone says STOP and read on. This is what we got today. Make Yourself Proud - Peter W. Smith

I truly truly appreciate this book. It helps me remind my team why we do what we do, and to keep on going. And in case you need a reminder - YOU ARE DOING A FREAKING GREAT JOB!

Buy it from Amazon, or from the National BookStore

Monday, May 2, 2016

Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was a singer-songwriter from the UK. She was multi-awarded and very talented. She also died young. 

I'm not really her fan - I hardly knew her music. I've listened to a few and liked what I've heard, but at the height of her career I didn't really know a lot about her or her music. When she died though, I knew it made headlines. I remember seeing her photos on TV and that she had been called alcoholic and a drug addict. 

This book was written by her father, Mitch Winehouse, and has been pretty straight forward. It's a narrative of a father who watched his only daughter zoom to the top, and also spiral down because of one addiction after another. 

It seems that the family, her management, and even her record label, were all very supportive of her and were consistently around to help her quit her bad habits. They consulted specialists, they brought her to hospitals, but what puzzles me is why didn't they get her psychiatric help? If not for medication (she took replacement drugs for her coke habit), they should have sought therapy for her. 

Based on what I've read, she had a lot of issues do deal with. She seeks attention. She harms herself. Her husband seems to love her but is so deep in drugs that he can's do right by her. She wanted to get better, but she just wasn't strong enough to do it on her own. 

Her family setup the Amy Winehouse Foundation to help addicts and their families deal with this very complex problem. I hope that the Foundation is able to help others like Amy, so their story need not end so abruptly. 

This was an easy read because the author's voice was quite easy to follow. But it was also quite sad too see such talent go to waste. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Breaking Bad

I finally finished all 5 bad-ass seasons of Breaking Bad! 

Wallpaper image from:

Both the husband and I got hooked on Breaking Bad very late in its TV run. We actually didn't hear much about it until its last season, which is no surprise because it wasn't shown on Philippine TV. Not even on cable. 

So in 2013, the husband downloaded the first season and we watched the episodes back to back to back during one of our rest days off work. We finished the first season and a few episodes from Season 2, and then we stopped. 

Thanks to Netflix, I got to watch all the rest under a month's time. 

I won't go and spoil the story for those who may be interested in watching the show. It is the story of a Chemistry teacher Mr White, diagnosed with fatal lung cancer who goes into the Meth business with his former student Jesse, to pay for his treatments and build up a fund to leave to his family when he dies.

What was to be just a few cooks ends up becoming a whole empire. And the rest is history. 

You will be amazed at his brilliance, his intuition, and his... grit. He is like a bida-kontrabida in Pinoy teleseryes. You don't know whether to love him or to hate him. At times I felt like - this is so impossible, he gets away with everything! That doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen. But it does for him. 

And oh how I hated his wife Skylar! And his sister-in-law Marie who was so annoying at times. But my favourite character has got to be Jesse Pinkman, such a softie Jesse was. He who lost his loved ones. Sigh. 

Anyway, I still have major hangover for Breaking Bad that I'm diving right into watching a spin-off series - Better Call Saul. 

Who else is a Breaking Bad fan here?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Aloha (2015)

The movie Aloha was released in 2015 and it stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. 

Cooper is ex-Military who now works as a private contractor. He is coming back to Hawaii for another deal, and apparently, to also confront his past. 

McAdams is his ex-girlfriend, now married to a US Air Force pilot. They have two children but pretty soon you are left wondering whether or not Gracie is actually Cooper’s daughter! Well is she, or isn’t she?

Stone is a Jet Fighter Pilot assigned to chaperone Cooper for this mission. She had such an insight into him, it's almost as if she was instantly smitten. At first, Cooper seemed annoyed by her but she wiggled her cute self right into his heart. And really, who wouldn't fall for Emma Stone, er Allison Ng?

Now Cooper's character has quite a job. He needs to convince the King of Hawaii to let the US Government use their land for a new space station. And succeeding in this job means a second chance for him. A second chance to work with his former boss - billionaire Carson played by Bill Murray - and a chance to redeem himself in the face of former colleagues. 

It's an okay movie. Almost a romantic comedy, not quite a drama. The story isn't really much interesting, which is probably why this movie didn't make it to our shores. You just would stick with it because of the actors, they are quite endearing. 

Anyway, here's the trailer:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge

Happy New Year fellow book lovers!

Over at Verabear I have declared that 2016 will be the year that I do the things that my heart yearns for. And we all know how my heart reaches out for books. 

In 2015, I set a very low target of 15 books for my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Guess what happened?

I was short by one book. ONE BOOK! No!!! 

Wait, that can't be. 

A day before my 12-13-14 wedding I started reading Ten Christmas Brides, an Ebook collection of 10 separate novels about Christmas brides. By the end of 2015, I had already 4 of the 10 books, and at least one of those should count towards my 2015 goal. So, I rather say - I met my 2015 Reading Challenge! Yay, me! Haha. 

