Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#12 of 36: A Much-Beloved Companion, a Review of Mindfulness on the Go by Jan Chozen Bays

Mindfulness on the Go (Shambhala Pocket Classic): Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do AnywhereMindfulness on the Go (Shambhala Pocket Classic): Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do Anywhere by Jan Chozen Bays
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book on a whim because it was so small and so promising (the keywords were: simple, do anywhere). It was true to its word. This will not be the first time I will read this book. This was actually my "banyo" read (sorry, TMI!) for the whole of August and September. My favorite practices were: 1) using my left hand (non-dominant hand) to brush my teeth (that was all I could manage for August), 2) feeling the bottoms of my feet. It's very interesting how relaxing it can be to put one's awareness in one's feet. We are all so used to centering our attention in the head or the heart (or even the breath), it's very refreshing to feel one's feet entirely. 3) When eating, just eat. It's very easy to use eating time as a time for talking or doing something else (like reading or browsing through Facebook!). Eating to just eat helped me pay attention to being full. 4) Just three breaths. This is a very easy mindfulness exercise. It just takes the space of three breaths and it can instantly bring me into the present. 5) Being present to the temperature. I notice that when I feel the slightest discomfort, I try to change the temperature (put on the fan or put on aircon) but actually adjusting to the temperature is a good mindfulness exercise. After a few minutes, it's not as bad as one thinks. This book will be a much-beloved companion in the future.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#11 of 36: Survival is Insufficient, a Review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How appropriate that this is book number 11 for me! I really loved reading this book. I've mentioned it elsewhere: I'm really attracted to postapocalyptic/ dystopian books. I've been trying to understand why. Maybe it's because I know it will be coming soon, given the damage on this earth and the exponential quality of any human intervention. Anyway, this was a lovely read. I loved how the loops tied nicely together, in the end. I also loved the essential quote from Star Trek that drives The Traveling Symphony: "Because survival is insufficient." One sees how little things, little accidents become mythic in nature after some time has passed (like The Museum of Civilization). There's also some metafiction going on with the titular Station Eleven as a story within the story, a really nice touch. All in all, it was a great ride, full of little moments of insight and many threads interweaving. It's not a Mad Max version of the future...just one in which art survives.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

#10 of 36: Reading a Tour de Force, a Review of Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan

Smaller and Smaller CirclesSmaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is a tour de force by F.H. Batacan. I read this as an assignment for a writing workshop (still for October) called #HeistClub (crime writing). I was really blown away by this book. The author made a serial killer entirely plausible in this book while exploring all that's wrong in Philippine society. All the characters were strong and believable and I was moved to tears several times, especially when Batacan described the families of Payatas. It's all too true and the book brims with the author's palpable anger. This is one of those books that's un-put-down-able. If I get only a smidgen of Batacan's storytelling powers, I think I'll be able to write a decent crime story. I bought both the Kindle version of the book (pre-ordered) and the print version. It's that good. I hope to read more stories with Fr. Gus Saenz (it was nice seeing him again in Manila Noir) and Fr. Jerome Lucero. Or just more stories from F. H. Batacan.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

#9 of 36: O, Discontented Mary, A Review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This choice of book confirms my addiction to the postapocalyptic genre. Incidentally, I bought this book at a second-hand bookshop. I liked the premise based on the blurb. Oveall, it may sound like just another zombie book but I liked the lyrical quality of the storytelling.

One doesn't know how far into the future this story is. All the reader is given are glimpses of social experiments in trying to live with a zombie outbreak (the zombies are called "the unconsecrated" by the very puritan-like community led by the Sisterhood) as evidenced by previously inhabited other villages similar to the one the main character used to live in. I was just a bit annoyed by the main character, Mary, who is always discontented. First she's hankering after Travis, the romantic interest, who is betrothed to her friend, Cass, and when she gets Travis (only slightly damaged), she starts hankering after the sea. I was hoping there was more into the origins of villages with roman numerals. Sadly, that doesn't get resolved in this book. I'm not sure I should move on with the series as well. I'm still thinking about it.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

#8 of 36: A Quick Read on Principles of Unschooling, a Review of Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich

Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover EducationUnschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education by Clark Aldrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great introduction to unschooling. It's not a step-by-step manual but rather a series of manifestos to help the parent or educator understand the principles of unschooling. There's a lovely anecdote in the foreword by Jeff Sandefer which captures the unease that I, too, felt as a parent assessing traditional education. I won't give it away but it's worth reading because of the emotional connection it can make to both parent and teacher. As a parent, I have a few bullets to work on (which is detailed in the last chapter, Places to Start) like: looking into internships, apprenticeships, and interesting jobs as alternatives to term papers, textbooks, and tests. Two of the action points that I've taken to heart are: (1) go outdoors more often and (2) expose more (teach less). Just these two have already enriched our homeschooling life. I borrowed a hard copy from a Human Heart Nature store in Pasig and I eventually got myself an e-book version so I can quickly review the contents as my husband and I go over our homeschooling plans.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

