Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Books in the Mail: HarperCollins Stash for August-September

I've just about settled here in Manila, yet my address is giving me a headache. I've only been used to a residential address, not a condominium unit number so I'm always worried about lost mail. I didn't think that my Harper Collins books would find its way to me. Until one fine morning:



I was absolutely crazy happy. I have very little faith in Manila postal offices due to horrendous reports of misdirected mail, opening of packages, and even high taxation of mailed goods which is so ridiculous #thirdworldproblems and all that.

I received two packages from Harper Collins on the same week, so you can just imagine me jumping for joy. Here are the books I received from several months' worth:



I am an avid fan of Harper Collins, even before they noticed me and my blog. They are one of the publishing houses that I love because their editors and agents are AMAZING! They source out new authors and get them published, and those are testament to their great skill in sniffing out the best stories that a lot of people like me love.

It was just a lucky strike that they approached me to ask if I would be happy to receive books from them. I can't turn down offers of books, y'all. I would even forgive any mortal enemy (if I had one!) if they sent me a book as a peace offering. Seriously. You can see how easy it is to buy me gifts during the holidays!

I've decided on the first two books that I will read. Maybe a review if the story is worth it (I can't review a book I didn't enjoy at all. I'm just not cut out for that.)

I'm setting my sights on

1. All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg. Here's some first looks of the book:


Very pretty cover!


It seems its a very light read!




Book blurb:
"Brooke has been happily married to her college sweetheart for fifteen years. Samantha's newlywed bliss is steamrolled when she finds shocking evidence of infidelity on her husband's computer. Katherine works eighteen hours a day for the man who irreparably shattered her heart fifteen years ago. 

Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine don't know one another yet, but all three are about to discover the conquering power of friendship - and that they have all they could ask for, as long as they have each other."

~**~

2. The Widows of Brazton County by Jess McConkey. Here's some first looks of the book:


It's a thicker book but looks like a light read!



Book blurb:
"Kate is ready to put her nomadic, city-dwelling past behind her when she marries Joe Krause and moves with him to the Iowa farm that has been in his family for more than 140 years. But life on the farm isn't quite idyllic as she'd hoped. It's filled with chores, judgmental neighbors, and her mother-in-law, who - unbeknownst to Kate until after the wedding - will be living with them.

As Kate struggles to find her place in the small farming community, she begins to realize that her husband and his family are not who she thought they were. According to town gossip, the Krause family harbors a long-kept secret about a mysterious death that haunts Kate as a dangerous, unexplainable chain of events begin"



I've actually already started on Widows, and right now I can say it's a PAGE TURNER! I'm not one for mystery because I can't stand not finding out what's happening! This feels like a great read!

Thank you for reading!

Goodluck on your reads!~

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan (Wishlist Granted!)

A month ago, I was doing groceries at a local mall when I felt the urge to go to the used bookstore shop nearby. Whenever you go to used book shops, you can't really expect to getting a specific title, but more of a certain 'genre' that you want to read. On that particular day, magic happened and I got both the title and genre I wanted

I was able to spot The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sudaresan after overturning some books, looking for some interesting titles. My heart was racing as I glimpsed this cover:


I couldn't believe my luck, plus I only had to fork over PHP50 to get this! What are the chances?! I was so happy going home and excited to get started on reading.

Here's the Book Blurb:


"An enchanting historical epic of grand passions and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most controversial empresses - a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa's embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman - a legend in her own time - who was all lost to history until now."
The novel starts in Persia, where Mehrunissa's lineage is traced. Her family has Persian noble blood, and her father, Ghiyas Beg, served under the imperial court and was a respected aristocrat. But before Mehrunissa was born, their House had begun its decline due to the changing of rulers, which meant "changing guard" inside the court as well. The family migrated to India after falling through its darkest times.

Ghiyas Beg had a good reputation and a good name, and had years of strong tenure in the Persian court which he hoped will be enough to grant him a position in India's royal courts, under Emperor Akbar's reign. He quickly absorbed the intricacies of the Mughal court, and in time proved himself to be indispensable.

Because of his position in court, his family led a more comfortable life with access to the inner Royal courts. Mehrunissa grew up in the presence of the ladies of the Zenana, the group of wives and concubines of the Emperor. She grew close to the Emperor's first wife, the chief lady of the Zenana, and it is there that she flourished and her link to Prince Salim, the next in line to the throne, was solidified.


