Book Journaling: ‘Patron Saints of Nothing’ by Randy Ribay

by KB Meniado

The Philippine drug war in a YA novel? I didn’t need other reasons to sign up for an ARC of Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. Grateful to Bookworms Unite PH and Penguin Random House International for making me part of this! Check out the launch post and blog tour schedule here, and then let’s go 👇🏿

THE STORY

A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity. Get a copy: Amazon / Read reviews: Goodreads

It’s BoJo-worthy but is it also Bookshelf-worthy?

Yes x 30,000 or so. Yes, in the name of truth and justice. And humanity. Yes!

Having been born in Davao and now living here again, I get a few judgmental questions and backhanded comments here and there about certain political issues. It’s almost fascinating if it weren’t terrifying, the way some people just outright assume. “Oh you’re from Davao, so you’re… right??” and so on. It’s not black-and-white at all like that, and this book conveys just how much a lot of things are more than what they seem. Case in reference, the atrocity that is the drug war. This story shows how wounds and horrors run deeper and darker, and how plenty of factors—the strengths and pressures of our culture, the illnesses of our society, the suffering and the survival of our people—contribute to the entirety of what this war brings and means to the Filipino. Bonus points for highlights on religion, queer relationships (mainly F/F), treatment of mixed race identity and local life (the food! the travel!). Any sensible reader living in this timeline should be at the very least desperately curious about this book. This story is personal—to me, to you, to every Filipino—and it matters greatly, no matter where you are in the world. Highly, strongly recommended. Prepare to be moved. ☁️

Special thanks to Penguin Random House International and Bookworms Unite PH for the ARC. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version (but this review reflects honest thoughts). Patron Saints of Nothing comes out June 18.
Header image by The Ultimate Fangirl. Join the #PatronSaintsPHTour discussion on Twitter on June 22, 8 p.m. PHT.

Bookbed recommends: ‘Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Closed-Door Mystery’ ni Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo

ni KB Meniado

Nakalakhan ko ang Nancy Drew at Goosebump na mga libro kaya nama’t mahilig ako sa mga mystery novels. Nanonood din ako dati ng Detective Conan, kasamang pareho yung palabas sa TV at yung mga pelikula. Noong unang pagkakataong nalaman kong ang Detective Boys of Masangkay series ay waring pinagsama itong mga paborito ko, laking kagalakan ko ng makakuha ako ng kopya.

Pero lumipas na ang tatlong (!) taon at hindi ko pa rin nababasa ang unang libro na patungkol sa isang “mangkukulam.” Ang nakakatuwa (tawa?) pa nito ay bumili pa rin ako nung pangalawang libro sa serye na inilabas noong nakaraang taon.

Aaminin ko, inuna kong basahin itong pangalawang libro dahil una, mas manipis ito, at pangalawa, interesado ako sa ‘closed-door mystery.’ Ngunit siyempre, bago ko pa man binuklat ang libro, sinilip ko rin muna ang review ni Nicai para sa unang installment. Ang rason? Baka may mga clues na nakalatag doon na maaari kong dalhin sa aking pagbabasa.

Sa totoo lang, hindi ko naman ganoon ka kailangang basahin ang naunang libro, o ‘di kaya naman yung review. Sapagkat, ang librong ito ay pwedeng isang stand-alone. Ibig sabihin, pwedeng basahin kahit hindi pa nabasa yung una. Parang isang episode ng Detective Conan—konektado dahil sa kalakhang story arc nito pero may sariling kwento pa rin mismong ito.

At nagustuhan ko ‘yun. Madaling basahin at sundan ang pagkakasulat nito, at bagaman simple ang misteryo kumpara sa mga nakapadetalyadong mystery books, kausi-usisa pa rin. Pwedeng pang-Read Aloud, o ‘di kaya naman pang-play. Marami rin kasing parteng pwedeng isadula, at mga parteng mas magandang makita in action.

Nag-enjoy din ako sa pagkilala kina Uno, Thirdy, Junior at Me-An at ang kanilang pagkakaibigan. Naging interesado rin ako sa mga secondary characters, gaya ng sekretaryang si Jason. Bawat karaker ay may karakter. Haha!

Napansin ko rin ang mga drawings na nakalakip sa mga pahina. Gawa ito ni Borg Sinaban, at sa aking pananaliksik (haha, Google search), marami sa kanyang art ang anime-inspired. Sa akin, napaka-swak nito sa istorya, dahil nga rin sa mga inspirayon nito mula sa ’90s (kung kelan naka-set ang kwento).

