I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Flip Pages While...

image from http://vi.sualize.us/view/f477949c51bbee8b0597756f478f70e5/

Toilit. I can't remember who invented the term, or from whom I heard it first, surely one of my online book club friends. A witty and appropriate portmanteau that refers to the stuff you read within the confines of your bathroom, powder room, CR, WC, restroom, washroom, the loo, whatever you call it.

Bookworm or not, one usually needs something to read while doing the no. 2; for enthusiastic water drinkers, even the no. 1. Even in the direst of emergencies, I always have to have something to read. When outside the home, preferably in some 5-star hotel lobby rest room, I still need to have a book or a magazine with me. There's almost always a bible in my purse, so the good book literally and spiritually saves me.

At home, there are always books close to the ceramic throne.

Here's my stash.

Just kidding. Doing the no. 2 while my brain spurts blood through my nose is not an attractive thing and is hell for the bathroom rug cleaner.

Here's what I really read.

Just kidding. Uhm, no I'm not. Well, kidding just a little.

Seriously, I usually take whatever I'm reading at the moment. Or I grab something from this basket where I keep a couple of short story books. I'm in the middle of 2 themed anthologies:
  • Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales, each tale from a different author like Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, among others, et al
  • Faith Stories, with contributions from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, Yukio Mishima, et al.
Given the time limitation, short stories make sense, right? The basket also contains a few prayer devotional books to start the day right and one by Zig Ziglar for picker-uppper quotes for self affirmation.

There you go. So, what's your toilit?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


My husband keeps on bugging me, "So how many books did you buy? So how many books did you buy?"

So here it is. I bought 28 books for only P2,080.00 at the National Book Store Book Bazaar. If you do the math, that's P74.29 per book. That average was supposed to be lower because most of the books were from the P20, P30, P50, and P75 peso piles. But I did a last minute grab of some 200 peso fashion books. It's Tisha's fault for tempting me.

My friend Tisha shopped with me, and she had a shocked, or was it an exasperated look, on her face when I said "wala akong gana mag-shopping ng books." (I don't feel like shopping for books) while I was lugging that heavy, red basket.

Some of those are for gifts, a few for mooching away and for book swaps, but we all know I'm a selfish book bitch, so there's a stash for my personal library as well.

I'm trying my best to stay away and not go for another round. I have tied a ball chain around my ankle. I'm on self imposed house arrest until November 29. My husband has posted APB photos of me in Market, Market and warned the guards about me. But you, you, you still have the chance to go.

Just watch out for rabid shoppers maniacally ripping the unopened boxes, filling carts and carts of books. They're from my book club. Please bear with them -- they're sick people with weak self control and almost zero EQ.

P.S. I've already given one book away; that's why there are only 27 books in the photo.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair

My copy:
Trade Paperback, Movie Tie-in Cover, at least it's an orange spined Penguin edition, which kind of makes up for its being a movie tie-in cover
ISBN: 0140291091
Purchased: August 25, 2000
from National Bookstore
Read: November 20, 2010 (in time for the FFP book discussion, but in reality, I finished the last few pages the next day.)

I bought this book because I loved the movie. I watched the film at a time when I, too, was negotiating with God for matters of love, marital and otherwise.

The movie was poignant; the story, heartbreaking; and Julianne Moore was the perfect actress to play an adulteress whom one can love and forgive.

The movie set an impossible bar for my book reading to match.

I really believe it is not in the natural order of things to watch the movie before reading the book. The beauty of book reading relies much on the plot, the evolution of the story and its twists and turns, the building up of the characters -- their motivations, their justifications for the things they do. Movies also need those, but the movie's cinematography merely supplants (replaces/reinforces/contradicts) one's imaginings derived from reading a book with somebody else's constructed visuals.

The natural order is first, you read the book, form movies in your mind, direct the blocking, design the sets, be your own CGI creator, and cast the characters. And then, you watch the movie. To judge it against your expectations. This order extends the reading process to include some kind of affirmation of one's imaginings, so in a way the pleasure of reading does not end after the last page. This order does not necessarily ruin the watching of the film and can even enhance the movie-watching experience because you see more deeply into the characters.

When you watch the movie first, the reading is robbed of the discovery, the surprises, and you tend to just watch out for events you've already seen in full color and fine detail.

But anyway, let's go back to the book. I finally read it because it was our book club's reading assignment for November. We had our discussion yesterday, so it'll be hard to separate my thoughts about the novel from those that sprung from the discussion.

First off, the novel is a well loved favorite for a couple of our book club members. Couple that fact with my loving the movie, and the expectations were set too high. Graham Greene did not stand a chance. I wanted the book to be great. It was good, but it fell short of great.

Why was it good?

Everybody said it was the writing. But a well written book that does not incite something from the reader is not really all that well written. Yes, any reader can glean Greene's mastery of his craft, but it's not the only thing that makes it a good book.

I liked the way it incorporates a masculine and a feminine voice. The book starts with Maurice Bendrix's narration of an affair that ended two years ago. It is the voice of somebody trying to report events while trying not to get too emotional, but fails, failing because he is too filled up with hate, love, and longing to ever sound like an impartial journalist. And then, midway through the book, his adulterous lover Sarah Miles' journal voice takes over, explaining the whys, filling in the blanks, answering Bendrix's angry, bitter questions.

