Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

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. 
  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cancer is a Bitch by Gail Konop Baker

Cancer is such a bitch isn't it? This novel by Gail Konop Baker says just that. It shows us what goes on in a mother's mind as she struggles through the discovery of lumps in her breasts, a diagnosis, and the subsequent recovery. 



It isn't always easy - what do you say in front of a person with cancer? What do you say to her family? It doesn't matter what we say - unless it's about a cure. So I guess we shouldn't worry and just be there for them. 


In one of the chapters, the couple goes to a dinner party and she notices how different some people treat her now - after the diagnosis. And it can get overwhelming. She welcomed this one person who didn't know yet because he treated her exactly like he used to. And I guess that is important too. Although we make them feel special, or let them know that we care about them - it's also important that they feel normal. Some kind of normal. 


I have mixed feelings about this book. I tend to agree to other reviews that say it is more about the woman's midlife crisis, more than it was about the cancer. While I was reading, I kept thinking about the 5 year old girl from the book Notes Left Behind, another family's journey with childhood cancer. No two stories are alike, of course, and one's experience isn't more valid than another's. So it's not that I want to compare the two stories - but I can't help but recall Notes Left Behind because it so touched my heart. 


I really don't think there is any family out there that is completely untouched by Cancer. Somehow, each one of us is related to or knows someone who has been affected by any of its form. What else is similar among these experiences? That feeling that life is suspended - until recovery, or death. But that shouldn't be the case, no? No one means for it to be that way, it just happens. 

I guess when you set out to read a book that deals with a life-threatening illness, you expect to come out learning a lesson or two. About how we should live the life we are meant to live now, instead of waiting. And how our choices determine our future, but that ultimately, we aren't in control of everything. In it's own way, this book tells you that, and a bit more. 

                                                    

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.

fidelity

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!