February: Books, Coffee, Charchar, Anime, and Caves

I’ll be on my way to Manila and Baguio in a few hours and won’t be back ’til days later. It’s February 2013 tomorrow (!!!), which is crazy since it feels like I just spent the New Year a few days ago. Regardless, I think February’s going to be a great month.

I’m still in the middle of The Wise Man’s Fear and when I finish it, I don’t know what to read next. Well, I always don’t know what to read next anyway (I just pick up what feels right at the moment), so I’m really hoping I won’t finish this during the vacation because I’d be restless with the limited book choices I have in my Kindle. We’ll see!!

As early as last week, I already have all my weekends booked. So many events to look forward to, here’s some of them:

February 2-3, 2013: Personal holiday in the North. It’s my mom’s birthday, and my boyfriend’s a few days later and we decided to spend some time in Manila, mostly to go shopping for toys. We don’t want to spend a hefty airfare just to shop though (we’re poor cats), so we decided to squeeze in a couple of days in Baguio too. I have a friend who’s based in that cold city and is willing to drive us around. Another friend also volunteered to check on my cats while we’re gone (we scheduled the trip way before the adoption), and we are sooooo grateful for this… sacrifice.

February 9, 2013: La Belle Aurore is serving coffee all Saturdays of February! My favorite bookshop in Cebu City is teaming up with Boots Coffee Bar to serve “exotic and specialty single origin coffee brewed in different manual methods.” They’ll be serving Kape di Mutit (aka Kopi Luwak, Civet Cat Coffee), and I’m excited to finally try it.

Here’s the sched:

Feb 2 & 9 in Junquera:
Ethiopian Sidamo
El Salvador
Kalinga Brew
Kape di Mutit (aka Kopi Luwak, Civet Cat Coffee)

Feb 16 & 23 in H. Cortes:
Kenya AA Karumandi/ Kichwa Tembo
Costa Rica Monte Paso Microlot
Kalinga Brew
Kape di Mutit (aka Kopi Luwak, Civet Cat Coffee)

Brewing Methods and Price:
V60 Pour Over:
Specialty Single Origin . . . . . P85
Kalinga Brew Blend . . . . . . . .P65
Kape di Mutit . . . . . . . . . . . P120

French Press:
Specialty Single Origin . . . . . P75
Kalinga Brew Blend . . . . . . . .P55
Kape di Mutit . . . . . . . . . . . P110

Vietnamese Phin:
Specialty Single Origin . . . . . P70
Kalinga Brew Blend . . . . . . . .P50
Kape di Mutit . . . . . . . . . . . P100

Please do drop by. If you like coffee, this is going to be exciting. If you don’t, there will be books. Coffee will be served from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., I think. Check out the FB event page here.

Also on February 9, 7:30 P.M. is a Valentines/Char-char Event also at La Belle Aurore. It’s called Lovebug / Labhag. It’s not easy explaining the bisaya humor in this, but I found the event name very amusing.
Lovebug_Labhag_LaBelleAurore
Please do join us at the FB event page here. We’ve been sharing our favorite love poems and other char-char notes there. It’s a hoot.

February 16, 2013: UP Otakufest VI: A History of Magic! This is a yearly gathering of anime cosplayers and enthusiasts to… have fun. I shared last year’s event with some guys I play D&D with. It’s always fun and I get to see the guys from school again. My boyfriend’s band is performing too (as they always do, every year).

UPOtakuFestVI

I usually go there just to hang out, since I’ve drifted apart from the whole anime culture (which I used to be obsessed with, BTW). I still enjoy seeing kids in costumes though.

February 23, 2013: We’re possibly going on an outdoor adventure trip in Danasan. I’m not really the outdoorsy type but I love spelunking and there are cave tours offered in some of their adventure packages. This activity is still too far out though so things could change.

I’m sorry for blabbering. I’m waiting for time to pass so I can get out of here and go straight to the airport.

