Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical fiction
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5 stars)



Not all books can leave emotional aftershocks in their wakes. Not all novels possess a haunting two-edged beauty, the kind that offers a poignant balm right after inflicting a hundred little bruises on your heart. Not all stories can render you so weak-kneed with wonder that you have no choice but to let it brand itself as your literary waterloo.

Indeed, not all books are like All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr’s tour de force that reminded me of the very reasons why I still love trudging through contemporary literature.

The novel is a twofold tale of young souls ensnared in the horrors of World War II. On one hand it tells the story of blind French girl Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a museum locksmith’s daughter who joins the resistance and may be in possession of a dangerous jewel being hunted down by Nazi looters. On the other, it narrates the life of German orphan Werner Pfennig whose talent in radio mechanics wins him a place in a brutal academy for the Hitler Youth and in the battlefield as a resistance tracker. It is in war-torn Saint-Malo, France, that their paths converge.

I must admit that at first, All the Light We Cannot See felt like an impenetrable fortress to me. Doerr’s writing style deviates from the ones I have encountered before; it felt tad baroque and its chapters are cleaved in staccato sequences, making it a misfit among the tones of many twee bestsellers nowadays. But once I managed to adjust (possibly with the help of changing my reading environment from the chaos of rush-hour commute to pre-bedtime hush), going through the pages is as easy as dipping a hand into water. Since then, I could not remember finishing a passage without admiring its almost lyrical structure.

The imagery is so vivid that the heroine’s blindness does not appear to be an inconvenience at all. Every description would make you feel like the power of your senses, save the sight, is magnified a hundredfold. Here, Marie-Laure believes slices of peaches taste like “wedges of wet sunlight”; here, soldiers trapped in darkness for days tremble to catch a glimpse of starlight like they needed it to live, to breathe.

There’s dichotomy in it, too. The sentences might carry the exquisiteness of poetry but the grisly truths embedded in them uncover a kind of ugliness you would not want to look in the eye; it is war, after all. This is especially evident in Werner’s chapters. Descriptions fade out from the sunflowers’ “praying heads” to the piles of corpses cushioning prisoners’ train cars, from majestic breeds of birds to the bleeding bullet hole in the head of an innocent little girl. Doerr utilized his knowledge in just about everything—radios, diamonds, literature, avian species, puzzles, guns, locks—and stretched his spectrum of adjectives to bring clear pictures of WWII from two very different vantage points.

Plot-wise, the book unfurls slowly. The scenes do not always charge along with action, but the way Doerr cuts back and forth in time provides a steady supply of thrill and suspense. Doerr also managed to squeeze in a little fantasy-esque element that gave the story a hint of modernist flavor.

Its ensemble of characters showcased lifelike multidimensionality. More than flesh and bones, they are made up of layers of idiosyncrasies, fears, doubts, dreams, and hopes—the last two being undervalued commodities whose owners often get ridiculed. The leads are well-shaped. Instead of making Marie-Laure a walking magnet for sympathy, Doerr wrote her as an incarnation of strength and childlike hunger for adventure. Many characters recognize her courage and power despite her sightlessness, an assessment that she often seems to downplay.

Werner, my favorite, is a lithe embodiment of conflict-marred innocence. Marie-Laure may be the easiest to build emotional skeins with, but Werner for me still pops up as the most human. He is overflowing with dreams and hopes but the circumstances he is in caused apprehension to be an all-pervading disease in his system, making him clamp his aspirations down. He trades sheer compliance in their stead, in effect stripping him off the stereotypical brash hero mold. It is as if he stops believing he owns his life. Only when he crosses paths with Marie-Laure does he manage to wake up and convert all these thoughts, snagging a proper hero status in the process.

The combination of Marie-Laure’s unshakeable self-assurance and Werner’s meek surrender to austere rules does not only reflect a trait-masculinity swap, it also displays Doerr’s deftness in illustrating facets of the human heart and how fragile they are when faced with something that forces to alter them. The duo’s main attributes, including the chief changes in them, are captured in a piece of their brief conversation:
[Marie-Laure] says, “When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
He says, “Not in years. But today. Today maybe I did.”
I treasure this unconventional Boy-Meets-Girl moment unreservedly. More than five hundred pages and their meeting only lasted for what, a couple of chapters or so? It was not forced. It was short albeit magical, and the connections leading to that one moment is adeptly weaved by the author. It also reflects a grain of bittersweet truth in life: the universe might ink thousands of prologues and it will still hold no promise that your once-upon-a-time will last more than half-a-page, nor will it wrap up in a true happy-ever-after.

Aside from the two main protagonists, I have also grown to like Jutta, Werner’s precocious sister who intrepidly questions things about the important happenings in that era; and the German soldier Frank Volkheimer, who will probably tog off almost all items in a villain qualifications list except that he turns out to be a ‘friendly ally’ version of Goliath to Werner’s David. (I understand Volkheimer is taciturn by nature, but I wished the readers are given more glimpses of his insights!)

Just like the puzzles and miniature scale models of metropolises that Marie-Laure’s father constructs for her, All the Light We Cannot See’s intricacy is a beauty in itself. It is hard to put into words how enchanting the whole thing is. At the end, quick peeks at the present time answer some of the readers’ post-war questions—it shows that time can heal some wounds but it can offer no immunity when a memory decides to slice them open again; that language can be so inadequate when it brings up memories of the past; and that life is indeed worth living no matter what.

It has been a long time since I last read a gem as spellbinding as this; I will be sure to pick up more of Doerr’s other works. Five stars for an amazing read!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Giving Journal 2.0

The busy lot can see it from afar like a pack of mad buffaloes: the entrance of new year spells new sets of to-do’s, goals, and events. In order not to get lost in another chaos of e-reminders and the clutter of cheap sticky notes (which are universally known to betray their name when they somehow decide to pretend like leaves in autumn), I got myself a new planner. And just like last year, I got the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s Giving Journal.