The other thing I liked about the book is its description of an author's life and habits. Bendrix is an author, and the novel narrates how his affair and its aftermath have disrupted his writing schedule and moods. There is talk that the novel might be autobiographical, so it's a delicious thought that Graham Greene has given me clues on how he writes -- 500 words a day, always in the morning, how some characters just obstinately won't come to life, and how he took long walks when the writing wasn't going well.

I also like the humanness of its characters. Every character is broken, wicked, and yes, lame. And Greene does not try to make you love them. But I love them because I know them. I've met these people in my life, among friends who realize that the love of our lives and the ones we marry are not always the same person. I have known people who live unaware of their unhappiness until they find a different kind of happiness elsewhere. I have felt Catholic guilt and known how God is always part of some kind of love triangle.

Another element that makes the book good is the lines.

The novel starts with: "A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."

And is peppered with:

"The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of unhappiness. In misery we seem aware of our existence..."

"As long as I go on writing, yesterday is today and we are still together."

"fossilizing under the drip of conversation."

And is delightfully cheesified with:

"Love doesn't end just because we don't see each other."

"There didn't seem to be any other reason to be with him except to be with him."

And I liked the part about the onion. You've got to read the book to know about the onion.

Why is this novel not great?

The ending. It should have ended 30 and 50 pages ago. It could have spared us the incredulity of all that saint and miracle stuff. It could have done away with that ridiculous bromancey arrangement between Henry (Sarah's husband) and Maurice. It could have minimized the preachy god thoughts that are probably Greene's own. The story could have ended just a little after the affair ended and let the readers figure out and process the rest.

And this is the end of the review.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Certifiable Nerd

Congratulate me! Today, I kicked my procrastinating habit.

Only 2 days after my entry was published in Philippine Star's National Book Store promo, I headed over to their Marketing office at Pioneer Street and claimed my gift checks!

For a moment, I entertained the thought that I would save those GCs for a rainy day, or when I have completed a judiciously compiled list of books I really want/need to have. But, because I am no longer a procrastinator (I am so proud of the new me), I wasted no time in going to the bookstore and buying something I've been lusting for for months.


This is an upgrade from my original target model (MWD 460) and almost double the price. So this pretty much ate up my winnings. But this one has 400,000 definitions, as opposed to MWD 460's 274,000. Plus MWD is Advanced (for grades 9 and up), while the obviously inferior MWD 450 is only for grades 6 and up. I have no idea what value that adds to my life, but it sounds so much more impressive, doesn't it?

My new toy takes the place of seven books -- Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Guide to Punctuation and Style, Franklin's Thesaurus, a comprehensive Grammar Guide, Biographical and Geographical dictionary extracts from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition, and even a 5-language Translator. Whew! So powerful, it feels like a penile extension!
And that means I don't have to lug around that 12-pound dictionary in my purse anymore. Goodbye, backaches.
Hello, new and wonderful toy.

By the way, it also has word games like Hangman, Anagrams, Word Builder, etc.

When I was just shopping around for one, I decided on the Franklin models because the other brands did not have a pronunciation feature. And that was a deal breaker. Every once in a while, I suffer mild amnesia and I forget how the word implacable is pronounced, so I really, really need that feature.

So, I better end this entry so I can play with my new toy.

Thank you, National Bookstore! I love you so much; if I had kids, they'd be named Naty and Onal.

This blog post and how I decided to splurge my gift checks just earned me the right to be called Nerdette. Thanks, Mike, for the new nick. By the way, the word butyraceous is not part of the 400k. Dang. Imaginary penis just got shorter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Talk about procrastination. The last time I joined National Book Store's My Favorite Book Contest was back in 2003 when I wrote about Lonely Planet Philippines. Back then, I told myself that it was a great way to earn free books and that I would submit an entry every year.

Fast forward to the second to the last month of 2010. I finally got round to submitting another entry. There's no accounting for the 6 years in between.

Chosen contest entries get published in the Sunday Lifestyle section of Philippine Star. Weekly winners get gift certificates to National Book Store. I haven't received my prize yet, but I have already used them up in the shopping mall of my mind.

You still have a few weeks to participate if you want to. And let's hope they continue this promotion for 2011 and many more years.

Some sentences seem to have wrong syntax because the editors took away my em-dashes. I wonder what they have against dashes.

PS: I was reading the old post about Lonely Planet Philippines. Ngark! I spelled palate as palette and couch as coach. How embarrassing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Bill Bryson's African Diary

Photography by Jenny Matthews

My copy:
Hardbound Pocketbook
ISBN 0767915062
Purchased: August 7, 2010
from National Bookstore Greenbelt
Read: October 26, 2010

In 2002, CARE International commissioned travel writer Bill Bryson to write about a trip to Kenya, where they visited CARE communities. His musings were published in a pocket sized hardbound book. It was a fundraiser of sorts -- all book sale proceeds, plus the author's royalties, were coursed through CARE International to implement poverty alleviating projects all over the world.

Bill Bryson chronicles his eight days visiting places like Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi; and Kisumu, Kenya's poorest city. It would have been tempting for any writer to be patronizing or preachy, writing about the experience with extreme poignancy, riddling the piece with cliches about hope amidst poverty.

But Bill Bryson is not any writer. He narrates with abundant wit a journey that had him in a train that's part of a fleet that had "a tradition of killing its passengers" and a light aircraft that they were certain would send them to their violent deaths. Several times, I found myself chuckling out loud.