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Current Read: The Wise Man’s Fear

Oh, hello. I’m still in the middle of re-reading The Wise Man’s Fear. The whole experience is still as fun as the first reading, and it’s a nice gateway book to fantasy after reading too many non-genre books this month. I always have this itch when I read too many books that doesn’t have any magic, spaceships, or swords in them – a persistent hankering for something that makes me feel at home. Books from any other genre would eventually feel like a burden, no matter how good they are.

My copy of The Wise Man’s Fear is one of my most prized recent possessions. It’s a first edition and mint, meaning I haven’t read the story on the paper book since I’m deathly scared of breaking the spine. It’s silly, I know, but you do what you want do even if it doesn’t make sense sometimes. So yeah, I’ve read the book twice in my Kindle Touch and in Kindle apps for the PC. My Kindle Touch is amazing and I love it, and its accompanying apps (for PC, iOS and Android) are all neat. I highly recommend them.

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I highly recommend the book too. It’s fun and full of adventure. It is quite long though, so you get stuck with it for some time, especially when you’re up to your nose in office work, like I am these days. I squeeze in reading on my commute to/from work, when I feel exhausted in the office and when I feed my cat. I’m going on a holiday soon though, so I should get more reading done by then.

See you around!

kvothe

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

This is the first short story I’ve read this year, and it has become one of my favorites ever. It’s unbelievably good and I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read it. Here’s what Isaac Asimov has to say about it:

This is by far my favorite story of all those I have written.

After all, I undertook to tell several trillion years of human history in the space of a short story and I leave it to you as to how well I succeeded. I also undertook another task, but I won’t tell you what that was lest l spoil the story for you.

It is a curious fact that innumerable readers have asked me if I wrote this story. They seem never to remember the title of the story or (for sure) the author, except for the vague thought it might be me. But, of course, they never forget the story itself especially the ending. The idea seems to drown out everything — and I’m satisfied that it should.

The Last Question is a wonderful short story. It’s a bit hard to get into if you’re not familiar with science concepts because it seems like it’s loaded with technical witchery, but stick around for the 15 minutes required to read this and let me know what you think.

Personally, it’s a wonderful and fascinating read. Short and sweet but without failing to capture the immense power of what science can do. Thought-provoking and fun – this is what science fiction truly is about.

You can read the entire story here.

Bruce, the bat cat; and Current Reads

I’m a bit slow on the reading these past few days. I do still keep the 10-pages-a-day minimum which is cool, but I don’t get to immerse myself in any story. I blame my new cat, Bruce who keeps to himself in a bat cave in my house and only goes out to eat, or sit by the window and meow. He has successfully kept me stressed and strained ever since I got him last Wednesday (January 16, 2013), but it’s cool. I’ve always wanted a cat to keep us company and I know he’ll come out of his scaredy-cat adjustment phase and be a cuddly lil poopy-butt in no time. I’ll be adopting his brother too, whom I haven’t met but I’m excited. Two cats seemed a bit scary since they’re my firsts but all’s well as long as they use their litter box.

babybruce
This is his face pre-adoption. He won’t let me pet him…yet.

So what have I been reading/re-reading?

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss has been keeping me company whenever I hang out in my cat’s room (yes, it’s his room now), as well as a contemporary romance novel I got from Amazon for free. It’s funny how the romance novel needs the stronger suspension of belief than the fantasy book. I can’t remember the title of the book for now (it’s tacky as eff), but I find it so much harder to believe a possibility of a burgeoning romance at first sight with a hot CEO of a ship company than a fire-breathing herbivorous draccus. And why do the men in romance novels have to be filthy rich and drop-dead gorgeous all the darn time? It’s too… fantastical and it gets tedious. It’s a contemporary romance for chrissakes (not paranormal), so authors need to make their men a bit realistic too, yknow. Oh well.

La Belle Aurore >> Home is a Fable by Larry Ypil and Nikay Paredes

Cebuano writers, Lawrence Ypil and Nikay Paredes, read new poems and talk about writing about home away from Cebu.