CBTL’s 2014 and 2015 Giving Journal

May I confess something? CBTL’s 2014 Giving Journal is the first planner that I was able to use from start to end. My previous planners/diaries often get, say, neglected halfway through the year. I think there’s just so much going on with the Giving Journal that tied me to it to the end, particularly the way it encourages its owner to live a balance life through reflections, weekly habits, and challenges. This is contrary to a regular planner’s purpose of just focusing on ticking off every item in a to-do list. It proved to be very helpful considering that I did manage to improve some areas in my life (i.e. health and fitness) so I decided to get their 2015 edition.

I’m also a sucker for good designs! When I found out that last year’s journal resembles a coffee shop menu chalkboard—complete with its texture and white chalk smudges—I knew I just had to get it. This year’s journal is a little simpler than the last, but its minimalistic design is still appealing. Oh, and I always choose the brown ones. :)


A peek into my GJ-2015

I have started using my new Giving Journal after completing the twelve stamps I needed to acquire it. Here is the first calendar-panels spread of the planner, featuring the last three days of 2014 continuing to 2015:



For the curious, the doodle on the right-hand side is about my current “Doerr Hangover” as induced by Anthony Doerr’s bestselling novel All the Light We Cannot See. The text contains lines lifted from the draft of my book review for it; the scribbled little boy there is my favorite character, Werner Pfennig. This year’s planner provides extra blank pages, so I think it is going to be a true-blue cross between a journal and an art book.


A peek into my GJ-2014

Another confession? Initially, the purpose of this post is so I can share some doodles and handwritten typography from my last Giving Journal. Unlike the previous years, I barely posted any art in 2014 so I thought about making up for it at the last minute. Then I figured it would not hurt sharing something about the journal itself, so that’s what I did. :)

Anyhow, I only included ones that are mostly lyrics from some songs that I have probably listened to while working or quotes that I use to encourage myself when I anticipate long, hard slogs in particular months. I have better drawings, but they contain a few info that I deem a little too personal to post here. Hope these ones will suffice!

page01

From left to right, clockwise: a line from Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know; a line from Paramore’s Last Hope; a calendar panel showing my birthday; and a line from Automatic Loveletter’s Parker.

page02

Above features a line from The Submarine’s song Sub-Symphonika; below is reminder of what my attitude should be on October, a rather busy month in our office.

___

I missed working on real art, and hopefully in the coming year I will be able to find the time to do just that. Happy new year, folks! *scoots out and tries to finish other year-end posts*

Review: The History of Love

Author: Nicole Krauss
Genre: Drama, contemporary
My rating: ★★★★(4 of 5 stars)



What started it all are the buzz and overflowing love it received from countless bookworms I know. The gushing accolades colored me curious and the recommendations kept coming, so I picked it up. I know I would be in for a different kind of read from the very first pages; the characters proved to be charm-on-two-legs in the maze-like structure of the story, and the story itself seem to tell the reader that it also has its own personality. Halfway through, I know it has built itself a special space in my heart. And that, my fellow readers, is my history of love for Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love.

The novel’s narration was cleaved into three: one following precocious fourteen-year-old Alma Singer and her journey to find the cure for her mother’s unhappiness, which she thinks lies in a certain book called (surprise, surprise!) The History of Love; one from the perspective of a lonely old writer named Leo Gursky who is trying to survive a little bit longer; and one detailing some kind of behind the scenes that provide catalysts that will cause the collision of Alma’s and Leo’s narratives.

There are so many things to love about this novel. I particularly enjoyed how the author crafted the character of Leo—he is as hilarious as he is heartbreaking. I remembered moments where I am not so sure if the tears stinging my eyes were caused by joy or sympathy, and I’m commending the author for that. Alma, on the other hand, talks a lot like a nosy kid who is always ready for an adventure. She is the proof that Krauss carries a talent in characterization, as she is able to fully provide two distinctive, believable voices that can tug at the heartstrings of their audiences.

I also like the existence of Leo’s The History of Love as a book within a book, and I could only wish it exists in real life too. As usual, only small parts of it are offered in the novel. It contains chapters describing an imaginary albeit cute chronicle of human affection, consisting of ''The Age of Silence,'' during which people communicated only by gesture; the “Age of Glass,'' when ''everyone believed some part of him or her to be extremely fragile”; and ''The Age of String,'' when ''it wasn't uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations.'' All women who pop up in these vignettes are named Alma, named after the girl that Leo loves, and who is also (obviously) the namesake of our little heroine.

To be quite honest, there is not much to say about the storyline. It unfolds like an origami containing a secret message, one whose main contents you already know but you still want to see because you know it will contain surprises that only a writer like Krauss could concoct. When these surprises finally sprang to greet me, they proved to be so emotionally wrenching that I cannot help but stop for a while and breathe.

My favorite parts are near the end, where each alternating chapter becomes short strings of quotes and glimpses into the minds of Alma and Leo as they begin to meet. The ending is subtle, peaceful, but ultimately meaningful.

Four stars for a satisfying read!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mystery Manila: The Spirit Questor Adventure

When Halloween creeps up on the calendar, documentaries about otherworldly mysteries and the paranormal world are given a much larger chunk of airtime than usual. I loved watching these shows as a kid. Sure, for the most part I covered my face with my hands and tried to catch glimpses of the telly between the gaps in my fingers, but I did love them! I even had a fleeting desire to experience being a psychic—to be a “serious” ghost-busting expert that talk show hosts interview about lost spirits.

Years and years later, who would have thought that the dream-I-didn’t-really-want-to-come-true would, you know, sort of come true? And I signed up for it! Together with my friends Kit, Joanna, and our ‘office dad’ Sir Vic, we formed the group “Fat@Team” and booked  an adventure at Mystery Manila, the first live escape room game in the country.

Mystery Notepad MessagesMessages of the ex-“spirit questors” and ex-“kidnap victims” for Rebecca’s Room 
and Sinister Sensorium, respectively

We chose "Rebecca’s Room". For sixty minutes, we took on the roles of spirit questors that will investigate the mysterious disappearance of the tenant Rebecca Rubio and the hauntings in her room.

Since our office is just a few buildings away from the venue, we arrived a handful of minutes shy of an hour before our booked schedule. I think the Mystery Manila team chose the right place to put up their Makati branch—G. A. Yupangco building looms like a semi-abandoned establishment from a distance. You’d half-expect someone (or something) who doesn’t belong to your group to poke you during your short ride in the old-school elevator, and you’d get the feeling that there are eyes watching you while you walk down the corridors, what with all of Yamaha School of Music’s sketched portraits of classical artists hanging on the walls.