His honest and comical disclosures about his expectations being inspired by the movie, Out of Africa, and then his apprehensions about the dangers of visiting the country (bandits, beggar kids rubbing feces on their faces, etc.) were more about poking fun at himself than disparaging the country. Bryson ably balanced humor with relevant insight, while peppering the piece with quick descriptions of Africa's beautiful scenery and wildlife.

With his wry sense of humor, sharp observation, and engaging storytelling, Bill Bryson is the travel writer I want to be.

The main drawback of the book is its brevity -- only 49 pages plus a few more pages for information about CARE.

Though Bryson shared some specific, inspiring examples of the people he met, of how a micro-finance project for women is changing lives and brining in hope, this piece is merely a rippling of the surface. No time nor space for intelligent discourse on poverty and corruption here. A reflection of CARE's mindset: " It's not about spending huge amounts of money, but about spending smaller amounts intelligently."

Bringing this to a personal level -- I read that just before the hostage incident here in Manila, Leonardo di Caprio was supposed to come to the country, stay in one of our plush resorts for a week, and be paid a million dollars to give this country a better reputation. I wish somebody had thought of bringing Bill Bryson or some other intelligent travel writer here instead. We don't need to tell other people how beautiful our country and its people are, because that is just stating the obvious. What we need is somebody to present a balanced view that includes, and not clumsily hides, poverty, corruption, and other ills but balances all that with a message of hope, not just in miracles, but in the ability of the people to do something about their lot. But that requires positive change amonth the leaders and the citizens. Then, maybe we can start believing our own publicity.

The Flippers Visit the Basilica de San Sebastian

Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth is an astounding work of about a thousand pages. It is about the building of a cathedral in medieval Europe. It was the Flippers' book for our October bookdiscussion.

Last Saturday, October 23, 2010, we started the day with our pre-activity -- a tour of the Basilica de San Sebastian. The 2-hour tour gave us a breathtaking view of beautifully designed church and also lent visuals to the text we just read. I'll let the slide show tell the story.

After the tour, we headed to SM Manila for lunch at Shakey's. Then we hopped over to Caffe Ti Amo for gelatos and the book discussion. There's a slide show for that as well.

Sorry, I'm still figuring out how to organize my photos on Flickr, so I can't use the gadget function to post the slide show directly on this blog. I'm going to figure that out sometime this century. Promise. In the meantime, just follow the links:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Mario Vargas Llosa's Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

I really should be transferring my book reviews from a previous multi-themed blog to here. But my blogging life is a series of I should haves, wishful sighs, and Catholic girl guilt.

So, here's one transferred post that I'm posting in honor of 2010's Nobel Literature Prize awardee.

Reposted review follows:

Mario. Vargas. Llosa. For some strange reason that name conjured a vision of an extremely serious writer typing somber, tedious sagas spanning generations, replete with tumultuous political events and heartbreaking drama. How wrong I was. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is anything but serious. I should have been more observant and let the whimsical cover clue me in. Nothing somber about it. It's flashy, color splashed, and it looks like the artist had much fun reading the novel and was inspired in designing the cover art.

It is a fun book. The back cover blurbs use adjectives like funny, extravagant, madcap, uproarious. All descriptions accurate.

The story revolves around Varguitas, a young law student and aspiring author who is paying his dues by writing slash plagiarizing news for radio. Set in the 50s, the story happens at a time when TV is not yet the ubiquitous medium it is now. Radio rules as the channel for entertaining and informing the masses.

Two Bolivians come to town.

One is Pedro Camacho, a talented but twisted writer who writes scripts and directs radio drama. His radio shows hook listeners and soon he becomes the buzz of Lima.

When Varguitas, peculiar in that society because he prefers books over the radio, asks his grandma why she likes radio serials so much, she says 'It's more lifelike, hearing the characters talk, it's more real. And what's more, when you're my age, your hearing is better than your eyesight." His other relatives explains their addiction by saying, "because they set a person to dreaming, to living things that are impossible in real life, because there are truths to be learned from them, or because every woman remains more or less or a romantic at heart." And that explains why Camacho's following grows. As his popularity rises to mythic proportions, his manic madness worsens, and soon he's out of control.

The stories that Camacho writes are central to the story. They are narrated in chapters alternating with the main plot chapters. So the reader actually reads many little stories within one book. Stories that entertain, shock, and end the chapters in cliffhangers and intriguing questions the way serials are wont to do. To me, this is interesting because the book uses similar devices to a book I read recently, Ricky Lee's Para Kay B. But Llosa's book ties the stories more cohesively to the main plot.

The other visitor from Bolivia is Aunt Julia, related to Varguitos only by law, recently divorced, and out to find a husband. She did not count on having a romance with a relative 14 years her junior. What ensues is mayhem as irate relatives, well-meaning friends, queer mayors, and a violent father get involved in this comedy that twists, convolutes, and climaxes (ooops, spoiler alert) in the most exciting and tiring wedding I've ever read about.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Series:
Hunger Games
ISBN: 0439023483 - hardbound - 374 pages
read March 8, 2010
Catching Fire
ISBN: 0439023491 - hardbound - 391 pages
read October 1, 2010
ISBN: 0439023491 - hardbound - 390 pages
read October 2, 2010
Borrowed the whole set from my niece Daniela. i shall wait for the boxed set to buy my own copies.

I hate Suzanne Collins.