The novel spans at least two rulers of Mughal India, Emperor Akbar and Emperor Jahangir (Prince Salim) so there's a lot of intrigue, drama, war and conflict in between. If you're looking for a quick love story though, this is not the novel for you. Mehrunissa and Prince Salim's exchanges are very few and very, very far in between (think: start of the novel and end of the novel and nothing else! Hahaha!)

It is such a romantic, enthralling, sweeping and deeply historical book. I can't rave enough about books that delve into the detailed traditions and customs of a certain culture, and this book does not disappoint in that regard! The narration is quite rich with atmosphere, and the dialogue has a personality that rings true with the person talking, as if you can almost hear the velvety voice of Empress Ruqayya, the exasperated sighs of Emperor Akbar, or even the rich timbre of Prince Salim's voice.

But I was deeply touched by this story! I couldn't help hating some of the ladies in the Zenana, especially Jahangir's first wife, Jagat Gosini ("Name pa lang, evil na!" I thought to myself one time while reading hue hue hue) But I guess her jealousy has ground, because if you're privy to both Mherunissa and Jahangir's internal struggle with their passion (they meet once when they were young, both were intrigued and could not get each other off their minds, and they meet again more than two decades later and you can almost tell their thoughts are ready to combust) then you may think that Gosini is totes justified in her jealousy.

And how beautiful is this quote?

"He had been her choice when she was eight, was still her choice when she was thirty-four, and would be equally important to her for the rest of her life."


That is some kind of intense.

The Twentieth Wife is my most wishlisted book of all time (Of all time! ~Kanye West) if you check this pathetic post; I didn't really think that I would be able to actually get my hands on this lovely book. And if I may quote: "Oh, why do I want books that are impossible for me to buy?!"

Now I stand (sit?) corrected! Well, not really completely true, because if you saw the date of the posting, I blogged about it "March 29, 2009" I mean, it was soooo long ago it even surprised me that I remembered the book and how much I wanted it.

But even after 4 years of patiently waiting, scouring used bookstore after used bookstore, I finally have it and have read it page after precious page. To paraphrase Mehrunissa:

"This had been her choice when she was twenty-two, was still her choice when she was twenty-six, and would be equally important to her for the rest of her life."

:') I wonder if I can find the next installment of this book, The Feast of Roses, soon?


Wish me luck! I need it for the next book sale scouring!
And thanks so much for reading!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Books and Travel

I've been bit. Travel bug.

Darn... it bites hard.

I want to travel the entire world today. I feel like going on a travel rampage ever since I moved to this city. Before, I used to be a total settler, you know, the kind who's absolutely content at spending an entire lifetime in one place. Maybe it's the move that made me ballsy -- I realize that even if I uproot myself, nothing bad will happen to me, the world won't implode, my family wouldn't fall apart (yeah because I'm so important a member!) and that my life wouldn't go haywire.

I've been meaning to do international travel a year ago, but due to troubles with my nephew (who I had to take with me but there were problems with his passport blah blah) my Japanese visa went unused :( I was quite looking forward to it. I had my travel money saved up, a checklist of all the things I need to bring, travelogues and maps, and I even had entire playlist ready.

I haven't quite moved on from that disappointment, yet, I believe.

Traveling the world is not just an option, as I told Greencross, it is a must. I can't not go away. And it's not just because I just want to have the experience of going out of the country; No, I'm not focused on the geography. I want to go away because I want to see humanity's diversity of culture, manner, architecture, literature and language. And most of all, I want to see the lands where my favorite books were set.

If you frequent this my book blog, The Contemporary Reader, one of my earliest post included: Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel. These are the three books that I want to visit. Literally visit.

MY TRAVEL BOARD

1. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is supposed to be set in the beautiful island of Kephallenia (Cephallonia) (Κεφαλλονιά), Greece, and it is the largest of all the Ionian islands in the western part of the country. In the book this is where Pelgaia, the heroine of de Bernieres' story lived with her Papa, Dr. Iannis, and where she met the steadfast soldier with a musician's heart, Antonio Corelli. It was never said in the novel what town they lived in, but according to Wikipedia and supported by other readers, "The book is believed to be inspired by the picturesque village of Farsa, just outside of Argostoli"

Farsa: quaintly beautiful, sloping, sprawling
2. Pride and Prejudice is the classic, beloved love story set in Hertfordhsire, England. This is where Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live with their five daughters. Elizabeth, the future Mrs. Darcy, loved to take long walks around the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire where Pride and Prejudice is primarily set.