Mystery Leaderboard A round of applause for these awesome people!

Rain, one of Mystery Manila’s staff, briefed us about what to do in Rebecca’s Room. I had zero idea about the whole thing when we arrived there; I stayed away from reviews on the ‘Net because I wanted a very memorable firsthand experience. Rain gave us a news clipping of Rebecca’s disappearance and let us watch the trailer/preview for the game, and then we were all set. Before we took on the challenge, though, we were asked who among us love kids (all fingers pointed to me) and Rain gave us meaningful smiles, mentioning something about encountering a little child in there that would remind us of the Japanese horror flick The Grudge.

(I pointed out that I kind of liked Toshio, the little boy-spirit who screams like a cat in the film, but it turned out Rain is referring to the other ghost. Yes, the one with the blood-drenched face who creeps up on you under the blanket. So. NOPE. One BIG NOPE for me.)

Fat-a-TeamFat@Team’s notepad footprint on Mystery Manilas’s wall

As much as I want to relay our story in detail, I'm allowed no game spoilers here. For clues you would be communicating with Rebecca and the entity haunting the room through their own brand of ESP, which in our time translates to using a cellphone with a sensor to read near-field communication (NFC) stickers on the walls. The painted Stars of David and other symbols all over the place gave me the feeling I’m in a Supernatural episode…not as one of the Winchesters though, but as a member of the amateur Ghostfacers. Sam and Dean would probably scoff at us while we do our thing, haha!

What happened in the room to us was akin to something out of horror-comedy movie...or its blooper reel, rather. Our bloodcurdling screams would automatically be followed by laughter and break-the-fourth-wall comments (i.e. when a scary audio file plays on the phone and Sir Vic tells us about it, he’ll read out the the file name and how it’s ‘performed’ by an ‘Unknown Artist’).

Oh, and we tinkered with the locks in a way that would make a rookie thief look like he’s the best burglar in the world. When we found out there’s a secret passageway after successfully opening the last lock, we made every possible reason to not enter it. We assumed we’ll encounter the Grudge-esque kid in there so Sir Vic blurted out a funny “Takot ako sa bata! (“I’m scared of kids!)”, even if he has four kids of his own. Me? I have my “Claustrophobic ako! (I’m claustrophobic!)” even though I’m not, right after I saw that the passageway looked like a tiny, cobweb-shrouded tunnel. Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of imagination. It’s all that halted us from entering right away.

After minutes of stalling, I crept inside and realized it wasn’t as small as I thought.  When I reached the end of the first way and it dawned on me that I have to turn to another corner, I got crept out and shrieked that there’s an “eskinita” or alleyway where the kid (which I have unwittingly nicknamed “baby girl”) would probably come from to spring on us. I stood in place, not willing to see “baby girl” yet unless the whole group is with me already.

MYMANILA

But alas, time ran out and we weren’t able to solve the mystery. Rain told us we were so close to solving it—but not after chuckling and commenting on how I looked like after crawling out of the passageway. It was only when they turned on the lights that I realized I was brandishing an empty bottle of Vaseline lotion in my right hand and a coverless Danish cookie tin can in the other, making me look like I’ve prepped myself with a makeshift sword-and-shield combo before meeting the ghost girl.

I swear, it’s not like I planned on hurting her or something.

All in all it was an amazing, exciting hour! We failed to solve the mystery but we succeeded in making this a very fun experience. We all agreed on coming back to Rebecca’s Room just to see the end of the game and—you know, despite being the bunch of scaredy cats that we are—to see “baby girl”. But of course, we’ll need to try out Sinister Sensorium first. ;)

I was told all rooms in their Makati branch were fully booked for the Halloween. But hey, fun and adventure knows no season, right? Go and try it! Visit Mystery Manila’s Facebook page for more info.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: Invisible Monsters Remix

Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: ★★★★ (4 of 5 stars)

InviMonsters Photo by maddiespictures

A reentry to Chuck Palahniuk’s universe after long stays in more run-of-the-mill (though not necessarily less entertaining) worlds in literature can send you a refreshing bolt of shock, reminding you of this author’s forte. He doesn’t hold back. He removes filters. He scrunches your eyes open as he exposes all the possible ugly truths in anything you may find beautiful. Sometimes, he makes you realize that ugly truths are the exact reasons why things are beautiful in the first place.

These realizations came back when I read Invisible Monsters Remix. I’ve been meaning to read Invisible Monsters for a long time, but I somehow got distracted by other genres—the lighter ones, those that spell the meaning of “escape” instead of those that enumerate why you really can’t get away from reality even through books.

In a recent book fair, I chanced upon a copy of Invisible Monsters’ “director’s cut” edition, Remix. The cover features a skinny blonde model whose disheveled hair was brushed to cover about three-fourths of her face, one dark eye staring out passively for dramatic effect. There was a bit of red paint over the picture to make for an illusion of carelessly smudged lipstick, a wonderful symbol for the book’s subjects if you ask me: the protagonist’s “post-accident” appearance, the fashion industry, the complexity of sexuality,  plastic surgery, and violence (that paint could actually be blood and not lipstick at all…or maybe it’s both, who knows?). The texts’ jagged font looked as if a lipstick was used to write them. My point is, everything about the cover drew me in. It’s just too Palahniuk to resist, the bits I said about beauty and ugliness above present in it. Even if I haven’t read the edited version, I bought the book without second thoughts.

Invisible Monsters Remix revolves around the story of a fashion model whose career and charmed life came to a halt when an “accident” leaves her disfigured and unable to speak. She becomes friends with pill-popping Brandy Alexander, and together they travel—conning people, rummaging big houses for drugs, and in the end finding out who they really are and what significant roles they play in each other’s lives.

The chapters jump around literally; there are footnotes telling you to turn to this chapter or that, almost in a Choose Your Own Adventure style minus its alternate-endings effect. The first release of Invisible Monsters years ago wasn’t as topsy-turvy as this; however, Remix contains Palahniuk’s original vision of the novel so I was content to have read it first. The structure’s purpose is to make it so that it resembles a magazine to complement its subject matter. It doesn’t affect the story in a major way, and to be honest I think Palahniuk didn’t have to do that at all, since the contents of every chapter jump around in time and dimension anyway.