Kung hanap mo ay isang mabilisang babasahin na may misteryo, pakikipagsapalaran at pagkakaibigan, siguradong magugustuhan mo ito. Pati na rin ng iyong nakababatang kapatid at pinsan, o ‘di kaya naman ‘yung nakatatanda mong kaibigang gustong balikan ang pagkabata. ☁

Basahin ang review ng Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Mangkukulam dito, at panoorin ang #MagbasaMonday ni Bibi Mangki para sa librong ito sa ibaba. Mabibili ang mga kopya mula sa Adarna House.

All Reading Aloud: ‘The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories’ by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, wirrow

Welcome to All Reading Aloud, in which we read excerpts out loud.

This time book, we feature The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Vol. 2 (The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories #2) by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, illustrated by wirrow. This contains haiku-like verses that are thought-provoking and will stay with you for a time.

Watch the video below to listen to a few tiny stories from the book. If you enjoyed this, let us know. We also welcome requests so feel free to send titles our way! ☁

This post is not sponsored.

Bookbed reviews: ‘100 Days of Sunlight’ by Abbie Emmons

by KB Meniado

THE STORY

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down. 

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down. Get a copy / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I want to say it was the shiny, colorful cover that got me, but really, it was the losing eyesight part in the blurb. And the “no legs.” Because a YA contemporary novel starring two differently abled teens? Sign me up for sure, even if I have to receive a Word file, yes of course.

Given that, I had quite the expectations, and writing style-wise, they were mostly met. I liked the rhythm of the sentences, and in spite of the heavy themes, the tone just sang “everything’s going to be alright” to me. The plot could have been tighter and the dialogues cleaner, but also, I felt that the use of alternating POVs and flashbacks were the best way to go to tell a story like this, in which things get revealed slowly rather than right away.

Tessa was difficult to like at first (“a fireball of anger”), as she was understandably frustrated by what happened to her. (I have myopia with astigmatism so eyesight loss is a touchy subject as well.) There were times I wanted to shake her out of her ~darkness, like, friend, breathe that air, feel that love, they’re beautiful, aren’t you grateful to be just alive? More than being alive, she had a loving family in her grandparents, her poetry and her (online) friends, but she refused to ~see it. (Heh.) Thankfully, she gained more texture to her personality when she opened up to new experiences with Weston’s help, so I was able to warm up to her.

Everyone tells me to get more rest—but how can I, when sleep is more exhausting that being awake?

“Am I choosing to be defeated?”

Weston is a bit of a different story. He’s go-getting and charming, and he constantly seeks the brighter side of life. That’s not to say he’s perfect—I felt that the initial purpose of him working for Tessa was kind of self-serving. And that’s acceptable. To be amputated so young at 13, I understood his need to feel somehow ‘normal’ again and to be treated beyond what his prosthetic legs usually warranted. I thought it was helpful that he had good friendships (Rudy, what a star) and a supportive family as well (his dad, another star).

“You have a life, for crying out loud! You’re sitting there and you’re breathing in and out and you can probably see and you can probably hear and you can probably taste and you can probably smell and you can probably feel the sun on your face when you walk outside today. That’s five really good reasons not to be miserable. And if you keep looking, you’ll find new reasons all the time. But you’ve got to choose it. Over and over again. Every day, every hour, sometimes every minute. You’ve got to choose it. Just like I chose it.”

(I really felt for him and for the rest of the people out there who have to grow up fast and realize the facts of life. Salute~)

So he and Tessa coming together, learning from each other about how to make the best out of what they have? Yes! I was pleased to follow their adventures together, waffles, ukeleles and all. All of those are part of what a meaningful connection is about, and I thought the author was able to capture that in their friendship, which I feel is essentially the heart of this book. (Their eventual romance is another thing, which I will discuss below.) It was very cute, and given this Pinterest board and Spotify playlist the author set up for this story which I found before I started reading*, I could imagine the setting and the feel of the scenes. Netflix adaptation, anyone?

*I wasn’t following Abbie Emmons before, so when I got approved for this ARC, I started searching about her as well. It was really fun finding out that she’s an indie creator. She made that book cover by herself, btw! Check out her blog and YouTube videos.

