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Just could not get enough, that’s why! Thanks again Richard….

 

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A week ago, I wrote about my first ever experience with a well read and popular author when National Bookstore sponsored a book signing. I also wrote a short review when I read the book The Best of Me the following day. I had a pleasant surprise when I received an e-mail that Read Philippines featured it at their site. It’s a Pinoy readers community where one could discuss books and build a virtual library just like in Shelfari.com.

I was amused that hubby, probably out of curiosity read two books of Nicholas Sparks in a row.  He is used to reading other authors like James Patterson, Richard North Patterson, Robert Ludlum  and such thriller books but not love stories or stories about family. Anyway, it seems that he has finally come to terms with other genre, hooray!

And here is one more good news. Richard Marx is coming to Manila for a one-night concert at Araneta Coliseum. Breathe Arlene, you wish you could really see him in person, right?  Yes, I am right here waiting.

 

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I finally had my much-needed hair trim today at David’s. My favorite hairstylist assured me that the remaining  three weeks  before my daughter’s wedding is long enough to have my hair grow a little longer. I do wonder why  it gets unruly (because it has a natural curl) when I grow it longer than my usual boy’s bob (if you can even call it that because I have thin and fine hair strands) and it does not bounce like those what you see on TV commercial. I had a good chat with her as usual. It’s pretty common to befriend people in beauty salons. Believe me, if you do, you’ll get immediate attention and don’t forget the tip – something for the hairstylist and something for the assistant who shampooed, rinsed and blow-dried your hair with matching back rub while waiting for your turn.

Perfect time to make another visit to National Bookstore.  I am looking for a copy of Bible Diaries for 2012, the Claretian publication, but they told me that their orders haven’t arrived yet. I saw their ad on Nicholas Sparks’ book signing on October 28 at The Podium.  Yes, it’s that high-end shopping mall near Asian Development Bank.It’s only limited to 650 guests and will be done through raffle if you buy his newest book,  The Best of Me. Nicholas Sparks is the author behind those touching movies like The Notebook,  Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember, to name a few. I asked the saleslady why they don’t carry Richard Paul Evans who I think writes better than Nicholas Sparks. I am not being biased just because the former is an online friend at Facebook and I read most of his books too, some special finds in  my many trips to NBS.  All of my books of Nicholas Sparks were gifts from Nissa on several birthdays and Christmas holidays.

Next trip (sounds as if I’ve gone on a long one) was a visit to my book lady friend at Booksale. She was all smiles when she saw me and  she was excited to show me all the new arrivals on their shelves. If only I could bring them all home. I brought home two books though, after a thorough search on their shelves. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, what more could you ask for?

I was quite amused watching the man behind the counter of Sisig etc. It’s one of those small stalls where you could buy cheap snacks inside the mall. He was chopping the  fried pork in rhythm, with animated hand gestures. It’s like watching a conductor in an orchestra, slow then fast music, only this time, it’s the music of the knife touching the base of the chopping board  until it ends with the pork chopped finely ready for the sisig he’s about to prepare. He must really love his work.  And attitude makes the difference, there was a long line of customers in front of his stall.

Observing people sometimes makes me smile. They have their own style of  being noticed and appreciated.  It was a lovely afternoon, alright.

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It’s my first serious read about the art of writing.  I’ve  heard about the book in the past from friends  and I’ve been looking for a copy for quite a long time. It was published ten years ago but it was only now that I got hold of it,  a borrowed copy from one of my daughter’s office mates . Who hasn’t  heard of Stephen King? I remember the first two books that I’ve read several years ago, Desperation and The Regulators (under the pen name Richard Bachman. By the time I got hold of Pet Sematary and The Shining, I was afraid to read his books at night.

This is not exactly a book review but just snippets of some paragraphs  which I liked from the book. I thought at first it was  his autobiography, telling the reader about his childhood and how he started as a writer which you can read here. He was already married with two kids when he began on his debut novel, Carrie. It was the same book that launched him as a full-time writer.

He likens the craft of writing as a toolbox – with all the necessary accessible tools. First on the top shelf is vocabulary. And he says, “one of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.” Next tool is grammar. Bad grammar produces bad sentences. So true, I am not a perfectionist (because no one is perfect) but I cringe every time I read  bad sentence construction. He says further, “one who does grasp the rudiments of grammar finds a comforting simplicity at its heart, where there need be only nouns, the words that name, and verbs, the words that act.” He is funny at times. I was laughing out loud when he said that anyone using the phrases “That’s so cool” or “at this point in time” and “at the end of the day” should be made to stand in one corner and should be sent to bed without supper. Haha! He abhors the use of passive tense and adverbs. On the layer beneath this tool box are  the  three elements of  a story – narration, description, and dialogue .