Typical of Palahniuk’s characters, everyone in this book is screwed up in one degree or another. I wanted to fully grasp the narrator’s way of thinking, but it just drifts farther and farther away from normal as the chapters go (but then again, I wouldn’t blame her after everything that has happened to her). She projects as a mad example for the society’s obsession with attention the same way Brandy Alexander is an icon for the society’s obsession with beauty and perfection.

Story-wise, I fell in love with it. The narrator spews out the tale in staccatos of flashbacks and vivid imagery that held the plot intact until the bittersweet end. This is one of the few books I’ve read that contain more than one major plot twist that didn’t come out as lame or forced—at every reveal, I find myself wanting to release a thread of curses. I love how in his best satirical approach, Palahniuk showed that grit and glam are the conjoined twins of the reality of everything and everyone that values beauty as a very important “commodity.”

For a very satisfying read, I’m giving Invisible Monsters Remix four stars.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Latest Book Haul!

The anatomy of my bookshop trips used to consist of (1) a new novel tucked in my arm, (2) my wallet a few bills lighter, and (3) a wee whisper in my ear that urges me to start reading the book in my commute home. Now that I have towers of to-be-reads that may or may not be collecting dust bunnies at home, I make it a point to stop…hoarding…for a while and start ticking off the Unreads List.

BUT when you have an annual event like the Manila International Book Fair or MIBF, it’s hard not to splurge. Everything on the shelves is discounted and your money felt more and more like a transient thing in your pocket every passing minute—and you don’t care. There’s no way to tame a bookworm’s inner junkie in a place like that.

That's But 01. But 02 is: when you feel a bit under the weather and you need something to cheer you up.




Because to tell you the truth, I only bought a handful of books from MIBF. The rest are either given to me as a gift or bought on occasions when I’m feeling  a tad sad. Yeah, I roll like that. Anyhoo, without further ado, here are a few information about each novel.
  1. The White Tiger by Aravind Diga. Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.
  2. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. Follows the story of Madison, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.
  3. Invisible Monsters: Remix by Chuck Palahniuk. Injected with new material and special design elements, this book fulfills Palahniuk's original vision for his 1999 novel, turning a daring satire on beauty and the fashion industry into an even more wildly unique reading experience. NOTE: I’m done reading this and I love it! Full review to follow!
  4. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. September returns to Fairyland where she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. Sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
  5. Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman. A collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds—collected and introduced by beloved New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.
  6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
  7. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Follows junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs.
  8. Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan. Collection of “witch” stories from the biggest names in fantasy and young adult literature, including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Diana Peterfreund, Margo Lanagan, Peter S. Beagle, and Garth Nix.
  9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Deftly interweaving the lives of the blind Marie-Laure and German orphan Werner set during WWII, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
  10. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. A tale about a disintegrating marriage and a phone call from the past—and not just from anyone’s past, it’s from the past self of the Georgie’s—the protagonist’s—husband. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but Georgie feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. (Thanks for the gift, Mamu Kit!)

Like a brainchild of Morpheus himself.

A Book is A Dream that You Hold in Your Hand

Hooray, Tagaytay!

Since late June, my friend Eliza and I began religiously sticking to our weekend morning routine—completing a minimum of 15 laps around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and, if the sun’s kind enough to not scorch our faces after 8:00 A.M., a round of seaside zumba.

This Saturday, however, we switched off our "health buff" mode for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Tagaytay City. The verdict? Super worth it! But with all those bulalo and mushroomburger goodness sitting on our bellies that night, we just had to go back to jogging the next day. Thank god it’s a holiday. :)


Up and eating in the ‘Sky’

Ferris Wheel
Wheel in the Sky.

With no itinerary or definite plans, we took a bus to Olivares and talked about wanting to try ziplining in one of the famous parks in the City. We planned to get off at the nearest tricycle bay where we could get a ride to Picnic Grove, Peoples Park, but the bus broke down and we had to transfer to another bus. Then this jeep came rushing in front of us, its barker yelling a thread of places that are unfamiliar to me except one: Sky Ranch. No argument between me and Eliza here: we just smiled at each other and hopped on.

There’s a crowd at the ticketing area when we arrived at Sky Ranch. Not wanting to join the then sun-drenched mob, we opted to have an early lunch.


Bulalo One does not simply miss eating bulalo when you’re in Tagaytay.

Craving for a bowl of hot bulalo, we sought for a place where we could get it without leaving Sky Ranch. Sandwiched between fastfood chains we found Leslie’s Restaurant—already jam-packed at 11:00 AM—and enjoyed our bowl of the tasty beef shank and marrow soup.

We prepared to line up at the ticketing area after lunch. However, we noticed how the crowds were not depleting and that the place was slowly being wrapped in fog. Now, we would like zipline through something that is…well, green. Not through sheets of white, cold smoke. Sky Ranch is okay, but we'd love to see trees while ‘soaring’ through the air. Eliza then suggested going to Picnic Grove, saying it’s greener there.

Lai and AiObligatory selfie with Eliza before leaving Sky Ranch :)

Eagle eyes

And it’s true! The place is lush and verdant, ideal for our coveted activity. So we bought our tickets, strapped on the harnesses, and off we go!

The moment we were launched forward, I felt like I was somewhat loaned the perspective of an eagle darting through the air. (Seriously, I couldn’t help but feel a tad poetic when I was there). Flying was an adulterated form of bliss—there was a refreshing kind of freedom in the experience, and I wished so hard it would last for more than a few seconds shy of three minutes. But hey, geniis nowadays require compensations too—400Php for a “two-way” trip? Next time, maybe. You didn't know? I'm a royal cheapskate.

ZiplineAnother bucketlist item ticked off :)

So yes, we did opt for a “one-way” zipline trip to the other side of the grove, squealing with excitement at the start and then keeping silent with awe as we drank in the beautiful surroundings.

Taal ViewingAdmiring the Little Beauty.