HOWEVER

(Spoiler alert! Highlight succeeding text to read.)

If insta-love is not your thing, then you might have an issue with how quickly Tessa and Weston fell for each other. They actually say “I love you” to each other a few times, and while I’m all for love, this might be off-putting to those who aren’t convinced of how deeply they connected on a romantic sense. I personally would have preferred if the author just left that hanging, and to let readers imagine what could have blossomed between them after Tessa got her eyesight back and found out Weston had prosthetic legs.

Speaking of which, I did have an issue with how the book ended. See, as soon as Weston realized Tessa was going to find out he was an amputee, he hid. It felt like a turn-around to what his character stood for and was about. I got that that was his main issue, and as a teen, visual beauty still matters, but I thought the story was way past that? All I’m saying is that it made feel a little confused and underwhelmed.

It would have been also nice had there been an appendix to discuss the medical conditions in the book, alongside the author’s research and insights, even personal experiences. (I’ve been trying to go through her YouTube and blog to find out why she chose these specific conditions, does she have them, does she have any family or friends that experience/d these, etc.) I would have also liked the church-going part of Tessa to have been explored more because her Grandpa was a preacher, after all, and you know, when people go through something, some usually hold on to their faith, right? It would have been fascinating to see her reflections injected in her poetry, which I wanted to see more and better of.

tl;dr

This is an easy book to read in spite of its heavy themes. It shows how teens can deal with a disability in different lights—from anger and forced optimism to connection and full acceptance. I’d recommend for YA contemporary lovers to pick up 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons—it’s adorable and heartwarming. ☁️

The reviewer received a copy from Net Galley. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.
100 Days of Sunlight comes out August 7th. Visit the author’s YouTube channel here.

Playing with Art and Book Design: An Interview with Miles Tan

by KB Meniado

We do judge some books by their covers, and like any self-respecting reader and book lover, I always swoon a little whenever I see pretty editions. Pretty is subjective, of course, but if we’re talking pretty as in lovely with a side of heart-skipping, then I think Miles Tan’s works qualify. I’ve long crushed on and actually have some of the books she’s worked on, and intended to publish this interview for Women’s Month, but of course, anytime is a good time to celebrate women and promote good art! And right timing, too, because Miles will have a talk about book cover design this May 25 (details below!). Here, she shares her creative process and tips on deciding your art’s worth. Enjoy!

Miles Tan is a full-time web and graphic designer. Most of her original art can be found on the book covers for independent authors of the #romanceclass community, which she’s also a part of, and #HeistClub. She is also a cover designer of Anvil Publishing’s Spark Books imprint such as Midnights in Bali and Don’t Tell My Mother. When her muse is taking a break, she’s either replaying Mass Effect 2 or getting through her TBR pile. (Lastly, you may have read one of her books.)

Visit her website / Email her / Follow on IG and Twitter @maedinn / Buy her books: via the Author (print)Amazon

Hi, Miles! Thanks for making time for this. My first question is: Have you always seen yourself designing book covers?

I have always seen myself doing art, regardless of the medium. I did take this in college, after all (haha!). Though I haven’t particularly seen myself doing book covers. I mean, I was interested, but I didn’t realize I could actually do this for work.

After writing Finding X (check out my thread of feels here!—KB), I had a couple of ideas to write, but I encountered an artist’s block and couldn’t produce anything creative for myself. I was given an opportunity to do book covers for Irene Recio, Laney Castro and Ana Tejano, which was then followed by Anvil Publishing’s SparkNA imprint, and the rest was history. It felt great that I was still producing creatively through other people’s books. It also felt great that I have been able to help their books look good. The upside to all of this is, it has lifted my artist’s block while still loving doing the work.

Can you take us through the process of conceptualizing and producing a book cover design? How do you choose a part from the story to highlight? How about typeface, colors, size of text?

The authors would usually already know what they want to see on their cover. Or they may not know what they want when we first talk, so I ask them a few basic questions:

  1. Do they have samples of covers or posters or artwork that they like? Why do they like it?
  2. Is there a specific scene they want to show? A feeling they want it to evoke?
  3. Is there a particular color scheme they want to use?

I also ask for when do they need the cover, so we’d know our timetable.
From there, I create rough studies for them, which can either be illustrated sketches or straight up photo mockups.