To sum it  up, he has these to say, “good writing consist of mastering the fundamentals – vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style and then filling the third level of the toolbox with the right instruments.  While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a greater writer out of a good one, it is possible with lots of hard work, dedication and timely help, to make a good writer out f merely a competent one.”

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

This is a remarkable book from Stephen King. Would love to read it again if I can find a copy of my own.

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I’ve finally finished reading  Teacher Man, just in time for the official start of Lent tomorrow which is Ash Wednesday.  I’d like to set aside reading books that are not spiritual in nature, at least through the whole days of Lent, a simple act of self-denial and sacrifice.

Have you ever heard of Frank McCourt? He was the author of the more popular  bestsellers Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis both memoirs which he wrote earlier. Teacher Man is his third book.  I was lucky enough to buy a hardbound copy a few weeks ago in one of my forays at Booksale. He told  his story as a high school teacher for thirty years in New York  City, the travails he encountered as a first time teacher who was supposed to teach English but ended up telling stories about his childhood and his past life, finding himself yearning for his students’ respect. He was frequently in trouble with school administrators because he didn’t want to follow the school curriculum but he ended up as the best-loved  teacher in his school. I like the simple quality of his writing. He made me laugh, he made me smile but he made me cry when I was reading his first two books.

I remember my father who gave me a hint  that he wanted me to be a teacher when I was still starting in college.  But I didn’t want to be a teacher, back then, I had so little patience. I just wanted to write and make research so I majored in Economics –  lot of analysis, a little of Math, more on Statistics, lots of feasibility studies and remembering the Law of Supply and Demand by heart.  Once you become a parent, teaching is a done deal. I mean, from dawn to  sundown, you are a teacher, a playmate and best friend to your children. And you never stop learning too  about life .  Everyday of your existence, there is something you learn, you become the eager student  and struggle to be the best teacher to your kids.

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Finally had my hair trim yesterday at David’s, hubby was free to go with  me for a few hours.  My  hairdresser, also named Arlene is a soft-spoken lady and always inquires about my health since I shared a few months ago that I underwent chemotherapy.  Her usual question was, “mabuti po, hindi nalagas ang buhok niyo?”. The chemo drugs they treated me with are not as strong as those they have for other cancers, wherein almost all the patients I’ve been with who underwent  chemotherapy for breast cancer experienced falling hair.  I still experience tingling sensations on my fingers though, from time to time, the side-effects of Oxaliplatin and Xeloda.

Another opportunity to visit the nearest mall from our place.  I don’t go out much nowadays, and except for attending Sunday mass services and occasionally going to the wet market and garden center, these simple trips are luxuries for me.  And didn’t I tell you that going to a bookstore is always a welcome treat?  Well, I finally bought myself a copy of Ilustrado at National Bookstore for a price of P285.00.  It’s author,  Miguel Syjuco, is a recipient of the 2008 Man Asia Literary Prize and the Philippine’s highest literary honor, the Palanca Award.  The book, a fiction, “is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing 150 years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the  Americans,  and the Filipinos themselves. I must admit that I am not much into reading the works of Filipino authors except those of Celso Carunungan,  Jim Paredes (he’s one of the Apo), Barbara Gonzales, Bob Ong (do you read Bob Ong, he makes me laugh) and a sprinkling of borrowed chicklit books from BPI Stress Management Office so this is a welcome change for me.

I saw this small nook, Books and Mags at the lobby of Ever Ortigas  selling second-hand books, couldn’t go home of course without checking their shelves.  My oh my, they have plenty of hard bound ones and my eyes just could not take them all in.  I initially saw an almost brand-new copy of  Embraced by the Light by Betty Eadie, hardbound.  I had the soft copy before but lost it to the flood.  There were several books of Robin Cook.  I was tempted, how I was tempted to buy them all. I am a Cook’s fan, collected his books the past years.  I was thinking, I still had a spare cash of P500.00 for books so I must really choose which to buy first.  At Booksale, this amount could buy me at least several copies, if one is lucky enough to find a good book at less than P100.00 each.   Hard decision, indeed!  And guess what I brought home?

1.  Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes

I’ve  read this before but it was a borrowed copy from one of Nissa’s friends, so I am keeping one for my collection.  It’s a beautifully written memoir about living in Italy, loving the pleasure of food, keeping a garden etc. It’s a nice afternoon read.  Frances Mayes is a poet, gourmet cook and a travel writer. It’s reasonably priced at P90.00.

2.  It  Was on Fire When I Lay Down  On It – Robert Fulghum

An upgrade, had a soft copy before but like all my other books, I also lost it to Ondoy.  I would like to re-acquaint myself with Fulghum’s ideas about life.  And here’s a beautiful quote from the book cover, “it’s not the meaning of life, it’s the meaning in life”. At 120.00, this is another treasure find.