Still, that's quite embarrassing for a book lover like me. Just 15 books? Seriously. But it is what it is. Let's just say there were other things on my plate and I didn't make time. I should have reviewed my own post and taken my own advise on finding time to read

But as we turned a new page and just started 2016, so do I start on a new challenge: The 2016 Reading Challenge! This time, I'm pledging 16 books. Let's go for it! 

How much reading do you plan to do this year?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Her Sister's Shadow by Katharine Britton

This is the first Katharine Britton title I've ever read and on Goodreads, I gave it 4 stars. 

Her Sister's Shadow is the story of two estranged sisters - Lilli an artist based in London, and Bea, who still lived in their family home in Whitehead, Massachusetts. 

Her Sister's Shadow

It started off a little too slow for me. It took 6 chapters before the author talked about the death of their youngest sister but you already kinda know that's what was going to happen - but you kept waiting how it would. 

The sisters were estranged for 40 years. Yes, they talked occasionally, but they managed NOT to have a real relationship. I just couldn't imagine how they could let that happen to them for so long. And they had one more sister! I wonder why she didn't make them kiss and make up. I mean, if you were their sister, wouldn't you do what it takes to get them to resolve things?

I understand giving people space and time - but 40 years? Really?

Lilli left home and stayed away for so long because, in her mind, she wanted to step away from her eldest sister's shadow. Well, she found out, when they were so old and gray, that it wasn't her sister's shadow she needed to get away from - it was her own. 

She was so full of anger, and perhaps some guilt too, that she kept herself from being happy. She looked at her eldest sister, she who always seemed to have it all together, and resented her. She felt that she was being controlled. And then betrayed. 

But all along, she was really just being too selfish. Not everything was about her, and she didn't always have all the facts. She made up her mind anyway. And she kept her distance from her home. 

Oh how I love their home! The author described it very beautifully. It seemed like a wonderful place to grow up in. I felt so sad that Lilli had wanted to stay so far from it, and how quick she was to decide it had to be sold. To have a home like that!

In their family, the responsibility to keep the home and preserve the memories went to the eldest sister. Traditionally, that role goes to the youngest Filipina sibling. Normally, it is the bunso that gets left at home - because everyone else comes of age and marries earlier. Not so with the Niles sisters. 

In a way, I feel bad for Bea. She only meant well. Perhaps, she was too strong-willed. She also could have said something. She could have taken the first step so Lilli would come around. But I felt worse about Lilli. She grew old, but she didn't change much. Well, we all have a bit of Lilli in us - that bit that refuses to understand other people's perspectives. The lesson there for me is to learn genuine empathy, and to be open to understanding where others are coming from. And that some secrets shouldn't be kept so, at least not for long. 

I didn't grow up with sisters but I had cousins. They don't always get along with each other, but I don't think they can go a whole year not seeing each other. What about you?
Do you have sisters? Can you imagine 40 years of not being in good terms?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Newbery Honor 2008)

One rainy day, while having my hair done, I had the pleasure of reading a Newbery Honor book - Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson. 

Hope is the thing with feathers... 

Frannie learned a new poem in school and it had got her thinking. What does it mean? I was stuck on that for awhile too - what does it mean?

This short story is set in 1971. There was a new boy in Frannie's 6th grade class and he was white. The kids took to calling him Jesus Boy and he has longer hair than the other boys. 

The school bully decided to pick on him, of course, but Jesus was not one to just let himself be bullied. 

You can tell that Frannie was torn about doing the right thing and making it easier for the new guy. She was after all, the new girl once too. She knew it was right to invite him to sit at lunch together - or during break. But she couldn't do it. Well, at least not right away. I don't remember the way I think when I was that young. Do kids really hesitate to approach the new boy or girl? Aren't kids normally curious?

Anyway. Frannie knew how to do hand signs because that's how she communicated with her older brother Sean. It looks like he is a handsome, and is really good at basketball. Girls always had smiles for him, but when they realize he couldn't hear them, they tend to walk away. Frannie hates that. She thinks they are stupid girls. But she knows it's just because they didn't know her brother the way she does. 

At a very young age, Frannie understood that we tend to look at people who are different from us a certain way - but that's just because we don't understand everything about them. She had a conversation with her brother about bridges across two worlds. A bridge from the African American side of the tracks to the other. A bridge between the hearing and non-hearing world. 

At first Frannie couldn't get that Sean sees her as already living in both worlds - the hearing, and the non-hearing world. Sean didn't want to be confined to just his side. He wants to be able to live the normal life too. 

Their mother got pregnant, and this worried them a lot. She had had miscarriages before, and those experiences took her away from her living kids because of how sad she was. But this time was different. Mom was getting better and the baby was thriving. Frannie learned that there is hope. 

Hope is the thing with feathers... It always comes. It flies around. Up and down. All it needs is the right timing, an upwind. And it soars again. Hope is like that. It is never truly lost.