In an ideal situation, the author would pick one and only then do I start working on the full cover. If they couldn’t decide yet, I work on the feedback they give. There may be a lot of back and forth when this happens, but a good cover design owes much to honest feedback as it does hard work.

Typeface and text sizes are mostly chosen or done intuitively, or if the author has specific requests. But I make it a point, always, that both title and author name are legible. I make it a point to check my final artworks when it’s a small thumbnail in a sea of other book covers. I check it’s still readable in black or white, and if it’s accessible to the color blind. I make adjustments whenever I see fit. For me, it shouldn’t just be pretty but also readable.

Sounds very detail-oriented, and I can imagine the level of hard work and creativity that goes into it all. Can you share with us the most rewarding projects you’ve done so far? Any challenges you’re proud to have accomplished? 🙂

All of them are rewarding, for sure! Challenge-wise, I’ve received a few requests with really unique specifics, and some with portraiture, which I haven’t done in a while since doing it back in uni. There was one where my main task was to make the leading man look like exactly from the photo reference (Like Nobody’s Watching by Tara Frejas). I love how the colors turned out as well. I’m ready to take on another one of those, world! There’s also the challenge of making the colors come out right once printed, especially when it’s a mix of photo and illustrated graphics. 

How do you deal with different kinds of clients?

With an additional amount of patience! I also try to figure out the pain points of the relationship and why it happens (Is the design style not working? Are they looking for something else?) so I give them options I know I can knock out, or ask them outright if there’s something very specific they’re looking for. As I mentioned earlier, communication is key.

With all these back-and-forths, what is your average time of project completion?

In an ideal world, I allocate a lead time of three to four weeks to complete a book cover project. This already includes revisions. This is so I have room while working on my day job as well. But sometimes, we’re on a very strict timetable. There was one time, I had to finish four book covers in a span of three weeks! Managing time is really a challenge when client deadlines move. I’ve learned to take on just one project at a time so that they don’t overlap, but sometimes, the milestones still overlap because of moving deadlines!

Moving deadlines can be a pain in the butt but we all have to deal 🙂 Following that, especially for those who are interested to give book cover design a go, how do you decide what’s “enough and fair” for both the client and you?

From the very start of my freelancing career, I’ve been advised to have a standard rate per hour or per product for the core work that I do. This is so I have a starting point, and I can easily scale up or down, depending on what the project needs. It’s also easy to set a standard rate with book designs because I’ve already established the process of how things go on my end. It also helps that I have them posted up on my site so a prospective client knows the rate to expect. I decide on what’s enough and fair by figuring out what they need for the project. The client may have already commissioned someone else for the artwork they want to use for the cover and just want it laid out nicely, or they need help conceptualizing from the start. It also depends on how much time and work the project entails. I also offer a payment plan for bigger projects so that they don’t have to pay it all in one go.

Is there any author you’d love to make a book cover for? Any book cover you’d like to recreate?

I’d love to make a book cover for Mina V. Esguerra. Create one and be a part of the world she’s built, the one that paved the way for #romanceclass. I also hope I could have the opportunity to recreate Beginner’s Guide by Six de los Reyes, either in illustration or photo. Want the challenge to take on a new spin on one of NPR’s top books of 2016. 😉

No plans on doing yours? 😉

Durn, I haven’t actually thought of this yet! I’m actually pretty happy with what my friend Hiyas has done for Finding X. If I do decide to recreate its cover, it might be after I finish writing a couple more books! And it just might still be illustrated. And yes, still with the element of Matteo’s blue hair 😉

Ah, we can’t lose the blue, EVER. Speaking of not losing, do you have any tips or recommendations, such as workshops and lessons, for the aspiring?

There aren’t any local workshops specifically for book cover designs that I know about. Only online stuff, but I haven’t tried those so I can’t recommend. I do suggest following design blogs and artist accounts with the art and style that capture your imagination. I admire works by Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Emily Mahon, Leo Nickolls, and Jim Tierney. I also follow Spine Magazine for cover news as well. But [for the first time], I’m actually doing a #romanceclass lecture about book cover design with Mina on May 25!

[As for advice]: Be patient with your own self, and the challenges given to you by a project. Be kind to yourself, and don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s okay to not do everything! And definitely keep lines of communication open with your client. And, for the love of everything, RSI (repetitive strain injury) is no fun so don’t forget to do your stretches! ☁️

For more info about Miles Tan’s book cover design lecture, visit the #romanceclass website. Get copies of her books here.