3.  From Beginning to End – Robert Fulghum

Another Fulghum book that I haven’t read yet. I swear it is brand new, just  like all the other books I’ve found, the book’s  dust jacket is still intact .  I am big on rituals, they keep me anchored.  And according to him, Rituals do not always involve words, occasions, officials, or an audience.Rituals are often silent, solitary and self-contained and the most powerful rites of passage are reflective. A bit pricey though at P190.00.

4.  Girl With a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier

Ah, this made my morning visit truly enjoyable.  Finished reading it in three hours.  A historical novel (didn’t I tell you that I love history?), a fiction written by Tracy Chevalier about a painting done by Johannes Vermeer entitled A Girl With A Pearl Earring.  The novel revolves around the fictional servant named Griet whom he hires as his assistant and later becomes his model in the painting, wearing his wife’s pearl earrings.

It made me curious so I made a little research on the life of Vermeer.  He was one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age and his artwork, Girl With a Pearl Earring is considered  as the Dutch Mona Lisa.  I was lucky enough to meet a famous and talented artist/painter, Manuel Baldemor,  last year when my friend Tobbie and I attended the unveiling of two of his artworks,  Fruits of Labor and Good Harvest. My family and I have seen the art collections of the late Perdigon Vocalan which were displayed in their famous restaurant, Balaw Balaw in  Angono, Rizal.  I took shots of Botong Francisco’s murals two summers ago.  And I’ve met another great artist online, Ms. Phyllis Zaballero when I made a blog on one of her paintings,  The Lake Series I , Geyser #2. She left some comments there and I was pleasantly surprised.   I am an amateur  when it comes to admiring this medium but  one can learn through reading and the book Girl With a Pearl Earring taught me how not just to admire a good composition but to feel from the heart.  What a nice learning experience.  If only for this, the price of the book  at P90.00 is truly a bargain.

More books to read, more afternoons to enjoy.


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Nissa came home last night with an armful of purchases and pasalubongs. She spent five days on a food trip to Pangasinan together with her best friends, Rhea, JJ and Marisse.  Days before that, she was asking me to teach her common words which might be of use when she gets to Dagupan City, so we had some sort of  lesson in Pangasinan dialect, complete with the hard pronunciation and emphasis on some syllables.  We were laughing so hard that I ended up making a  kodigo (list) of words commonly used when haggling  on the price of goods which  they might like to buy.  Both my kids understand the dialect of course but they are quite shy to speak it.  Some say that  it  is the hardest to learn,  with some mixture of Spanish too. Yes, that’s right,  pronounce  the words as you read them. Some people mistakenly think that the people of Pangasinan are called panggalatok but there is really no such term in our dialect. Both place  and the language are called Pangasinan  and the people are Pangasinense.  I digress.

What I really want to share are the loads of books she purchased  at  Caleb’s Book Market and Cafe in Dagupan City.  And I initially thought, why would you need to purchase books in such a far away place like Pangasinan.  According to her, Caleb’s is a quaint old place selling  unique book titles which  you normally can’t find in other book sale or at NBS.  And here are her latest finds, Under  The  Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.  I started reading the preface,  a vivid description of a place  in Italy and I am beginning to love it.  Frances  Mayes is a widely published poet, gourmet cook and travel writer.  She also bought three novels (still in their original box) by Alexander McCall Smith, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.  I never heard of the author but the book was translated into a movie starring Matt Damon and Jude Law, so it must be worth-reading.  James  Patterson’s Honeymoon, co-authored with Howard Roughan, another scary espionage plot, and Candace Bushnell’s  Trading Up, another chicklit which she is so fond of completed her purchases.  An hour  ago, she came home with another bag from  National Bookstore and she greeted me with “Look what  I’ve found for you Ma, just a guess”. So I readily blurted out, “Richard  Paul Evans?” And she was grinning from ear to ear.  True enough, there was a hardbound copy of Grace, one of RPE’s books that I haven’t read yet.  Grace is a story of a young  runaway girl  and the boy who hides her from a frightening world too large to comprehend.  As in every book  he has written, there is a quote in every chapter,  culled from a journal or something.  How’s this for a start,  “To truly forgive is to accept our own part of each failure”. And have I told you that Richard Paul Evans is my friend at Facebook?  I have been in his mailing list for a number of years now.

I hope I will be able to read all these  books this year.  She also brought home hardbound copies of Robin Cook’s Critical, Helen Fielding’s  Cause Celeb and Danielle Steele’s  Toxic bachelors.  Robin Cook is a doctor and deals on different topics in the medical world.  He is also one of  my favorite authors.  Remember the movie Outbreak?   He is the author of that one.  Helen Fielding is of course well known  for her novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Danielle Steel is – so sorry, I don’t read much of her books but I remember one  which  was also made into a movie,  The Promise. That movie made me cry from start to finish. And of course, another two Cirque Du Freak books which I think she is beginning to collect.   Our a-ha moments are of course about books and more books.

Will  surprises never end?

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