I hate how she had me flipping pages furiously, breathlessly. Sitting at the edge of my seat, afraid to turn the page for the next twist, wanting to slow down, but compelled to know what's going to happen next.

I hate how she has lobotomized my brain so she can poke my nerve centers and shamelessly manipulate my emotions, filling me with fear, anger, misery, and other emotions a jaded, sophisticated adult is not supposed to feel reading a Young Adult book.

I hate her for killing the people I loved. Oh, okay. They're fiction, Gege, they're fiction. No one real really died in the writing of that book.

There's hardly any need for me to summarize the plot; Google will give you 2,680,000 reviews that will do a better job than I would of detailing the Hunger Games story.

I'm here to tell you what the trilogy has been about for me. It's about 2 main themes. Love and war -- how prosaic, right? I shiver a little typing something as cheesy as that. Isn't every novel about love anyway and every other Hollywood blockbuster about some kind of war? Maybe so. But I'll stick with this, because this is my blog, okay?

Let's first talk about love. And I'm not just talking about the love triangle of Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. Love is splattered all over the trilogy's pages. It's ironic that it takes a story so violent, so gory to show the potency of love, how it moves people to do the most astonishing of things, whether good or bad, even if it would cost them their lives. It's love that drives Katniss to volunteer for the Hunger Games -- her desire to protect a sister she loves. It's love that moves the other characters in the book, like Finnick who loves Annie, and Peeta who loves Katniss. It's the absence of somebody to love that makes Johanna so fearless, like she has nothing else to lose. And then, there's Haymitch, who deadens with alcohol the ability to love anybody who's destined to die in the Hunger Games.

And then, there's war. Collins sends a strong message that war, though necessary, leaves people broken. Or dead. Of course, I'm stating the obvious. The angle I want to focus on about war is this -- Collins has, all throughout the series, been very obsessed with form, with symbols. Each Hunger Games contender has a styling team who preps the Tribute with costumes and makeup. When Katniss becomes the symbol of the rebels' war against the Capitol, she goes through another round of makeovers and mouths a propaganda script, the writing of which happened years ago, even preceding the choice of the Mockingjay as the war's symbolic leader. This makes me think about the things we fight about, fight for, fight against. I've always questioned the necessity of war, especially when the cause seems to be some abstract ideal. How many lives, in real life in the real world, have been lost in the name of democracy, and communism, and freedom, and somebody's idea of heaven? How many of these symbols are real? Are they worth all the loss of lives, property, family, psyche? Are the warring sides really fighting about opposing, irreconcilable ideologies? Or are they, like it turns out in this trilogy, just two sides of the same coin? Is war really ever justified, or are we all just like children throwing tantrums and threats of nuclear war because we cannot get what we want?

I've heard a lot of the comments from those people who didn't like the series, especially the final book. And I agree with some of them. Like the criticism that with all the violent turns and cinematically-compatible twists, it is the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, and this series is just begging to be moviefied. Collins, having worked for television, surely saw the commercial potential for this in film.

I do not agree with the criticism about Katniss's character being a disappointment at the end, that she should have been more empowered and not just a pawn in a power game. I think that's precisely the point -- she is a pawn and a mere symbol for propaganda. Young people have no business being part of grown-ups' war; no matter how much they have had to endure in life, no matter how much their character should have been built up by pain and circumstance, they do not have the emotional maturity, nor true motivation, to be in one, much less to lead one. And for her to break down and be weak is more realistic than her becoming some mini Angelina Jolie amazon warrior. I wish she had spent less time hiding in closets and behind curtains, but in the end, she did what is right, what must be done.

At one point, I really did hate Suzanne Collins. At one particular death close to the ending of the saga, I honestly considered not going on with the reading. And when I closed the book, I needed the time to mourn, to process what just happened.

But after hours of thinking hard about Mockingjay, Catching Fire, and Hunger Games, I decided that I liked the series. I liked how it ended -- it was the most logical, acceptable conclusion that could have done justice to the story build-up. So, don 't worry about me; I'm not going to be one of those trying to write an alternative ending. Collins thought this out well enough. Yes, there's a bit of moralizing. And she certainly has an agenda to communicate. But she remained true all throughout the series.

There is no doubt that Suzanne Collins is a deft storyteller who knows how to draw the reader in -- I was there. I saw what happened. I felt all the emotions. I hated. I loved. I mourned. Eventually, I healed. If you take away all the symbols, messages, and lessons, this would still be an entertaining read. And that probably is my bone of contention with the book. Will young adults, or even adults for that matter, see beyond the exciting violence? Will they pick up the lessons? Or will this be just another spectacular, shallow piece of entertainment?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Better Late than Never: The Conclusion of My Read-A-Thon

It's done. My read-a-thon hymen has been broken. I would have been back here sooner to report on the experience, but I was sore. Just kidding. It was my internet connection that's to blame; every time I tried to log in and blog, it would die. And after a number of attempts, I had to attend to other priorities. And then, inertia set in.

Oh well, better late than never.

So, how was my first time?

It was an interesting experience. It probably would have been more fun and productive if I had done all the things the right way. Like starting exactly at 8 PM, staying up the whole 24 hours (which I've done a number of times for the flimsiest of reasons), doing the mid-event survey, taking on a couple of challenges, and cheering other readers.

But I was overwhelmed, ill prepared, and distracted. Facebook and all its shiny, bright applications kept on calling my name. Caffeine failed me in the wee hours of the morning. And Sunday was pretty much eaten up by family socials.