Book Journaling: ‘Stay A Little Longer’ by Dawn Lanuza

by KB Meniado

Two weeks before this goes out to the world, and if you’re a romance reader or a Dawn Lanuza fan second-guessing yourself about pre-ordering or getting this book, this might help you somehow. So stay a little longer to watch and read more below!

THE STORY

They were perfect strangers—all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway around the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Convinced that they would never have to see each other again after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars. 

With brief encounters that turned them from acquaintances to friends — tipping to the point of lovers, always — will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?  Get a copy: Amazon (out May 28), soon in bookstores worldwide / Read reviews: Goodreads

It’s BoJo-worthy but is it also Bookshelf-worthy?

Yes, if we’re going by the cover alone because so pretty, but hey that’s not all there is to it. So I want to say this is more for readers stepping into a long-distance relationship, or those already in one, because this romance about a couple in their mid-20s captures such an intimate and resonating account of being apart trying to make it work.

In both Caty and Elan, I saw my self—ambitious but hesitant, willing but afraid. They both know there’s something real and solid between them, yet are not blind to the fact that the distance and time difference (Manila-New York) will not work to their advantage. Add to that, they have pasts to move on from, lives to lead, family to attend to, career goals to achieve.

But what do they do? They keep the connection alive and active, every chance they get.

And that’s the beauty of it—that willingness to take risks even though clouds of doubt and fear hover. Sure, it was a little excruciating for me to witness Caty and Elan drag themselves to realization but I found their journey heavily accurate. LDR is not at all a joke—I’d go to the lengths of saying it’s harder, in the way it requires more effort, more constant communication, more patience, more trust and faith—and so I did understand Caty’s self-denial and sabotage (“am I even worth it, I can’t put this much pressure on him”) and Elan’s hesitation (“do I deserve her, how can make it work?”). There’s also the issue of career for her and family for him, both very valid concerns especially in a Filipino setup as these are crucial factors to consider when transitioning from LDR to actually being together, so difficult, very difficult.

But thankfully, like in real-life, there are people who got Caty and Elan’s backs to remind them that “when you know, you know” and that they owe it to themselves to see it through and make it happen, and make it happen right away. In the words of the great Lucian, Caty’s best friend in New York, “one has to be braver.” (Elan’s sister, Gia, also weighs in the same thought, and gosh, just how great this cast of characters is??)

So do they make it? Do they get a happy ending?

Guaranteed. I won’t spoil anything the how but Caty and Elan eventually figure it out and get there, the resolution and reunion sweet and satisfying. And you know, their story might teach you a thing or two about your relationship, long distance or not. That said, no matter what kind of books you read, take the risk with Stay A Little Longer. ☁️

Note: This story is also set in the universe of The Hometown Hazard by the same author, which I loved.

The reviewer read a galley. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Stay A Little Longer comes out May 28.

3 Readers Celebrate Their Moms Every Day, One Book At A Time

Today is extra special: we’re celebrating all kinds of mothers around the world—who they are, what they do for us, how much they mean to us. Here, three readers share some of their most touching and intimate stories about their moms. We hope you enjoy them, and please feel free to share your own lovely memories with us as well. Happy Mother’s Day!


My memories of my mother are set mostly in the kitchen. I grew up watching her cook, and mimicking her in the process. She cooked so much—enough for one barangay, my father said, which sort of ensured that we were always well-fed at home.

Of all the dishes I watched my mom make, two were etched deeply in my mind: tinola and bread pudding.

My mom’s tinola was as simple as it gets: chicken broth cubes, sayote, pechay, malunggay or chili leaves, and chicken sautéed in ginger and garlic. Because she had me cooking this in her place many times, I memorized her recipe and adapted it as my own.

Tinola is warm, invigorating and light. The gingery scent tickles your nose and nudges at your taste buds. The soft chicken and the oily broth trickles down your throat and eases the coldness inside your belly. As expected of comfort food.

Meanwhile, the one dish that baffled me the most was her bread pudding. She was obsessed with cooking large batches of them, especially during fiestas and holidays. Those things took long to prepare, and as a kid, I didn’t find it as appealing as, say, leche flan or ube halaya.

One thing about my mom’s bread pudding was that she loved giving it away to neighbors and relatives. Note that while I found them unappealing, they did taste great. Eventually, it was the dish that our family identified most with her.