While waiting for our (free!) photograph, we took walks and marveled at beauty of the Taal Volcano from a distance. On our next trip here, Eliza promised, we’re going to take a boat ride to the Taal lake to get a closer look at it.

 IMG-20141005-01614 …of course, another obligatory selfie with Madamme.

HOME of the Orange Madonna

A few hours later, we decided to visit the Tierra de Maria Chapel in Nature’s Park that we passed on our way to Picnic Grove. Our attention was arrested by the fifty-foot orange image of Mother Mary—or more specifically, of Our Lady of Manaoag. We learned later on that the chapel was called HOME or the Haven of Meditation and Enrichment, and that many devotees from Manila and other cities are visiting the place for prayer and worship.

IMG_20141005_143506 Sending out sun-kissed stares.

The place was couched in a well-manicured flower garden. It was small, but it shelters a lot: there’s a symbolic “Wedding at Cana” wishing well, a religious store, different paintings of the Stations of the Cross, Forgiveness Corners, halls covered with the Calendars of Saints, and even a fish spa. People who visited are deep in solemn prayers; they were lining up to touch the image of Christ inside the Church (which, of course, I didn’t take a picture of out of respect).

Well and Stations 
Mama Mary's Religious Store

We got to take a closer look at the Mary statue because the chapel has a meditation deck on the third floor. From there, the Taal Volcano could also be seen.


We’re not only there for sightseeing, of course; we said our own prayers and wishes before leaving the place.


Chow again

Come merienda time, we’re craving for burgers: Mushroomburgers! Hey, they say calories don’t count on weekends, right? :)  The last time we went to this place, we were just wet-behind-the-ears college students on a trip with their favorite photography professor. In some form of salute to all the memories this place holds for us, we…gobbled down one burger each. Cheers!

Mushroomburger! I MISSED YOU!


Chow Time

Eliza got herself a Royal Burger with fries while I munched on the Mushroom Burger Melt with mushroom fries—the carbs are so going to hurl me back to square one on my ‘fitness routine’, but I didn’t care at that time. We had fun, talking about the trip and about the most random of things, ranging from how I spotted a guy that is a dead ringer of my DTI crush (What?! I allow my inner teen out sometimes) to how Elai is jokingly plotting pseudo-revenge on some girl, soap opera-style.

The sun was nearly gone when we got out the bustling diner. Before making our way to the Manila-bound buses in the nearest terminal, we bought pasalubongs (Loumars buko pie and tarts!), a few articles of clothing from an ukay-ukay, and tasty three-piece, almost-flour-free calamares on the sidewalk.

___

At the end of the day, when we have arrived in Manila, we promised to go back here and try all the other things we didn’t do here. Horseback riding? Cable car? Boat Riding? You name it. We’re all doing that on our next trip here. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bookwormism Update…at last!

Dear friends and fellow bookworms (if by some miracle you’re still coming here),

I’m back! I know it’s been ages since I last updated this or any of my other blogging sites. Aside from the important offline commitments that have temporarily divorced me from my laptop, I have submitted myself to a Social Media Sabbatical. I hoped it would help me de-stress and give me more time with my loved ones—and it did. After over three months of that, I thought it’s about time I come back.

Without further ado here’s one of the recent happenings in this booknut’s life:

New home for the babies!
After saying he had read one of my Facebook posts about wanting a new little home for my books (an actual joke I shot at a friend who asked me what I wanted for my birthday), my father built me a largish hanging bookshelf in my bedroom.

bookshelf01 - Copy

And of course, you didn’t think I’d miss taking a selfie with a “shelfie” when I finally have a decent mini-library in my bedroom now, right?

shelfie

Of course not. But to give this photo an excuse for a good purpose, here’s my current read: the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m 800 pages in and enjoying it! Theo Decker is a wonderfully flawed (albeit unlikable) character and I’m captivated by the way he handles the slew of ideas and memories in his head. It gives the narration a very real feel to it, almost as if the text is part of a transcript of some obsessed kid’s free-flowing thoughts.

The book’s a big doorstopper, though, and I could only plough through it slowly because I’ve got just my shuttle bus rides to work and an hour before bedtime as my reading time these days. :(

How about you guys? What are you reading?

____

(On the next Bookwormism Update, I'll talk about my recent acquisitions and my purchases at this year's Manila International Book Fair! Stay tuned!)

Book Review: The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5 stars)

bookjacket Book jacket design by Alex Gebhardt

Certain books can prove that back-cover blurb staples like “haunting”, “riveting”, and “powerful” are churned out especially for them. On the first read, you know they are a gem; on the second read, you’ll realize there are smaller precious treasures in them that you haven’t seen the first time you encountered before. It doesn’t matter how many times you have heard or read their tales; when you reach their last pages and you decide to dip into their worlds again, the experience would just amplify the reasons why bits of starred reviews are strewn on their covers.

Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner, is one of these books.

It is my second time reading this book, and I must say rediscovering its beauty is a satisfying reading experience. Walled by themes of love, friendship, family, and loyalty, The Kite Runner at its core is a long journey for hard-won self-redemption that our young Afghan narrator, Amir, embarked on. For the most part it is a raw bildungsroman starting in 1975; it zeroed in on Amir, his betrayal of his best friend Hassan, and how a single event followed and haunted him to adulthood.

With the tumultuous politics during the last days of monarchy and the subsequent invasion of Russian forces in their country as its backdrop, The Kite Runner stands out as a clear picture of Afghanistan at that time. Hosseini unfurls the story with an obvious fondness for his craft. There is warmth as he describes the then-peaceful Kabul, and there is poignancy in how the annual kite-fighting event somehow symbolizes the fragility of the unconventional friendship between the two main characters (it’s important to note that Amir is a well-to-do Pashtun while Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant).

Every page shows vivid brushstrokes of Afghan culture—colors that continue even when war broke out and marred the picture. With simple prose as his only tool, Hosseini doesn’t hold back in stringing [flinch-inducing] descriptions of violence the same way he doesn’t hold back when talking about agonies, of emotions that make a punching bag out of a young heart until its owner changes into a different person. That is one of the things I like the best about this book: Amir is as human as a human boy can get. He loves Hassan but he is weak and insecure; he falls prey to jealousy and fear for more times than he could count, and he would rather choose the safest way out…even if it means having to break a relationship he can never repair again.