Hertfordshire-- I'd love to talk a long, refreshing walk around the entire span of the town, too.
Aside from Hertfordshire, I would love to visit another county in England. Derbyshire is where the magic happens. In the novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy and the Darcy family peerage own lands in Derbyshire and has an county estate called Pemberley, which is thought to be based on the real-life estate of Chatsworth House.

Like Elizabeth, when I first saw Chatsworth house, I too, thought: "...at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!"

3. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios tells of a story of two close friends, one is struggling with how to cope with AIDS, an existential crisis and his mortality, the other trying to help by telling a story about an Italian immigrant family who lived in Helsinki, Finland. I normally don't like short stories, but this one was beautifully told with a lot of metaphorical injections and parallelism, so it stuck with me all through these years. I want to visit Helsinki; even though the story never said where exactly I'm sure being young, active people, the two friends might have operated in the city's downtown mostly. I'd like to try and discover Sweden because here's some opportunity in it for me though, so I shall wait and see about that, too!

Esplanadi Park in Helsinki with a quintessential European feel

Oh, one could dream... and write the frustration away.

I would not consider traveling a hobby (unless I'll be stinking rich, burning money with airplane gas is not the lifestyle I want to subscribe to!) but I want my travels to mean something. I realize now there's a reason why I didn't really want to go to places like Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia... They don't mean anything to me at all. I don't want to go to places just because. I want to say, "I want to go to X and Y and Z  because... " with long-winded, excited, overanalyzed reasons hahaha!

Books were my first windows to the world; They were the ones who taught me that there are different things in life I need to see.

I want to broaden my perspective in life through literature and travel. My books somehow define me, I won't lie. They have been my constant companions that 'talk' to me about a lot of things when people didn't even want to try. I can reach out to them anytime I want to. They've been there through my saddest days, so I'd like to take them to happier places.

Planning starts now. I'm kinda thankful I have a paying job that's enough to cover my ass expenses, because this is NOT going to be a PHP 50,000 vacation, surely. The last time I checked, the plane ticket to an airport in Cephallonia alone costs that.

Please wish me good luck in my plans, and may the winds of travel take me to the places I want to go!

P.S.
If there's anyone reading this who's interested to volunteer for a 1-week organic farming activity in Sweden, let me know! Plane tickets/Visa on you but lodging and food is free.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Six Worlds and a New One


These are six books, the six different worlds, I have had the pleasure to read since arriving here in Manila. I've only been able to finish half of the total count. The moving AND the adjustment of moving to another place with a faster pace is stressful. The only good thing about Manila's transportation is that the 2-hour traffic gives me enough time to finish several chapters.

I've loved books since 20 years ago when my sister bought me my first boxed collection of fairytales. And from then on, reading and books almost defined who I was and what I liked. There's always something I can count on to relate to when it comes to novels. I remember reading about Pinocchio and being so mad; Pinocchio chose to follow the bad group of circus people and he left his aging father all alone. "Pangita ug batasan uy! (His attitude is ugly!)", I said angrily. I swore to never do that to my own father under whatever circumstance.

But look where I am now. A 26 year old girl who left her 74 year old father's nest. Now I feel like a terrible child.

I also remember hating Thumbelina for wanting to see what's out there for her in the wide expanse of the world. I hated how she didn't appreciate the lovely little room her kindly old lady made for her, with the tiny doll dressers, her little flowers and thimble chairs.

It's funny now how I think my world is so tiny; that even being here in this huge, confusing place I know that there are still bigger places than this. And how I'd love to see those for myself, too.

*****
But, Manila has provided me with a lot of comfort to soften the blow.

I have my very own condo! Well. Not just me. Greencross and I live here now.


I love grocery shopping. I was hell bent on filling the refrigerator, so TAKE THAT! The fridge is now filled with vegetables, fruits, snacks, cheese, random leftovers for reheating, meat, deli slices +++ We try to ensure we don't eat junk a lot and we're opting for brown rice. It's so nice to eat brown rice because its so cute when it's done cooking and there's like little cyclops white eyes in every grain. Have you seen those things?

 It's very clean and our room is in a bright area of the building, almost facing the sun but not quite. Dusk and dawn here is absolutely pretty.

Thanks for reading~
See you!



Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Chuvaness.com gift to welcome me in Manila!

Good Morning, Paranaque! Hay naku, Manila, it's another one of your extremely blinding hot days.

I'm in Manila you guys! And everything is so busy and blinking and fast and noisy and fun and superlatively exciting! Since touching down last April 1st, everything has been strange. But you can't blame me, what's 10 days when compared to 26 years? All my life I've been in Davao. Suddenly, my plane lurched and landed (none too gently I may add) at the pristine NAIA.