I did not do a diligent count of my actual reading hours, but I probably totaled 8 measly hours *coughattentiondeficitdisordercough* . It was an epic fail by Dewey's standards, but since my objective was only to try this out and learn from the experience, then I shouldn't beat myself up about it. The underachiever tells herself.

Plus I made a dent on Pillars of the Earth's 900++ pages; I read more than I would have read that weekend if I had not participated in the read-a-thon. So, yeay me!

I certainly would do this again. But next time, I will take it more seriously, preparing myself physically, begging off from other commitments, planning and using strategies to make the most of those 24 hours.

So, here's my post-event report:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

At a little after 6AM (11th Hour ), I felt I could still continue if I pushed it, but I would not have done justice to the reading. I would have missed out on the excitement and the details of the story, so I decided to nap for an hour. The alarm went off, but my upper eyelids refused to let go of my lower eyelids, so I remained asleep until 9AM. By the time, I awoke, I already had to get ready to leave for a family lunch.

But the toughest hours were when I found myself at a funeral service, listening to the longest eulogies I've ever heard in my lifetime. I was struggling not to pull out my book and read, which would have been rude. And then I also struggled not to lie down on the pews and start my personal sleep-a-thon, which would have been beyond rude.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

My strategy was to read 1 looooong door stopper of a book. I don't think there's anything wrong with that strategy at all -- it's a good way to read your bucket reading list epics in one sitting, especially those books written by authors born in the regions of the world where vodka was rumored to have been invented. The strategy would have worked better if I had holed myself up in a room with very few distractions; I probably would have finished the book.

So maybe next time, I should tackle War and Peace? *grimace*

But for next year, I'll probably take Blooey's advice and go for a variety of highly visual, easy-to-read books.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I find it unfair that the Northern American readers start reading at dawn with a full bar of energy while we start 4 hours before midnight. BUT, I realize that's just how things are, so I really just have to prepare better next time by sleeping in the hours immediately preceding the event.

Other improvements would be to have an online forum where people can chat and update each other of progress.

I am definitely pushing my book club to do this together in one place next year.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

That there are many read-a-thoners all over the world just made it such an exciting experience -- the thought that all these people are reading and are engaged in the challenge made it a novel experience and gave it a sense of community, of global bonding among reading enthusiasts. Priceless.

5. How many books did you read?

1/4. Sigh.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I appreciated all the cheers, but I liked the customized ones better than those which were generic for all readers. Like when the cheerers mentioned the book I read, I felt good that they actually read my post.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will surely participate again and get my book club more actively engaged. I want a full production number -- get us all in one big, brightly lit place with a fabulous coffee and cookie spread, hold hourly gimmicks and quick physical games, announce challenges, and give out prizes. I need as many lazy boys and a couple of vibrating massage chairs. Tattoo booths. Roving massage therapist. Plus a lot of noisy musical instruments.

So there. Read-a-thon virgin no more.

Thank you to all those who cheered me on!! I enjoyed my first read-a-thon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

3:15 AM: I'm Still Reading-a-thon - And other Updates

3:15 AM Manila time:

I started late and slow. Had to attend to some "administrative matters" first before I eventually overcame inertia and settled into actual reading. I'm on page 243 now. Not an impressive accomplishment given that the read-a-thon is already on its eighth hour. But it's progress nonetheless.

I only took a break to drink water after an exciting, fiery segment. And I'm now checking in to update you of my progress. Thank you for the cheers!

And now, I should get back to reading soon so as not to break my stride. I'll be back to check on other read-a-thoners when I need a break from reading. It'll be great to know how others are doing.

This is an interesting exercise. To be doing this with other book readers from other parts of the world. I'm starting to see the appeal.

*Cracking the whip at myself* Okay, back to the book!

6:03 AM Manila Time

I have passed the 300 page mark for the book. I'm about ready for a 1-hour nap. I can still push it, but the words and letters are starting to blur and swim in a dyslexic jumble. That signals the need to rest my eyes. And what better way to rest them than sleep?

The Pillars of the Earth is not my kind of book. But so far, so good. A little too much detail at times, especially when one is trying to keep awake. But it has its page turning moments.

How is everybody?

9:38 AM Manila time:

Just woke up from what was supposed to be a 1-hour nap. Tearing myself away from the bed on a Sunday morning was one of the hardest thing I had to do in my whole life. :)

I'm not doing this right this first time. In a few minutes I will have to get ready to leave for lunch with family. I really have not logged in a lot of reading hours and have only plowed through a little less than 200 pages. I just realized that the next time I do this, I just really need to:
  • set aside time
  • bow out from other engagements, and
  • do a lot of those little pesky must-do's before the read-a-thon starts.
I'm beginning to see why doing this together with my book club friends in one public place might be a good idea.

I'm excited about April.

6:30 PM Manila time:

Argh. Just got back from what I thought was going to be just lunch but turned out to be a funeral service. And I mean no disrespect, but those were the longest eulogies I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. I knew then as I sat on the wooden pew, as I struggled to stay awake and resisted the urge to whip out my book and read, that my first read-a-thon was an epic fail.

As this picture shows, all I ever really have to show after this exercise are eyebags that only a dermatological miracle can eliminate.
I'm on page 347. With barely 1 1/2 hours to go, I won't even hit the halfway mark.

But I'll do the best I can.

And there's always next year.