This poetry reading was held at the beautiful La Belle Aurore (Junquera branch) on January 11, 2013. I missed this since it coincided with an out-of-town holiday I planned several weeks before so I’m awfully glad they have a video of the event.

Lawrence Ypil is the author of The Highest Hiding Place. He is a Palanca Awardee and received an MFA in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis under a Fulbright Scholarship. He is now with University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

Nikay Paredes is a second year MFA candidate in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Her poems have appeared in The Electronic Monsoon Magazine, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Tuesday; An Art Project.

I knew about Nikay and Larry through a Creative Writing Workshop I attended with them (Larry was a panelist, and Nikay was a fellow) in my college a few years back. They are wonderful writers and I look up to them a whole lot. I especially loved hearing Nikay’s voice reading poems – she sounds so sweet, and her poems and Larry’s are always wonderful. 🙂

Here’s part 2:

Erik Tuban made the event poster, and Jessica McYorker performed.

Videos were by Kate Aguirre Go and Karwin Go. Thank you!

A Northern Light

I brought this book with me on a holiday and stayed up ’til 2 A.M. and woke up at 6:30 A.M. just to get back to the story. I finished the book in less than a day, a feat when you’re on a vacation. It was a compelling read and I enjoyed it a lot. The setting was vivid and the era so well-rendered and well-researched too that it felt like I was reading a real memoir from a real person living in the 1900’s. I felt like I was there, and in many ways, I was. Mattie lost her mother to the same disease I lost mine to (the emperor of maladies), I read a lot/too much when I was younger and was consistently harassed for it (my fault though, I read before doing chores), and I too, was and am, caught between familial responsibilities, societal pressures and wanting to be yourself and do the things you want to do, which is all too familiar for bull-headed females who take the road not taken.

It was an interesting book to escape a hard reality from because “they” too lived a hard life. It isn’t all roses and perfume and grand and beautiful things, but the book felt real. I liked it a lot.

A Northern Light

Sadly though, I don’t love it as much as Darden and all the other kids at Goodreads did. I’m not really sure why, but I have an inkling that it’s because I am too old for it, or I’ve read The Book Thief first, or that the word games are all too familiar to me so it didn’t really bring something new to the table. The word play and the word games felt somewhat juvenile, and a bit gimmicky. 😦

I also couldn’t help but compare it to The Book Thief, which is a sad exercise to do when you’re reading a book (compare it with something else, I mean). But I couldn’t help it. I was set up for it and it ultimately led to disappointment because the prose for A Northern Light just didn’t… sing. It’s good writing but it’s not seamless, nor was it staggeringly beautiful – very much unlike Markus Zusak’s prose, which literally gave me goosebumps and made me want to cry just for being so elegant and sublime.

I also didn’t like how it turned out in the end – Mattie’s choices did not parallel what would’ve been mine, though I really don’t want to judge the book, a work of fiction, by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of my life, so that’s another matter.

I’m not saying that A Northern Light isn’t a good book. It is. I’m pretty sure I would love this so much more if I had read it years ago. I may not be gaga over it, I’m still very much glad I read it. Thank you.

A Northern Light

Aren’t the photos beautiful? I hope you like it as much as I do. We took them at the majestic Lake Danao in Camotes Island, which is probably the most apt setting we could think of for a shoot of this book *wink wink nudge nudge*. The place is amazingly peaceful and beautiful. I have not seen anything quite like it.

Here’s a bonus photo of us kayaking in the water. Look how placid everything is. We were the only ones creating a ruckus in the area. A Northern Light

Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories

I picked up this old, yellowed copy in 2010 and only got around to reading it this year. When I first watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), I was enamored with the beautiful Audrey Hepburn. How can someone have such ridiculously good bone structure? It didn’t matter then how Holly Golightly was, it just that she was sassy, glamorous and very good to look at. But book Holiday Golightly was very different to me.