I've been busy getting acquainted with the Metro's jeep / bus routes and trainstops. Having always been a one-route jeepney girl for a good part of my life, I was mortified to find out that there were so many ways you can easily get lost in various transportation; Manila is HUGE, myged, and you can't even ask people for directions daw. And not like I can actually muster the courage to ASK them, because my Tagalog is still lilting and funny and probinsianic. If that's even a word hahahaha.

Adjusting to Manila pace is hard. My regular Davao pace is so laid back like you wouldn't believe. Opposite ends of the haste-slow spectrum, I swear. But I will catch up. Especially now that I have a lucky charm from who else but the Queen of Hip Manila, Chuvaness.com ~

Her giveaway was the last thing in my mind when I got to Manila, because I joined when I was still in Davao and didn't think I could win this contest with so many people joining, and I am so unlucky at contests and giveaways it's almost unbelievable  But I got a text last Tuesday: "Hello, is this Kristine? This is Cecile." And despite so many random HR Company numbers texting me because I've been applying for a job here and there, my gut feeling told me-- OMIGOSHH THIS IS CHUVANESS!!!!!!

I was one of her winners for one of her biggest giveaway! YEHEYYYYYY!


I collected my bounty at Pepper Lunch Shangri-La and was so happy to receive a HUGE parcel containing my Ethos Luggage/Bag which is probably the most perfect and the most magical bag I have ever owned.



Beautiful and solid and elegant. Reminds me of an 18th century bag in some of the novels I read. And if you know me from my other book blog, I LOVE HISTORICAL NOVELS!
The luggage/travel bag is packed with a lot of goodies I love. It wouldn't be a stretch to tell you that the contents were so generously put in.


When I settled down, I perused the contents of the bag extensively!

 

Me and my friend Avy checking out the stuff. Below are some of my faaaaaaaaaaavorites that I got:

 
URBANEARS 

I've always wanted street headphones just because. I have a Sennheiser MX370 that I use daily but I just love how headphones frame my head like a headband. Though I have a pair of headphones, my AKG K-44 MKII, I wouldn't think of using it in the streets because it's big, bulky, and more for video/audio monitoring. I haven't had the pleasure of using UrbanEars until now, and I am happy~ I love that it's grey/neutral, too! 

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT JOURNAL

Another one for my notebook/journal collection. Quite intrigued with this journal, I tried to google The Happiness Project http://www.happiness-project.com/ and it is awesome and quite unique for a journal. I've only always written lengthy posts (quite the tl;dr kind lol) in my journals and this Happiness Project is a commitment to just write one sentence about a happy part of your day. But the important part is that you do this for FIVE YEARS. 

Challenge accepted!

Everything I got was nothing short of awesome in the sense that it is a gift that I never expected, that I've always wanted and more. I truly, truly love it~! I use this bag daily because it's an anti-slash bag, and has an amazing lock mechanism that makes me feel like everything I have inside is protected (not that I have anything worth stealing .___. this bag is worth more the contents, I believe!) and it's a unique form and immediately gives anything I wear an oomph because of its tailored neatness and quite-English elegance.

Thank you, Cecile!

At first I was like (' u ' )
And then I was like :DDDD
All photos by Mike Tan

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hello, Healthy-Organic! Aloha, Organic Garden!

I love my city and its diverse shops that feature local produce!

One of my favorite businesses is Aloha Organic Garden, and I was happy to see them at last week's SM Eco Fair. Their booth was bursting with varieties of herb plants in colorful pots, and their famous organic products lined neatly in shelves.




What's amazing about Aloha Organic Garden is the shop is down-to-earth in its simplicity and you can really tell that Koko Saljuga, Aloha Garden's owner(/entrepreneur/organic farmer/cook grill master/TV Personality) put a lot of effort in it in terms of caring for herbs. Aloha grows good, healthy plants to get the best harvests!

I remember last year, Greencross surprised me with a little potted gift. I was searching for a Mint herb to grow and he found one via Aloha Organic Garden. I was quite so pleased to have a herb in our house, and Mint teas are pretty awesome! In just about 2 months, the little potted herb grew into quite the healthiest Mint bush I have ever seen.

"A'yo, gurl! I look so good, see, gurl"
Aside from mint, I also have the Cinnamon Basil plant which is a treat to smell! Have you had the chance to smell a cinnamon basil leaf? It's can put a smile on anyone's face! Aloha Organic Garden's dried herbs are the shiznit, look at these alluring bunch :)

So pretty!