11:57 PM Manila Time

The first thing I did after the read-a-thon was to take a shower, to wash away the stench of failure. Haha. But seriously I had fun. I failed in completing Pillars of the Earth, but like i said in my first blog post about this read-a-thon, my expectations are low. I just wanted to give it a try and learn from the exercise, so that I can do better next time.

Internet was down for some time, and now that it's back on, I'm just too sleepy to work on a final blog. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thank you to all the cheerleaders! You guys were great.

So for now, good night! Enjoy your sleep. Didn't know reading could be this tiring. :)

The Read-a-thon - My First Time

10:12 PM, Manila Time:

Just starting the read-a-thon. Just got back from dinner at my parents' place. I tried to start reading around 8, but the waft of dinner and the pressure to socialize with family won out. Plus my 6 year old nephew gave me a full page from his coloring book all to myself to watercolor. How could I say no to that?!

Coffee's ready. The logistics will be a challenge. I will read here in the masters' bedroom where air-conditioning is on. But I need to use a low light that will not bother my sleeping husband. I normally use a little flashlight while reading, but that's not something I can do for long periods of time.

So, I better get on with my reading.

But first, I have to answer these. I didn't realize that the read-a-thon involved a lot of interaction with other readers. I thought it was just reading on your own and reporting after.

Where are you reading from today?
Home in Paranaque City, Philippines.

3 Facts About Me
  1. I am 43, look 33 (or so I say), feel 53, have the attention span of somebody who's 3 and the memory of somebody who's 83.
  2. My personal library's book count is inching towards 2,000. Even if I don't ever buy any other book, I will still not be able to read all those books in this lifetime.
  3. My dream is to have my own island where all i need to do is read in a hammock sipping from a straw connected to a tub of iced tea. And I will eat a lot of seafood during breaks.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I hope to finish Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth. I'm starting at page 127 and should be on page 991 by 8PM tomorrow. That is if I don't get attracted by shiny, sparkly objects, also known as Facebook.

Because this is my first time, I have no idea if this is a reasonable target. I'll be happy just to make a huge dent on this reading assignment.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

Oh gosh, I'm overwhelmed already. I'll just play it by ear this time. Maybe next year, I will have goals.

I guess my breaks will be spent taking quick naps and getting online. I have no strategy other than imbibing caffeine intravenously. Kidding.

So, this is my first time, and I just plan to enjoy it.

Enjoy reading, everyone!

I am a Readathon Virgin, but not for long.

Finally. I get the chance to join Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon.

I am a recovering insomniac. That does not mean I no longer keep strange hours. It only means I get enough sleep as far as health advice goes; it's 5 to 7 hours, right? You see, my body's time zone is out of whack compared to that of normal people (e.g. my husband who hits REM 2 seconds after the bed connects with his back and wakes up precisely at 6AM the next morning, no matter how tired or drunk he was.). Back to me--my body is here in Manila, Philippines, but my body clock is hovering somewhere in the vicinity of Saudi Arabia. I sleep around 3 AM and wake up around 9, give or take a few hours. And then, there are days that I get in bed just as my neighbors are waking up to get ready for work. So reading till the wee hours of the morning is pretty normal for me. But for some reason, I have never joined this read-a-thon.

But enough preamble about my weird sleeping hours. About the read-a-thon. Well, I'm doing it. By the power vested upon me by caffeine, I'm going to do it.

I'm only reading one book. I'm going to plow through Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth, like Fantaghiro23 of Coffeespoons will be. The POTE is our October book for our book club, and I need to make a serious dent on its 991 pages of size 9 font. Thus far, I'm on page 120.

The situation's not promising. In a couple of hours, I need to get out of the house to my parents' house to join them for dinner. And tomorrow, we have another family lunch set. Lunch at a restaurant that shovels into our all too willing mouths a lot more than the 15 grams of carbs Dr. Atkins prescribes. Translation: it will be a killer lunch that will likely bring about siesta time lethargy.

Argh. This is starting to sound like a litany of excuses. It's not. I will give it my best shot. My goals are simple - I will just break my Dewey read-a-thon hymen. That's all. Taking that metaphor further, they say that the first time is never ever perfect. So, let's just manage our expectations and enjoy this without any performance anxiety.

I better shut up now, and stop all these kinky, and rather lame metaphors, and get at least an hour's sleep to get ready.

Aah, the things I do to have the honor of being called a geek.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm Back, My Dear Book Blog

The prodigal blogger resurrects from the bowels of inertia land. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors.)

The truth is - given a choice between blogging or reading, I chose reading.

The ugly and embarrassing truth is that given the choice between reading and playing with my Facebook games, I chose the one with the least cerebral exertion. Facebook is the quicksand of my waking hours. Yes, I’m proud to say I now occupy the number one slot in Mall World; I’ve closed the gap between my sister and me in Farmville; and there are weeks when I come close to toppling the Family Feud King Czar. To achieve such progress, something‘s got to give, and that’s why my blogging life is in shambles. My other blogs are still covered with a dense layer of cobwebs. And I’m behind in my 70-book challenge.

It’s not that I never thought of this blog. So many times, I found myself blogging in my head. If only one can upload one’s thoughts into blogspot through the process of staring at the computer.

Though not as diligent as I want to be with my book activities, I remain a booeek (book geek -- I just made that up.) immersing myself in bookish matters. Flipping pages. Falling more in love with books.