#StrangeLit: Finally Letting My Mermaid Swim Free

#StrangeLit class pic (Sept. 5, 2015)
#StrangeLit is an online writing workshop facilitated by Bronze Age Media (read more about it here), conducted by bestselling author, Mina V. Esguerra (with the help of fantasy author gurus like Budjette Tan, Paolo Chikiamco, and Kate Evangelista), and sponsored by buqo, that culminated last September 5. I'm so glad I joined! My manuscript, The Mermaid from Siquijor (a whopping 28,000 words. It's a novella, ladies and gentlemen!) has been submitted and ready to be distributed. Yay!

Last Saturday, Mina asked us to share what we did right and what we did wrong. So, I just wanted to share what those were for me.

What I did wrong

I was in a rush and I sacrificed a lot of sleep. If you ask me, I wouldn't take back those hours of writing, anyway. The sacrifice of sleep was worth it. I should have paced myself better. I'm now back to regular programming (until #HeistClub starts...That's another story).

I didn't give my beta readers enough time to read my manuscript. I'm so grateful to those who agreed to beta read despite the condition of next-day feedback. I also didn't give myself enough time to mull over the edits that would address the feedback of my beta readers. I just wrote them in as soon as I got the comments.

I had 5 weeks. And the expectation was 5,000 words. I over-delivered, yes, but I also crammed a lot. When I found out that someone wrote 60,000 words (a full novel!), I realized, though, that there are really no excuses. I have to live with the amount of time that I dedicated to the workshop.

What I did right

I signed up for #StrangeLit. This story has been brewing in my mind for three years already. In fact, I've released a free flash fiction version (what became the prologue in my novella) online and it's one of my most popular downloads. If this class didn't come up, I wouldn't have given myself a deadline. That's what I love about Mina's workshops, it makes me accountable to someone other than myself.

My outline saved me. If I didn't have an outline to keep me going I wouldn't have finished.

My research was complete. I did it three years ago!

Freeing the mermaid

All in all, I'm just glad that my mermaid isn't swimming in my head anymore. I love Siquijor and I realized that if there's any one place in the Philippines where mermaids would hang out, it would probably be there. I'm excited to release my story! I'm also excited to read what my fellow classmates wrote.

Here's the blurb for my story as well as the tentative cover art.

The Mermaid from Siquijor

Tentative cover art. What do you think?

Lorie Cenas gets invited to go on a diving trip to Siquijor, an island famed for its connection to the supernatural, to heal from a broken heart. She accepts but her friend doesn’t know that Lorie has a secret: she already has a deep connection to the island, the place where her mother died a long time ago.

There, she meets Marceau Egasse, a French diver and marine ecologist, who is passionate about the ocean but skeptical about the island’s mystic powers; and Elena, a mysterious island woman, who has secrets of her own.

Elena wants something from Lorie that she is not willing to give up.  Will Lorie heal wounds from her past in Siquijor? Will she find love and a kindred spirit? Or is the island a maelstrom that will consume her, just like it did her mother?

What's next? Well, there's #HeistClub!  Research the hash tag and find out more about it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

#7 of 36: Receding Hairlines and All: A Review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Receding Hairlines and All: A Review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I thought this was a lovely read. I will have to add that I blame my friend, Ines, for pointing out Levi's receding hairline (which prompted me to obsess over it as I read the book). This book was my reward for finishing a romance novella in May. I devoured it like cake. It was a quick read because I loved the story. I loved Cath, of course. I will always picture her in my head as someone jumping on her bed during an emergency dance party. I thought she was named after Willa Cather. I was disappointed to find out otherwise. But I loved Reagan even more. She reminded me of Eleanor (from Eleanor and Park) somehow. I don't know why. Maybe because she was a big girl. I loved how she became friends with Cath out of pity. What a cool girl. I would be scared to have her as my actual roommate, though. I'm a total wimp. But I wouldn't mind having her as a friend!

I have to admit: I am not into fan fiction. I like reading original stuff. Don't think I'm a snob. I am not. I can understand why there's a huge base of fan fiction out there. People don't want a story to end. I have nothing against that. But I find myself in Professor Piper's position. If I were running that creative writing class, I, too, would demand for original work.

All in all, I had fun reading Fangirl. I still like Eleanor and Park more, though. I don't know why. It punched me in the gut, maybe. I will be reading more Rainbow Rowell books soon.

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