To call Holly Golightly independent would be an understatement. Capote’s girl is a wild thing. Wild, wonderful and wacky. She insists on being independent, hankers for intimacy but spurns attachment and runs away from anything or anyone that could possibly make her feel like she belongs. She vows to never get used to anything. “Anybody that does, they might as well be dead.” But she is sweet in her own way, and her easy existence hides an iron will and a heavy heart. She is a glamorous oddball who wants to go places and will. She takes heartbreaks with stride and grace.

Book Holly is a pained bad-ass teen slut with attachment issues and ambitions that make her a more interesting and three-dimensional character compared to Audrey’s Holly. She can be very grating, and quite racist too, but I love her with all her faults and sensibilities. She is just a scared and lonely child at the core.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I guess there’s a Holiday Golightly in us all – not necessarily the slut Holly, but the kid that wants to be forever the wild child, to reach the skies, to be somewhere, and be someone. But as Holly puts it herself, “It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s felt like a coming-of-age novella for adults.  I love this wistful, little book and how it makes me feel – there’s not a lot of things that are as good as picking this one up on a dull, rainy afternoon and reading it cover to cover.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I picked up the book for the short novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and as much as I like the novella, I ended up liking the short stories more. Capote wrote beautiful, whimsical stories with quirky characters and all of his sentences are perfect. His seamless writing transports you to where he wants you to be and lets you feel what he wants you to feel.

My favorite of his short stories in this book is A Christmas Memory, and when I finished it, I went right back to read it all over again. It made me sad, and it made me happy and I wanted to feel all those feels all over again.

Swapped: A Northern Light

Swapped: A Northern Light

I’m not really sure why (it may be the cave I’ve been hiding in or my propensity to search only for new SFF titles) but I’ve never heard of this book before. A quick web search returned an alternative title A Gathering Light and I thought it was familiar, but I was thinking of Gathering Blue (a Lois Lowry novel), so yeah.

I like that I don’t know anything about it though other than the blurb from the back and what I can gather from its cover (not a lot) because I’ll be reading this with a fresh set of eyes.

I think this is the very essence of exchanging books – discovering titles that you wouldn’t have otherwise known; getting out of your reading comfort zone; and just plunging into a different reading world that others enjoy, and changing that version of your world with them too.

Swapped: A Northern Light

I’m glad I took the plunge with Darden (a total internet stranger).  Thank you, you’re welcome and happy reading too!

I sent Ender’s Game for the first swap, btw. Darden blogged about it here.

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 It does not happen very often, but there are books whose ideas surpass its prose. One case in point is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  There are many things I thoroughly enjoyed out of this SF classic, but it’s an imperfect novel and if it wasn’t for the strength of the concepts behind Fahrenheit 451, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed the book as much.  As much as I liked what he was trying to say, I couldn’t stand a big chunk of Bradbury’s writing (I’m sorry).

Fahrenheit 451 is the flashpoint of paper – the temperature at which paper catches fire and burns.  In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires, and he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames … never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.

Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s first novel which he wrote after publishing a series of short stories of the same “story”, and it shows. The prose was choppy and awkward at its worst, and overly poetic at its best. There were parts that come out of nowhere and are dismissed just as quickly.  The world, while very interesting, was not well fleshed out. I usually am not very critical when I read books but I wonder if Fahrenheit 451 suffers from being old (i.e. 60 years old), or if Bradbury’s strength lies not in his novels but in his short stories. Is the language archaic? Has the novel been stretched too thin? Or does this book just feels rushed to me?

Its prose isn’t the loveliest, but Fahrenheit 451 was an engaging read and I enjoyed the world and the emotional and cultural underpinnings of a society that sought to drown thoughts and thinking with distractions. Montag’s world bears uncanny (and alarming!) resemblances to our own and this is not a good thing.  We need not be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered?

Ray Bradbury is well-known for being nostalgic for a simpler, old-fashioned life, and Fahrenheit 451 brings to the surface a new level of mindfulness of the dangers of having fun too much and of having too much. The book is a reminder to hack out the inessentials and to exercise moderation in everything, including moderation.

Even with my complaints, I did enjoy Fahrenheit 451 in broad strokes and I’m glad I read it. You should too.

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