Good plot twists abound, and there are no real dry moments in the book that would make a reader put this down. Moments that broke my heart the first time I read the book didn’t lose their hold on on me. It is that powerful.

As a whole, The Kite Runner is an account about seeking personal salvation and a historical piece that is relevant to our society even today. I’d read this book—in some of the words of one of the characters—“a thousand times over”.

Giving this novel a very well-deserved five out of five stars.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finally 23

“Wish I could give you some kind of foolproof Guide to Your 20's now,” I told my sister Aila when she turned 20 last August 1. “Unfortunately I think I still don't know squat from Shinola about life at this stage either. So...let's figure it out together?”

Turning 23-Blow the Candle Another year older.

I waved being a twenty-two-year-old goodbye last August 24 and here I am, still feeling like a lost little kid. There’s no point in denying it—I’m pretty much stuck in the same boat with my (not-so-) little sister, whom I sometimes felt is more confident trudging through this life than I am.

But hey, instead of diving headfirst into the melodrama preceding and tailing my 23rd birthday (I’m afraid I ran out of the best roundabout ways of saying I got one year older without sounding like a loser with Peter Pan syndrome), how about we take a peek at the little celebrations surrounding the date first?


Peace and quiet

Aside from the regular cake candle-blowing, the presents, greetings from neighbors and old friends, and the traditional distribution of pansit-filled takeaway tubs and ice cream cups, I celebrated a relatively quiet birthday at home.

AtMyKaffeWith my cousin at our newest “little pink haven”, MyKaffe

In the afternoon after going to church, my cousin and I dropped by this darling little cafe downtown and talked over bittersweet frappes until the sun set. We chatted about the most random of stuff, from planning things to execute in the near future and constructing little stories of the strangers passing by the coffee shop.

The day was as run-of-the-mill as it could get but it was both peaceful and fun, just the way I liked it. It has always been like this—I’ve never been much into booze (my alcoholic history so far consisted a triangulation of vodka-soaked chocolates, punch, and red wine) and loud stay-out-all-night parties since time immemorial. I prefer small celebrations with people close to my heart.


Signed with a “Smile”


It was quite the opposite at work. Two days before my birthday, I received a bouquet of roses and a typewritten letter from an unnamed sender.

Flowers?

And what a ruckus it caused! The bosses were not around that afternoon. I was the one signing and receiving packages—samples from stamp pad suppliers, memos from other offices, that kind of stuff. When the flowers arrived, I didn’t know they were for me.

Uy, roses!” I exclaimed with a smile when I saw them, signing the receiving stub a nice old lady handed me. I asked who I should give the flowers to, and was totally confused when she read my name from an envelope. My first reaction? “WHAT? But I didn’t order any flowers!”

I didn’t know what got into me but I began laughing my head off. My officemates flocked around me then, exchanging theories while examining the long-ish letter that was signed with nothing but a smiley face. I have zero idea who sent the gifts, but based on the note it was someone I interacted with in another office. It was a tad creepy, I admit, but it was sweet all the same. I thought the sender wrote the letter with utmost honesty; it carried a somewhat apologetic tone, with a timidly hinted promise of someday revealing his identity. I’m not sure if  “Mystery Guy” is reading this right now, but if he is, I give him my heartfelt thanks!

(I pity those people my officemates pinpointed as “Prime Suspects”. There’s a guy in a neighboring office who got cornered a lot and forced to admit. The poor thing! But no, I didn’t think it’s him.)


‘Artist’ for a day


Two weeks later, we planned to prepare a gift for the DTI Secretary’s birthday. My immediate supervisor asked if I could make caricatures. Because I somewhat dabble in doodles and drawings, I said I could try.

After a nine-to-five seminar on the exact day I was told to finish the drawings, I opted for an overtime stay at the office. I was intent on burning the midnight oil but dear ol’ Morpheus loves me a lot, and it wasn’t long before I nodded off (two-and-a-half hours in dreamland, tops). Fortunately I managed to finish the whole thing the next day and was extra-relieved that the folks who requested it liked it.

'Artist' for a day “Signing” the finished caricatures

In truth, having the chance to draw again was a present in itself. When I started working as a government employee, I barely had the time to pick up color pencils or paintbrushes. Sure, I sometimes doodle in the margins of my old journal, but it wasn’t the same as finishing big drawings that people actually requested to be done. It was a refreshing feeling.

KMIS My ever-supportive officemates and the finished caricatures

Later in the afternoon, our director-in-charge called for a meeting. We’re all aware that since the arrival of our new DIC, it will be a tradition to bring cake for the celebrants of the month. Everyone was in what we call the “rush-ian” mode that day so I didn’t expect them to bring out the new ‘office surprise’. But they did; in fact, it was the second agenda of the meeting!

CAKEFIGHT-vert-vert With Tita Au, whose birthday is also on August 24

Groggy with sleeplessness and giddy with mirth, I sang along with the group when they belted out a raucous “Happy Birthday”, as if I’m not one of the two people they were singing it for. By the end of the song I was beginning to become sugar-buzzed again, as I was not-so-secretly snatching bits of icing from the corners of the treat.

BlowtheCandleAttempting to blow out the candle again after failing to do it the first time
(“Hey! I’m asthmatic, remember?”)


KMIS birthdayThe Knowledge Management Information Service (KMIS) family again

We ate, talked, and took a lot of pictures. I was still physically tired—we’d still have to move the desks afterwards because we’re starting the Big 5S Day that day—but somehow I didn’t feel like going away from the crowd and resting for microsleeps, like I usually do whenever I’m on “low-batt” mode. Somehow, the happy energy of these people are rubbing off on me. :)


And we get to the melodrama

When the celebratory aura temporarily peters out, I know I’d be thinking again. Over-thinking, actually. Who doesn’t?

It’s quarter-life crisis, they say. Going back to what I said to my sister, I know going through these years while having someone by your side—be it a sibling, a friend, or just someone who has the same lofty dreams—would cushion some of life’s succeeding blows. It doesn’t necessarily mean being dependent on the other person; just knowing you’re not alone ploughing through all of this, growing through all of this…well, it does make a difference, doesn’t it? Even a little bit?