Last night, we had our unofficial discussion of the Hunger Games trilogy. Though the discussion was declared unofficial, our moderator Jan Ruiz took her role like a career tribute (kinareer) and prepared the most stimulating discussion questions presented fabulously through Keynote. Stylish transitions that would make Plutarch and his propos gang proud. And we even received bookmarks depicting District 13; thanks Peter and Rhett! 3 designs to choose from! Woohoo.

And then there was the Filipino Book Bloggers’ meet-up. I arrived late and left early, so I have nothing much to report. It’s a good thing Michelle presented an excellent reportage of the event. This group promises to be another way for Pinoy book readers to have a voice to reach out to book suppliers (publishers, retailers, etc.)

Oh yes, I have to mention here the Future of the Book Publishing Conference. Again, I wasn’t there for the whole event. So you’re better off reading the update from someone who was. Honey did a splendid job of summarizing the event highlights. I was one of the speakers, sharing my experience with online social networks for the bookish. Of course, I was more than a little nervous and intimidated having to speak in front of academics and people who are part of the publishing industry. Smart, scarily serious people. And I was presenting what can be construed as fluff since not one philosopher or theoretical framework was cited. But I immensely enjoyed the experience because I was talking about something close to my heart -- Flips Flipping Pages, the community that has made my reading life so much richer.

I'm still not used to blogging again. Do you hear the sound of my rusty joints?

So there. I’m back, book blog.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Slept th, er, uhm, Flipped through the Pages of Anne Enright's The Gathering

My copy: mass market paperback
ISBN 9780099523826
Purchased March 2008
from National Bookstore
Read: March 24, 2010

I am Gege, and I'm addicted to books. So books are my drugs. And if I may stretch that metaphor a little bit more, there are books that are uppers, and there are those which are downers.

Anne Enright's The Gathering is most definitely a downer. It's the kind of book that a teacher would impose on attention-challenged students to get back at them for sleeping in class. It's the kind of book you read when there's just too much excitement in your life and you need to slow down, relax to a stupor. Yes, I mean it's some kind of boring.

Which is not to say that Enright is not a good writer. She is. And she seems to know it and show it.

Enright writes with a self-indulgent consciousness of being a good word weaver. I sense her saying, "Watch me write; I'm good at it." She writes in a dreamy, lyrical tone; her narration of events hazy, lazy. Her characterization written in broad strokes, as if fogged by faulty memory, interrupted occasionally with surprising minutiae. Stream of consciousness narration blurs the novel's facts and the character's reflections; I can't tell when she's being literal or metaphorical. When she says in Chapter 4 that she walks through the dimness of their childhood rooms, touching nothing, she is actually walking through their physical home, but you know she's also referring to deeper meanings.

She writes here as the character of Veronica, who gives you glimpses of all the other characters, mostly her family, from two generations past up to present. Veronica is the 8th child of 12 in an Irish family, born by a mother made invisible, nebulous, lost, and insignificant by the identity that defines her -- the bearer of children. Nothing else but.

Veronica is the one who loved Liam most. Liam is the brother who died. And Veronica walks through the events in their lives that might explain why he lived a troubled life and died a baffling, tragic death.

Once in a while, I remember the TV show Brothers and Sisters, and the cast stands in as my visual peg for the book's characters as they gather, hence the title, to send Liam off. The novel is a heavy dose of family dysfunctions, sex, alcohol, and melancholia. In spots, beautiful, shocking, troubling. In spots, slow, languorous, lulling me to sleep.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Flipped Through the Pages of Roald Dahl's (inhale) The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories (exhale)

My copy: trade paperback
ISBN 0141311509
Purchased: April 28, 2008
from: Fully Booked
Read: March 19, 2010

According to the book's flyleaf blurb, Roald Dahl began writing after a "monumental bash on the head" he sustained as an RAF pilot during WW2. I hope I wouldn't need the same kind of blunt force to compel myself to blog again.

So, I'm pushing myself to review letter D of my A to Z challenge series. D is for Dahl. Yes, I know, why is a 43 year old woman reading Dahl for the very first time? I don't have a good excuse.

I remember my sister had a couple of them on her shelf in the room we shared growing up. But for some strange reason, I've never been compelled enough to read any. I even have my own collection of his children's stories, and still, no Dahl. Well, better late than never, right?

I am happy I finally read him and even happier I chose this collection of short stories to give me my first taste of Dahl. He is a most imaginative and entertaining writer. That bash on the head must have knocked around some of his gray matter giving him a different view of life, because he can take ordinary themes and twist them around a little bit here and there, turning the prosaic into strange and unexpected tales. I liked the way he twisted around the theme of adultery in the collection's second story of Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat. Very cleverly written.

Dahl is a deft storyteller who can pack a lot into a short story. Less able writers would require a novel for each of his short story plots. In fact, his short stories do not end with that unfinished feel that most stories leave you with. He brings his tales to satisfying denouement in as few words as possible. I can imagine that takes a great deal of talent.

Another favorite in the collection is Parson's Pleasure, the story of a rare furniture collector slash conman who travels the countryside in search of fine furniture sold way below market value. And dresses up as a parson to do it. The jaw-dropping ending left me aghast even though the bad man got his comeuppance.

Story number 4, Man from the South, is the story of a man who makes bets with strangers, not for cash, but for body appendages. It seemed vaguely familiar, and then I remembered I have watched that on TV, which reminded me that back in the 80s, there was a series called Tales of the Unexpected. I googled it, and yes, my memory, in one of its rare moments of functionality, served me right. That series was actually hosted by Roald Dahl. The link leads you to a wikipedia post on the TV series.