Later in life, I thought of learning new genres to write so as to break the monotony of my career and sharpen my skills. It was ultimately my love for eating, which I developed after having so much of my mom’s cooking, which led me to write about food.

My first impulse was to draw from my memories while taking inspiration from Anthony Bourdain’s works. Most of his books told of his time in the kitchens he worked in. Taking Bourdain’s cue, I sought to remember the dishes I learned from my mom. (Related: “8 Readers Whose Travels Were Inspired by Books“)

Mom’s tinola recipe was the first true life lesson I learned from her, and was a big part of my adult life. Tinola was my go-to dish when I moved to Baguio City, and one I worked on when I decided to introduce to my family the first girl I dated. Come to think of it, I have seriously my heart and soul into my tinola in three instances, all involving someone I was in love with, but that’s a different story.

Cooking bread pudding, on the other hand, was a chore. I remember the gentle violence of tearing slices of bread apart, watching sugar caramelize, the struggle in mixing milk, eggs, and sugar, and the anticipation as they pop out of the steamer. I guess the best part was having some of the pudding and watching the smiles on the faces of those we give them to. I bet I had that smile at one point.  

Reading through Bourdain’s books made me realize there were so much to look back to regarding my mom, dining, and how I would shape my work. See, writing about food means trying to put into paper the scents, the flavors, and the feelings revolving around the food you cook and eat. Translating smell and taste into words is tough, but it enriches the imagination.

To date, I’ve successfully written about tinola only once, and it was an attempt to write a short love story. I hoped to put on paper how cooking helps convey one’s feelings to another. Somewhere along the way, things went south and it turned into a thriller.

This year would mark a decade after my mom passed away. The last I saw her alive was at lunch time, as she was in the kitchen, cooking as always. I missed hearing her voice, seeing her doing chores, having to listen to her tirades, and coming home to her home-cooked meals.

I mourn the fact that she left without having read my crime books. I won’t call my works top-notch, but I poured everything I have in my stories. She appreciated my work as a journalist; I hoped she would appreciate my other genres as well. (Related: “#HeistClub: Manila in the Eyes of an Outsider“)

To be honest, I don’t think I can cook tinola the same way she did, nor can I duplicate the taste of her bread pudding. The least I can do to continue honoring her memory is remember her and her meals, and someday, write in length about her cooking.—Mark Manalang

Mark’s mother and niece | Photo posted with permission

When I was young, I would always get excited whenever Mama goes to the supermarket and do grocery shopping. I would always be her shopping buddy because I was the Ate and I figured I should learn to buy things for my siblings.

One day while waiting for Mama to pay the groceries, I found a nook near the counter. It was a bookcase! I couldn’t help but start browsing the novels. They were new to me. I only read textbooks and school materials because I was still in elementary.

I was very focused with the books that I didn’t hear Mama calling my name.

“What are you reading?”

“Ma, can you buy this for me, please?”

She frowned. “This a love story, Pau, and it is not even new.”

“Not too old, Ma. Look!” I pointed to the back of the book.

“Do you really want to read this book?”

“Yes, Ma.” I answered. “I’ll read it on Saturday after I finish my homework.”

“Okay.” She gave me 100 pesos even though the book was only 60 pesos. “Add the change for your baon.”

“Thank you, Ma!” I smiled triumphantly and went to the counter.

I was then an incoming grade five student and even though, I was not familiar with romance and fantasy, I got hooked to the story. I started to save money from my baon to purchase a book whenever Mama and I went to the grocery store.

Since that day, whenever my birthday rolled around, Mama would always give me books as gift. She would always take time to go to the bookstore. Because of that, I grew up reading V.C. Andrews and Sabrina the Teenage Witch books. These novels made me crave for more stories and shaped my childhood’s imaginary world.

And Whispers in the Woods, the book I asked my mother to buy is still with me. I reread the book every year because it would always remind me that Mom bought my first book. —Paula Alagao

Paula with her mother | Photo posted with permission

My mother taught me many wonderful things: how to walk like a lady, what losing one’s virginity felt like, why a child should never talk to strangers.

Above all, she taught me to read, and to love every second of it.

Contrary to what most people assumed, my mother wasn’t a teacher. However, her passion for books ran deeply in her veins. Her collection could have rivaled mine, though her choices were a stark contrast to my favorites. She mostly had romances on her shelves—the bodice-ripping, princess-abducting kind. I liked the covers, took in the corsets, bosoms, muscles, and long-haired men, and let the images run free in my mind. Even as a child, I already knew who Johanna Lindsey was.