I know what I want, and I’m figuring out what to do to get what I want. Like the average young adult, I’m just being assaulted by doubts, and I just have to win my small battles against them.

Anyhow, my birthday this year is full of thank-you’s and hopes. I’m aware I’m blessed and I’m grateful for that. There are people who love me, people I love back, people I love more than they love me, and people who—to quote a character from Orange is the New Black—“aren’t smart enough to be loved back.” (I kind of have loads to say about love too, but that’s topic for a separate post).

My stars are still up there, and giving up is not on this little dreamer’s vocabulary…and I don’t think it will ever be. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)

FangirlByRowellPhoto from Imgarcade 

No book screams “I’m your soulmate!” louder than one that requires zero effort to connect with you, the kind of story that makes you believe the author has planted a bug in your room so she can document your daily life. Expectations like this bubbled up when I picked up Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling “nerd power ballad”, the aptly titled Fangirl.

As what one can gather about the title, the proverbial fanatic lifestyle takes center stage in the book: gushing obsessively over fictional characters, staying up all night writing or reading fanfiction, creating fanart, buying collectibles, beefing up fandom vocabulary (I kid you not), and getting heavily involved in “shipping” (which, by the way, has got nothing to do with deliveries and packages). Cath, the main protagonist, has been living this life ever since she became a Simon Snow fan.

The Simon Snow series is a Harry-Potteresque magnum opus, complete with witches and wizards with a little bit of vampires thrown on the side. Cath and her twin sister Wren were addicted with the series—are in Cath’s case, since it seems like she’s the only one who still couldn’t let go of the fandom. Cath finds that college is a completely different world, and she’s going to have to go through it on her own. Wren doesn’t want to be roommates this time; she’s stuck with a cool albeit churlish roommate, an always-smiling farmboy who may or may not be her roommate’s boyfriend, an ambitious fiction-addicted classmate, and her dad whom she really can’t leave alone.

The book’s lynchpin zeroes in on Cath’s struggles as her current situation pries her out of her fandom-induced, antisocial-ish shell. It asks: Can Cath do this on her own?

A truly warmhearted tale, Fangirl can succeed in anchoring itself in the hearts of its target market. For one thing, Cath is easily a Tumblr girl! (What fandom-loving soul doesn’t frequent the Internet’s wild blue yonder that is the Tumblr nowadays?) Rowell knows all too well that the first big step in capturing your audience is to make your audience care for your character, and Cath is the perfect heroine she needs to achieve that goal.

However, you need more than a heart-magnet character to make a good story. I have no problems connecting with Cath; she’s practically 80% of what I was back when my time pie graph consists mostly of expanding my knowledge about my favorite shows and books. Reading about her is some kind of a throwback experience.

But as the story went on, my initial vise-like connection to her loosened up. The story went a tad dry in what I expected to be its “oases”—parts I hoped to shape Cath up not just as someone who is an exact, superficial mirror of most of its readers, but as a real person that could coax out genuine emotions in me. I hoped she would develop into someone I could connect with not because we are the same, but because I feel she’s a real person that I could perhaps talk to or console. But that did not happen; the story dragged almost uneventfully for a while, with random speed-hitches in moment-of-truth scenes.

Be that as it may, I think it still holds a charm that a true-blue fangirl/boy would not be able to resist. There’s love, there’s obsession, there are fears, and there are hopes. There’s a decent cast of characters too (Reagan is my personal favorite); there’s the constant presence of geeky ambiance, and the satisfying feeling of an outsider that is wholly accepted by someone as she is.

I liked how there are “excerpts” from the Simon Snow books, Cath’s fanfiction, and even some ‘Encyclowikia’ entries strewn across the novel. They were an entertaining bit of  Fangirl’s “reality”, pulling the readers closer to its universe and making them part of it. Thumb up for the major props! :)

I could not say I enjoyed Fangirl in its entirety, but since I liked it for the most part, I’m giving it three out of five stars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Truer than if they had really happened.

All Good Books are Alike

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Monday, May 12, 2014

Home is where the books are.

For booknuts like me, the closest thing to home is a place that is also home to books…especially if they’re pre-loved. This is why I didn’t hesitate to go when my friend MJ invited me to two such places in Quezon City one Saturday afternoon. :)

Bookay-ukay

Bearing a name that is a pun on the Filipino word for thrift store (“ukay-ukay”) this miniscule bookshop in the Maginhawa Street, UP Village is a piece of heaven for bookworms.

Bookay-ukay

Shelves

Bookay-Ukay houses an impressive arsenal of cheap reads and hard-to-find titles, both pre-loved and brand new. Being a perfect Happy Hunting Lit Ground, it’s understandable that the whole place will look like a horror house for folks with an OCD-ish tendency to treat books like precious babies—for people who delight in seeing paperbacks in their proper shelf spaces, neat and all spines out (for people like me, basically).

But I guess it’s part of the shop’s charm. I imagine regulars rummaging through the shelves to find a book with a title, back-cover excerpt, or even cover art that will strike a chord with them. When they do find it here—I call it literary serendipity—they’d be too happy that they’d somehow forget to set the books around their newfound treasure upright again.  :) Ah, the footprints of a book-hunt!

cyclist stops by

The bookmarks

Staying for a few more minutes made me wish I live nearer the place so I can visit as often as I want, without having to go through a migraine-inducing commute because of the heat and hassle. Aside from books, the shop also sells CDs of underground music artists and various photographed and hand-painted/drawn bookmarks, which range from cute to creepy. :)

stt

I didn’t get to buy books from there, as part of my pledge to NOT spend money for new titles as long as I still have a towering TBR novel stack at home (needless to say I’m proud of my self-control). Anyway, it won’t be the last time I’ll visit Bookay-Ukay. I’ll go here again sometime soon, hopefully after I’ve devoured at least half my “unreads”.


Cool Beans Cafe

A few minutes’ walk from Bookay-Ukay is the small but cozy Cool Beans Cafe.

