Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather were, by the time I read this book, familiar characters to me already. It is only in this book though that their characters were really introduced. I am a Maeve Binchy fan and I have read a number of her novels (read my reactions to Tara Road,  and Circle of Friends. I also read Quentins but didn’t seem to have written about it), and at least in Tara Road, I remember Scarlet Feather making an appearance. It’s nice to have this specific novel really focus on Tom and Cathy this time around.

I like both Cathy and Tom because they didn’t give up on their dream of setting up the best catering gig in town. I like that they are doing something that they both love and have such passion for. I especially love that they are in the food business. Someday, I’d like to follow suit.
No, I have no dreams of cooking and catering lavish parties. But I do want to be a better baker and maybe make a living through it. Dreams. Smile
In the beginning of the story, we met a cast of characters that are as diverse as a bag of nips. One thing was certain though, both Cathy and Tom were in loving relationships with their respective partners. Forgive me for this spoiler (stop reading if you’d rather read of the outcome instead), but in the other books, Tom and Cathy were not only business partners but romantic partners as well. So I knew that Cathy was eventually going to divorce Neil, and Marcella and Tom would cease to be a couple. So all the while, I was waiting for the event that would signal their separation. And when it happened, I felt no sense of loss over Cathy’s marriage to Neil, or Tom’s gorgeous Marcella. To me, those couples were mismatched. They wanted different things out of life and the only thing that really tied them together was their love for each other. I never really believed that love is enough to keep any relationship going. So when it was apparent that they weren’t willing to immerse themselves in each other’s lives, it wasn’t going to work for long.
Maud and Simon are young twins who figure prominently in the story. They are actually Neil’s cousins, but Cathy’s family ended up caring for them. Truly, their story shows how sometimes, it’s not your own biological family that will have your best interests at heart. They do mean well, and love you, but they just don’t have the capacity to care for you in the way that you need to be cared for. Sad, but it happens. But theirs also had a happy ending, of course. Smile
Like other Maeve Binchy novels that I’ve read and loved, this novel is an intricate weave of stories with a generous sprinkling of love, and allows a closer look at different types of relationships.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Faithful by Kim Cash Tate

Thank you to BookSneeze for sending me a copy of this book to read and review.


When I read the first line of the book, I found it a bit funny that it was another book that reminded me of wedding season. Smile I’d just read and reviewed and The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life, and there I was, reading about another wedding. Yet Faithful is not really about weddings, or marriages. I guess not of the husband and wife variety.

Although it talks about Cyd, a smart and beautiful 40-year old single woman who has almost given up on her dream of settling down with a husband and kids; or her friend Dana who had the perfect marriage that was all of a sudden shaken to the core; or Phyllis, who almost gave up on her husband who didn’t have the same faith in the Lord that she did, but was nonetheless faithful to their marriage, and; of the new marriage of Stephanie – Faithful is more than about being faithful to your partner. It’s about being faithful to God.

The topic of sex outside of marriage was integral to this book, and that was treated through Christian views. To be honest, it was a bit too Christian for me. What I mean is, it was quite preachy at times. Basically, it says that having sex outside of marriage (fornication) is being unfaithful to God. I’m sure that other folks that tend to be liberal would find it difficult to go through the entire novel. Surprisingly though, despite feeling it becoming preachy, I still finished it. Kudos to the author for effectively keeping the reader hooked. I guess that if you strip out the evangelization parts in the novel, anyone could relate to the stories told.

Truthfully though, I got curious, what does the Bible really say about sex? Oh well.

My favorite character in the book has got to be Phyllis because she was the one who showed the most humanity. She wasn’t perfect. She joined a Church and built her faith through its teachings while her husband remained an outsider. For years she prayed that he finds God too. But it gets to a point where their differing beliefs become a source of tension in their marriage. And when she sees another Christian man, an ideal Christian partner, she starts imagining life with him and resents her husband.

She’s my favorite and yet I hated her too. Hated that she entertained such thoughts, that she dared stay with her husband while deep inside she was judging him. The husband was not doing anything wrong, in fact it was she who was being unfaithful to their marriage. She was the Christian wife, but she was having un-Christian thoughts. Though nothing happened with her and the other man, she had already sinned against her marriage. And I don’t think she ever admitted that to her husband, or to her friends.

Still, Phyllis found a happy ending. Just as her friends did. That might be where the novel fails. I know that the message is to keep faith in the Lord because he grants your prayers only at the right time. But it doesn’t deliver the message that sometimes, the answer to our prayers is not exactly what we hoped they would be. That sometimes, the happy ending comes way after devastation.

I again found myself envying the strong bond of friendship that the women in this novel shared. In The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life,  it was Sunday nights at Clyde’s over rounds and rounds of drinks. Here, it’s in fellowship and prayer that they strengthened their bonds. Two different ways of nurturing friendships, and yet still the same.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life by Kerry Reichs


I went somewhere last week where I anticipated having to wait awhile, so I grabbed a book from my growing to-be-read pile before heading out of the house. The lucky book was Kerry Reichs’ The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life.

Here’s a blurb from the book’s page at Harper Collins:

Despite being cursed with a boy's name, Kevin "Vi" Connelly is seriously female and a committed romantic. The affliction hit at the tender age of six when she was handed a basket of flower petals and ensnared by the "marry-tale." The thrill, the attention, the big white dress—it's the Best Day of Your Life, and it's seriously addictive. But at twenty-seven, with a closetful of pricey bridesmaid dresses she'll never wear again, a trunkful of embarrassing memories, and an empty bank account from paying for it all, the illusion of matrimony as the Answer to Everything begins to fray. As her friends' choices don't provide answers, and her family confuses her more, Vi faces off against her eminently untrustworthy boyfriend and the veracity of the BDOYL.