I saw more names in her collection: Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, John Grisham. Strangely, I hardly ever read them.

That wasn’t a problem, though. My mother, the smart woman that she was, put a colorful display of hardbound books. The titles ranged from
Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. This collection sparked my love for the classics, and I never looked back.

She also let me leaf through those free Nido booklets, weekly Newsweek subscriptions, Junior Inquirer, Reader’s Digest (however dated they were), and National Geographic. Never was there a dull moment during summer. I had one of the most fun and enjoyable childhood experiences, thanks to reading, thanks to my mother.

This goes without saying that she allowed my own literary tastes to develop, to find a body of their own. She cheered me on when I finished reading Alice in Wonderland, let me mush over Sweet Valley High characters, and called me to dinner when I buried myself in Mary Higgins Clark’s detective stories. In more ways than one, Mama instilled in me the same passion for books that burned in her chest. There was no judgment, no censorship, no conversations about high and low brow lit. As long as I read, she was happy.

She may have died more than a decade ago, but her influence is very much visible in my life. I still kept a few of her books, at the same time I have chosen to give away or sell her bestsellers. The rare ones, like Sophie’s Choice and The World According to Garp are on my iron-wrought shelf, waiting for my eager hands to turn the pages, and for my hungry eyes to devour their words.

The world taught me to celebrate Mother’s Day in May. My mother taught me, among other things, to celebrate life every day, one book at a time.—Maria Criselda Santos

☁️

Bookbed reviews: ‘Jumper Cable Chronicles: Si Santa Anita’ ni E.K. Gonzales, salin sa Filipino ni Xi Zuq

ni KB Meniado

ANG KWENTO

Habang bakasyon, dapat pagpasok sa senior high school ang pinaghahandaan ni Dino—hindi ang pagbuo ng koneksiyon sa Dimension 048; hindi ang pagdating ng isang batang dimension engineer na si Haya Project; hindi ang paghanap sa medical engineer na si Anita Project; at hndi ang pagiging Agent 001 ng Dimension 196.

Bakit pa kasi siya nagtangkang manood ng live streaming ng laban ni Pacquiao? Dapat nag-review na lang siya para sa entrance exam! Get a copy: Adarna House / Read reviews: Goodreads

MGA NAGUSTUHAN KO

Matagal na noong huli akong magbasa ng YA sci-fi, lalo na’t nakasalin sa Filipino, kaya laking tuwa ko na sa unang sabak pa lang, natuwa na agad ako sa mga pakikipagsapalaran ni Dino kasama si Haya. Madali kong nailagay ang sarili ko sa world-building ng kwento, at masaya kong sinubaybayan ang unti-unting pagbunyag ng mga misteryo ukol sa mga Dimensions, kay Haya at sa nawawalang medical engineer na naging santa na si Anita.

Maraming elemento at pangyayari ang pwedeng ihalintulad sa mga nangyayari sa kasalukuyang lipunan—gaya ng pros at cons ng teknolohiya, pang-aabuso sa mga inosente, paghahanap ng mga alternatibong pag-asa at pagkapit sa pananampalataya. Sa pagpili ni Dino na tulungan si Haya na hanapin si Anita, nakita ko ang pakikisama, pag-unawa sa naiiba sa iyo at ang paalala na kapag ginusto mo, may paraan. Sakripisyo at determinasyon naman ang pinairal ni Haya, sa kagustuhang maibalik si Anita sa Dimension 048. At si Anita? Para sa akin, siya ang nagsilbing simbolo ng isang pangarap, o katuparan ng pangarap. Dahil sa kanya, nabigyan ng purpose at misyon sina Dino at Haya, na siyang nagturo sa kanila—direkta man o hindi—ng mga leksyon sa buhay.