There’s a  friendly sign on the door saying “Please wipe your shoes before entering :)”, which reminded me of one of my grandma’s little commandments involving her immaculate white floor and all the kids in the house with mud-caked feet.  If that doesn’t scream home (and nostalgia!), I don’t know what does.

interior

Cool Beans

Cool Beans’ mini-library shelters almost all lit genres you can think of: there are  history books, biographies, magazines, comics, art books, photography books, poetry, essay anthologies, novels (Haruki Murakami! Arundhati Roy! Neil Gaiman!), and even a bunch of self-help titles.

Its library-esque silence is only broken by relaxing music, the soft chitchats of its patrons, or someone’s drink being called out to them. And to my initial bafflement, the picture frames on the walls contain either nothing or just the filler paper indicating the frames’ sizes in inches and centimeters. Later on I thought it’s because they are maintaining that “soft launch” feel they were still bannering outside the cafe.

Cool Beans

pastries

Aside from their Highland coffees and frappes, they also sell pastries. MJ and I only get to try their red velvet cupcake, which admittedly wasn’t the best we’ve tasted. But hey, with a price like that, who’s complaining?

carbonara

Always on the prowl for the best pasta recipe around, I also tried out their Cheesy Mushroom Carbonara. For Php150’s the gigantic serving is enough for two. It’s quite tasty, too. :)

find

We sat there ‘til the sun set, just browsing through books and talking. The ambiance will make you stay for hours!

When it’s time to leave, I swore that I have to find more of cafes like this. :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review: Running with Scissors

Review: Running with Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Genre: Humor, Memoir
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)

Running with Scissors

Everyone has probably tried attaching punch line-hugging ends to the ‘when life gives you lemons’ proverb; I’ve heard phrases that are as hip as those involving tequilas and the beginning of a citrus monopoly. But I haven’t heard or seen anyone did it like Augusten Burroughs. Life has practically cannonaded him with thousands of lemons in his childhood and instead of feeling miserable about it, he used all the fruits to write his bestselling memoir, Running with Scissors.

The book follows a big slice of Burroughs’ childhood life. He was only a little boy when his parents—a manic-depressive poet mom with Anne Sexton delusions and a professor dad with "the loving, affectionate and outgoing personality of petrified wood"—divorced. His mom gives him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who is a dead ringer for Santa Claus: Haven’t Bathed in Weeks edition. Burroughs then  befriends the doc’s abrasive children, starts a relationship with a thirtysomething pedophile residing in the backyard shed, and slowly accepts that playing with electroshock therapy machine when things get dull, or substituting dog food for popcorns, or even consuming Valium like candies, are normal…as long as he lives in the midst of this Victorian squalor. But this is one thing he is 101% sure of: when you inherit a family as dysfunctional as the Finches, you’d know you’d just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

I was full of head-shakes, of smirks and snorts, of this-couldn’t-be-real’s, and of oh-my-god’s (in varying intonations) while reading the book. From the reactions Running with Scissors elicited from me, you’d know that Burroughs is a man of talent. I turn the pages and see his ‘70s to ‘80s life unfold in full color. I like how his style of storytelling balances between complete wack and sheer cynicalness. Aside from being mostly hilarious, his darkish tales are effective in a way that it makes his readers yearn for a life that is—in his own words—“fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal”.

But one does not need rocket science to know that behind all the gags and sarcasm, it’s not as funny as it sounds—a sad Burroughs must be somewhere beneath all the kookiness. Sure, there are stuff  that can be a real barrel of laughs at one point (scatological fortune-telling, anyone?), but on the other side of the scale there’s staging a suicide attempt to avoid school (supported eagerly by Dr.Finch), being sexually abused, the fact that you’re having guardians that cannot guide or guard you in life at all, among other things. It’s awesome that Burroughs can joke about the whole thing David Sedaris-style, but something tells me it would have been more honest if there’s a little poignancy thrown in there somewhere. He’s a bloody kid! I’m all for positivity, but no one is that positive; too much cynicalness for a situation comedy-like effect sometimes takes away all the humanity from a character.

Speaking of lack of humanity, that is my main beef too with the supporting characters. The author failed to sculpt them into something the readers can feel as real people, and I’m not even talking about their colorful craziness. They’ve become hackneyed paperboard-cutouts in a sitcom-ish set of tales.

Towards the end the book becomes more disjointed, the anecdote-chapters reading like standalone vignettes. It’s only on the page before the epilogue that Burroughs made an attempt at sentimentality, about how taking risks to reach his dreams is like running with scissors (or something to that effect). It was quietly hopeful, but the buildup to the moment was shabbily constructed that there wasn’t a big impact at all.

It was still a good read, although I’m having second thoughts about reading its sequel, Dry.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Ransom Hug!

Last April 26, the National Book Store (NBS) held a book-signing event for bestselling authors Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, and Veronica Rossi. Admittedly I haven’t read anything by Mafi or Rossi; I only went to the event for Riggs, having read his Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

waiting Kit’s and my books and our signing passes.

Ransom Riggs stageKindly excuse the goofy smiles, I’m starstruck!

I got a minutes-long interaction with Riggs after he put "pen scratches"—his words, not mine—on my copy of Hollow City (Miss Peregine Book 2). He also saw how big of a nervous booknut I am when I get starstruck. My meet-and-greet moment went like this:
STAFF: (Joking after hearing how an oldish fangirl before us screamed an I LOVE YOU to Ransom) These people need to remember the guy's married.
ME: (laughs) And his wife's here, too.
RANSOM: (overhears our exchange and looks up from signing the books, smiling) What is it about my wife?
ME: (gets instant cold feet)
RANSOM: Hello, how are you?
ME: ......
RANSOM: (smiles)
ME: .......
RANSOM: (smiles some more)
ME: (covers face) Oh my god, sorry! Oh my god, oh my god.
RANSOM: (laughs good-naturedly and motions me to come closer, then points at the camera) Let's keep it together for the picture, then after that we can fall apart.
ME: (realizes that I wasn't looking at him when he's giving me the Keep Calm coaching, but flashes what I wish was a decent smile anyway)
And then we hugged. THAT SECONDS-LONG HUG MADE THE ALMOST TEN HOURS OF WAIT WORTH IT.

signed

All right, that hug and these pen scratches. :)

Here’s to hoping other authors I like would come to the Philippines! They’re like the country’s nerd population’s rock stars, I know they wouldn’t regret coming here.