Eleven weddings in eighteen months would send any sane woman either over the edge or scurrying for the altar. But as reality separates from illusion, Vi learns that letting go of someone else's story to write your own may be harder than buying the myth, but just might help her make the right choices for herself.

Initially, I thought this was similar to 27 Dresses. The similarity was there, especially in the beginning, but soon enough you’ll find that it’s not just about a girl’s wedding fantasy.

If you think it’s crazy that Vi had to attend so many weddings, well, I happen to believe that it is possible. There is such a thing as wedding season. In my life, it happens to be now. I haven’t had to attend as many as she did, but there’d been quite a number of weddings in my life recently too. Around March last year, my best friend told me about her engagement and she got married March this year. In July 2009, a cousin who has been living in the States with his family (wife and kids) came home to give his wife a grand Church wedding. A few weeks later, another friend had her marriage blessed in Church with a fun wedding (some pictures here).Smile

A month later, August, I attended the wedding of a high school friend. In December, Alfred and I were at a work friend’s nuptials.

In March 2010, one of Alfred’s best buddies got hitched, as well as my best girl friend (mentioned above; these are two separate weddings). This July, it was another sweet girl friend’s turn to say I do (pictures in this post). It doesn’t end there. One more girl friend will be walking down the aisle next month. Smile

Then of course, there’ll be my brother’s wedding (this year), and God-willing, mine (next year).

See, if it isn’t wedding season, then I don’t know what it is. Smile

It wasn’t the craziness of all those weddings in the novel that got to me, it was how such amazing friends Vi has that did. Seriously. They have a regular Sunday night drinking session at Clyde’s and they almost always are able to dissect whatever crisis Vi finds herself in. Had Vi not found (spoiler alert!) her dreamy Man, it would have felt okay because she has her A-Team.

I also didn’t get turned off with weddings the way she did (in Pinoy speak, naumay sya sa kasal). But it did make me rethink about what I want to happen in what might be, the best day of my life. Who will be bridesmaids? How will we pay for all of it? Haha.

In the end, it isn’t the ceremony that’s thrilling, nor the festivities leading to the wedding or the after-party. It’s the knowledge that you’ve got the one that’s worth celebrating. I know that now, he knows it too. Who needs a grand wedding?

But it ain’t as easy to dismiss as that. Like many other girls, I have dreams of dreams of a beautiful and fun wedding too. I still do.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two New Books!

I don’t remember when the mail man brought me the notice, but I found out early this week that two packages have arrived for me.

mail books (1280x717)

The Post Office kept them for me and I have to personally pick them up from their QC depot. Oh-kay. It’s a little out of the way so I had to plan to go there just to get my packages. Though there was nothing on the note to say what the package was about, I already knew what they were. My BookSneeze goodies. Smile

Of course, I was secretly wishing they were something else too. Maybe someone sent me a gift I’d been wanting to have. Or notification of winnings of a free trip to a ranch in Texas or elsewhere. It was on Wednesday when I found the break to go to the Post Office. The office doctor sent me home because he says my URTI was still contagious. Upon arriving back home, my parents were getting ready to leave for work. Since the way to my dad’s office is near the Post Office, I asked him if he could take me to where I needed to go. He gladly obliged.

On the way there, I was imagining my fantasy trip to a ranch.  I blame it on my crazy Pioneer Woman induced bake-a-thon (recipes were mostly hers) in the past two weeks. Smile I’d be picked up by a cowboy, but his mount would be a Chevrolet Silverado instead of a real big horse. The ranch would be a an hour’s drive from the airport but it would take us longer. The truck would need a brake job and we’d had to stop by a Dallas auto repair shop to have it done.

The ranch I’d be going to would have a lodge just like P-Dub’s. A guest house fit to be in the ranks of the best bed and breakfasts in the world, only better. But I won’t be living the cowboy lifestyle. No wake up calls before dawn to greet the cattle. Just late sleep-ins, and learning to cook and bake  in the cast show kitchen of the lodge. Smile

Now I wasn’t able to dwell on this fantasy because we’d arrived at the Post Office soon enough. And well, like a ranch, it is quite isolated too. There’d be no hope of getting a cab after taking care of business (my dad had to go to work after dropping me off). I guess that’s why tricycles are stationed right outside the gate.

So I went in the building that didn’t look too old (not ancient) yet the facilities looked so dated (duh, what facilities?). The post office is in such sorry state I couldn’t bring myself to take photos. I found the appropriate window, signed the forms and paid 80 pesos (4o per package). A few minutes and a third window later (all three windows just side by side really), the personnel handed me my unopened packages. Uhm, I paid for Customs handling fee because they needed to inspect them. Yet, they just looks at the unopened envelopes, declared that a book was in each of them, and that was it. Couldn’t they have determined that without me having to go there?

I appreciate that they didn’t open them at all, and would have only done so in my presence, but…. Ahh. Never mind the cost of the taxi fare home, and the fee I paid. I got the books for free after all. Here they are:

twobooks (1280x713)

I’m just reading something right now before I start on these two (they get to be prioritized because I must write a review).  So there should be at least three new reviews in the next two weeks. SmileStay tuned for those!