Hindi ko man nabasa ang orihinal na teksto sa Ingles, palagay ko ay naisalin pa rin ang humor at ang overall na tono ng kwento sa Filipino. (Bisitahin si Xi Zuq dito.) Sa akin, mas madaling akong naka-relate kasi may katatawanan na mas naka-capture sa sarili nating salita. Nagustuhan ko ring may kasamang maliliit ngunit importanteng portrayal ng mga araw-araw ng isang batang (nagbibinatang) Pinoy. Paborito ko ang mga magulang ni Dino—napaka-supportive at open-minded, kailangan natin ng mga ganitong representasyon ng pamilya!—pati na rin ang pagso-spoil nila kay Haya gamit ang tinola! 😂

Bukod sa mga iyon, mayroon mga references sa iba pang mga nobela gaya ng Janus Silang at Trese, na maaaring magbigay daan sa mga mambabasa na palawakin pa ang kanilang interes sa akdang Pinoy. Baka sa susunod may pa-crossover na! At dahil nandito na rin tayo, gusto kong mabasa na ang susunod sa series. Palagay ko may madidiskubre na namang bagong dimensyon, o ‘di kaya naman ay mas makikilala pa natin ang institusyon na nasa likod ng mga Projects. At nawa’y kasing-ganda rin ang pambalat ng pangalawang libro! (Gawa ni Paolo Lim; bisitahin ang kanyang website.)

SA MADALING SALITA

Ang Jumper Cable Chronicles: Si Santa Anita ay may kombinasyon ng aksyon at imahenasyon, katatawanan, kulturang Pinoy at aral ng buhay. Wari’y na-jump cable din ako papunta papunta sa ibang Dimension. ☁️

Magbasa pa ng mga kwentong Jumper Cable dito.

Storiesnap Time: ‘The Times Concise History of the World’ by Geoffrey Parker

Welcome back to Storiesnap Time, in which we feature books with illustrations in snaps and clips.

This time, we chose The Times Concise History of the World by Geoffrey Parker to hopefully encourage those who want to get into, or revisit the stories of our past in a quick, bite-sized way.

Watch the video below to check it out, and if you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments below. We also welcome requests so feel free to send titles our way! ☁️

This post is not sponsored.

Bookbed reviews: ‘How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & Other Poems’ by Jim Pascual Agustin

by Lausanne Barlaan

THE STORY

Jim Pascual Agustin has created a distinct, challenging, and necessary collection of poetry that successfully weaves together inner lives and the larger entities surrounding us.

How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter is undeniably a product of its time, made necessary for the challenges it poses upon the reader-challenges the narrator quietly rallies the reader to take on, against the chaos we are already, unfortunately, growing comfortable with.

The poetry possesses an undercurrent of begrudging stillness and stoicism-this quiet voice, with every line that falls, wonders whether humanity is still worthy of championing. Get a copy: San Anselmo Press / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

It’s always tricky to read poetry, more so to read it for the sake of reviewing it. There’s the concept of the author being dead—that once the last line is typed, the work now belongs to the reader, open to any kind of interpretation. And yet, an overthinker like me would worry, what if I misinterpret what the author intended to evoke?

Still, the themes in How to Make Salagubang Helicopter are so distinctly clear, covering poems drawn from personal experience and observation to timely sections (perfectly titled “Abominations,” my personal favorite chapter) dedicated to making sense of the senseless decisions and actions made by the current administration. Agustin even manages to make hard-hitting poetry out of the government’s documents (“victimize mostly the underprivileged / and impoverished sector / of society / eradicate” from Redacted Official Document No. 1) and from news coverage (“The police / armed with lists / altered / the body / brutalized / to public acceptance.” from Mangling Miguel Syjuco’s Words).

And while some writers prefer to keep an air of mystery around their sources of inspiration, it was refreshing to see photographs included in the book, credited by Agustin as prompts used for his poetry. “The Keys are in Someone Else’s Pocket” especially hit home with my tear ducts, showing a somber photograph of a war veteran waiting outside a bank combined with beautiful lines hypothesizing on its subject’s life:

“Your veteran’s cap / will give no shade. The morning crowds / rush soon enough, unmindful / of where you were born, or how long ago / you felt sweat gather between your finger / and the trigger as you waited / for the enemy / to come just a little / closer.”

Overall, this collection of poetry flows with such grace that while a number of poems make you pause in stunned silence, you can’t help but flip on to the next one to get another serving of this experience.

HOWEVER

Nothing, really. If anything, I hope I heard about this book sooner, and that this book becomes required reading or at the very least more present in local bookstores for others to discover.

tl;dr

How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & Other Poems by Jim Pascual Agustin is a great collection of poetry that lays out hard-hitting truths and manages to strike universal emotional nerves. ☁️

Bookbed received a copy from the author in exchange for honest thoughts. Read our Review Policy here.