Aloha Garden features more than just herbs, as they also offer 100% Arabica Premium Coffee :D I have yet to try these but they SMELL SO AMAZING. Very earthy and dark.


Awesome packaging! I really like it. If I were making my own coffee, I would definitely have these in my cupboard.


Below are packets of 100% Pure Cacao (Tablea) which I purchased because I have an obsession with all things chocolate. I am eating 70% Dark Chocolate regularly because it's healthy! But these 100% cocoa are perfect for hot chocolate. Before,I've bought from different local producers of Tablea and all of them tastes AMAAAAAAZING. There's really nothing like naturally processed cacao, and Aloha Organic Garden has that deep, non-sweet cocoa smell I've been looking for

I love that it comes in packets of gold and silver!

Their herb vinegar bottles are so popular in the city. I remember my first foray into tasting these herb-infused vinegar when Aloha Organic Garden was part of a local cooking fair; me and my family tried their Wagyu beef, dipping it into herby vinegar and there was a kind of HOOOMYGOD moment with my family. It smelled so good, so refreshing and it was perfect for that kind of flavorful meat!


What I bought from Aloha Garden

PHP 30.00

PHP 100.00 (pack of 10 pcs.)

I will be using the Strawberry Jam to replace our current one from Moilina. The latter is jam-packed with sugars and preservatives, and I was told that the Aloha Jam contains honey and has no preservatives at all, plus it has real Strawberry pieces, too! I will be making a chocolate granola bar with Aloha Organic Garden cacao soon and I will post a quick recipe about it here.

I hope you had fun reading! Let's support local farmers and their awesome products! :D
Thanks for reading~

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Books from Blink.Com.Ph!

I had no right to buy stuff I didn't budget/allot for. But online cashless shopping makes it easy to waive that right. I went ahead and splurged.


I bought four books from Blink.com.ph all for PHP1,000 (free shipping). I've been using their online book shopping portal quite a bit now, even just for browsing at least once a week. If you ask me, I personally think that Blink is a treasure trove for hard-to-find books that come really cheap (which is important for me!). I mean, you can always find "elusive" books--file a request from a local book chain or order from international shops--but goodluck with coughing up the $$$$ for it!


I received my orders without a hitch and they were packaged quite nicely, each book wrapped individually in recycled brown paper.

This is my second order from them and it is especially amazing that I almost always manage to find Japanese authors that I have always had a yearning to read. If you remember, I got my first Junichiro Tanizaki novel  from Blink as well. Now, I have both Yusuke Kishi and Osamu Dazai, too!


This was such an unexpected find. I had to make sure that there wasn't any "SOLD OUT" or "NOT AVAILABLE" label anywhere on the page. It's almost impossible to find a cheap Yusuke Kishi today, especially almost-new ones. Kishi has such a huge cult following that it's almost impossible to ignore him, and that's how I've come across his novels. Very highly-raved book. (CURRENT READ)


My first introduction to Osamu Dazai was the novel "schoolgirl", one of the books that One Peace publishing sent me. But this book promises to be so much darker than the former. Coincidentally, I have been actually watching Aoi Bungaku (青い文学シリーズ, "Blue Literature Series"), a 12-episode anime adaptation of six of the most popular and most read novels and short stories in Japanese literature. Aoi Bungaku features No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai in its first episode:


I've just about finished the series, and I get so creeped out at No Longer Human. I'm sure it'll even be eerier when reading the novel.

Some few books that I chucked in:


I bought this parenting book for my sister for her birthday on March 12. This is actually one of my favorite books I often read for fun back when I was employed in Bantay Bata 163. They had a lot of related books but this book has a lot of heart and wisdom in it. Since undergoing training and child-friendly sensitivity seminars, plus reading this book during downtime, it helped me let go of my preconceived notions about children's bad behavior and the difference between discipline and punishment.


Para Kay B is one of those books I promised to finish but never really gotten around to. This book was bought by my friend, Shane. (FINISHED READING)

I had a great experience overall with Blink! I love that they also gave me a freebie bookmark:


That's really nice of them, don't you think? I love little touches like that, as a consumer/buyer. Thanks for the nice service!

Thank you for reading! Don't forget to subscribe for more reviews and random posts!

NOTE:  This post is NOT sponsored. I just like to commend and promote the website in whatever way I can because I was happy with the service and simply because I felt like writing about it today! :)