Of course, the title story, was what got to me in the first place. The Great Automatic Grammatizer is about a splendid but scary invention -- a machine that can spew words and words to produce articles and novels. Hmm, because of my low level of desire to blog these days, I need a machine like that. A great automatic bloggerator.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue

My copy: paperback
ISBN 014029628X
Purchased: March 10, 2009
from: Booksale, Cash & Carry branch
Read: May 14, 2010

For May, our book club discussed Art in Fiction. We could read any fiction book in which art featured prominently.

I first read Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and then I moved on to Peter Mayle’s Chasing Cezanne, but I only hit the jackpot with Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Girl in a Hyacinth Blue is a fictional Vermeer painting from Vreeland's imagination. This imagination was inspired by real-life Vermeer paintings, a common theme of which is a subject looking out the window, both subject and window bathed in golden Delft sunshine. Daily props and accoutrement litter the scene to paint a story of extraordinary ordinariness.

This is a beautiful read. I try not to use the word beautiful too casually, because it is way too easy to use it as a default adjective. But this book really is beautiful.

Physically beautiful. Though my copy is just a mass market paperback (MMP), its proportions are slightly narrower and taller than the usual inelegant MMP. The cover suggests a Vermeer painting, but it does not show it exactly the way the author describes it in the book. This means the burden and gift of imagining the painting is upon the reader. Inside, the margins are generous as if framing the text. Gaillard font is an excellent typography choice.

And the stories are beautiful. It seems, at first, that the label "novel" is a misnomer, because it is more a series of seemingly unrelated stories in different settings, going backward from Philadelphia present all the way to 17th century Delft. The thread that binds these stories is the painting as it changed ownership, and how each owner perceived it, valued it, or not.

I like how the book focused on provenance. Those who know even a little bit about art know that it’s not a commodity, its value not determined just by supply and demand, but by so many factors. Provenance is one of those factors that can give a piece legitimacy and can make its value go sky high beyond logical reasons. Yet, in this book, provenance is not treated as a valuation component. Provenance takes on a deeper meaning as the stories show the worth of a painting to the one who owns it, hides it, holds on to it for dear life, paints it, and even to the one who inspires it.

My favorite story is story number 5, Morningshine. The painting comes to a poor farming family, a couple and their 3 children flooded in, stranded in the second floor of their home, with all the possessions they saved. Oh, and a cow.

The painting comes with a baby boy and a note that instructs them to sell the painting and feed the baby. The wife falls in love with both child and painting and decides to keep both, even at the point of starvation. And at the risk of writing a spoiler, I share my favorite line, “There’s got to be some beauty too.”

This line struck a powerful chord within me. In relation to the beauty of reading. Sometimes, I feel people scoff at the time and money I spend on fiction. Like it’s a waste of time when there’s more to be learned from books that teach or inform. I like non-fiction. But there’s got to be some beauty too, the kind of beauty that only fiction can give – the kind that stirs the heart enough to make me cry or laugh. I know some people who will spend their lunch money on a book and starve their stomachs but feed their souls. They get it. They get what Vreeland is saying about art and the agonizing balance of worth between the practical and the beautiful.

There are other stories too, but I’ve said enough about this one, my favorite one, that I don’t want to spoil the rest for you. So, this finally satisfied my Art in Fiction lust.

I Flipped the Pages of Peter Mayle's Chasing Cezanne

My copy: trade paperback
ISBN 067978120X
Purchase date unknown
Purchased from: Goodwill Bookstore
Read: May 10, 2010

Peter Mayle was on my list – my list of Favorite Authors I’ve Never Read (FAINR), authors I buy whenever I get the chance. Shelf candy, perhaps, sharing space with other FAIRN authors, Theroux, Pynchon, and Vonnegut. But I knew I wanted to read him because I’m a frustrated travel writer. But you know how it is with TBRs – too many books, too little time, and too much Facebook.

FFP's May’s themed book discussion on Art in Fiction was the kick I needed to finally read a Mayle. Chasing Cezanne fitted the theme perfectly.

This book had all the promise – a scrumptious recipe of travel, food, art, wit, and suspense – the stuff Mayle is known for. The promise was delivered. The book presents a little bit of all. Sadly, it was just that – a little bit or each element.

A little bit of travel – main protagonist, New York based photographer Andre takes the dotted line to the Riviera and Cap Ferrat and the Bahamas and Paris, and other European destinations on my TBV, To Be Visited, list.

A little bit of food and wine – Andre snacks on “a wonderfully dense rosy saucisson” and “pommes allumettes that snapped in the mouth in the most delicious and satisfying way.”

A little bit of art – well, it’s about a Cezanne.

Just a teeny, very teeny weeny bit of suspense; more is revealed than kept as mystery.

A little bit of all those, but but not enough of any of those to satisfy. I imagined it to be a light comedy flick starring Steve Martin with a fake tan and a funny moustache.

Mayle will not move from my FAINR list to to my Favorite Authors list; not just yet. Though I still think he is worth another read as a non-fic, purely travel, food, and wine author. As a novelist, he is just like what my book nerd friends call sorbet, something to cleanse the literary palate.

And so, this too was not enough to satisfy my Art in Fiction lust. So I moved on to this.


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