I believe my recent post, Book Talk: Stuck in the mood, explains how my reading life was during the month of December. Again, thanks to LibriVox for their free public domain audiobooks. I was able to quench my thirst for a good ol’ Sherlock Holmes adventure. For those who would like to give it a listen, here are the links:
For the first time in my lifetime, I have spent Christmas day away from my family and the comfort of our home. Thankfully I have James to rely on. Since both our vacation leaves at work were practically useless with the strict travel restrictions and requirements, we decided to just spend a few days on a nearby mountain resort here in Cebu. And it was indeed a well-deserved break.
So, we are down to final month of this challenging year. I know it has been hard all of us but I hope everyone is safe, sound and thriving.
November — the month that was. It’s when half of the world transitions from autumn to winter. It’s when dead souls are honored and bounties are celebrated. It’s when creatives around the world try their hands at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
I guess for me it would be “Nah, no writing November.” Anyhow, here’s a quick wrap-up.
My book collection is still continuously growing — all thanks to online resellers and Booksale. And despite the rise of scammers online, I was lucky enough to transact with kind and honest people who helped me find the books in my TLF (to look for) list. For this month, these are the gems that I got:
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (Php180 @a_bookworms_closet)
Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror by Edgar Allan Poe (Php150 @a_bookworms_closet)
Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell (Php25 @Robinsons)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (Php44 @Robinsons)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Php125 @Robinsons)
After Nature by Purdy (Php39 @Robinsons)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Php100 @mgaaklatnitanna)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Php125 @mgaaklatnianna)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Php85 @mimilybluebooks)
Politically Correct Guide to the Bible (Php75 @mimilybluebooks)
Meanwhile, I kept getting sidetracked in between reading with all the chaos brought by typhoons, work and politics. I was able to finish two books though: Letters To My Son by Kent Werburn and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
A big shoutout as well to LibriVox for their free public domain audiobooks. I was able to revisit once again the good ol’ favorite, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this month.
Places I’ve been…
My SMS friends and I got a chance to catch up and hike the Spartan Trail for the first time after lockdown. The heavy rains weeks before brought the trail to life. The riverbed was filled with water, the leaves were greener, the wind was cooler — it was the lovely day indeed to convene with nature. I went back to Spartan Trail on the third week of November, this time with James and his colleagues.
Posts I loved…
My virtual presence during this month was faint. I didn’t get a chance to read other people’s posts or interesting reads from the likes of Brainpickings/Medium. Let’s strive to do better this December, shall we? 😀
Genre: Modern Classic/Dystopia Copy: Paperback Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖
Quick Notes:“Are there any questions?”
To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.
Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.
The story ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, “Are there any questions?” To me this seems like a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses — both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.
Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?
The Handmaid’s Tale, told in simplistic prose, is a clarion call for upholding women’s rights to take control over our own bodies, choices and lives. With the current political climate, this book is definitely a must-read.
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, one of history’s finest novelist and whose philosophical thinking endowed life with new meaning, was born on this day in 1821. I have only read Crime and Punishment (still looking for preloved copies of his other works) but I could say with confidence that I love the man’s writings. The moral dilemma after reading his novel still clings to me to this day. Ah, Raskolnikov.
If there’s one area in my life that is doing really great, that would be my reading life. My bookish heart was filled with joy this when James and I started the month with a book hunting day. We hopped to all three branches of Booksale in metro Cebu (Robinson’s Fuente/Emall/SM City) and took a few gems with us at a very cheap price! Here’s my October book hoard:
The Choir Boys by Sophie Hannah (Php20 @Robinsons)
Lost Girls by Andrew Piper (Php83 @Robinsons)
The Bookseller of Kabul by John Krakauer (Php154 @Robinsons)
The Poet by Michael Connelly (Php83 @Emall)
Grendel by John Gardiner (Php10 @Emall)
Blowfly by Patricia Cornwell (Php83 @SM City)
The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elizabeth Hyde (Php50 @SM City)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (ordered online for Php250 @bookprojectph)
The Swallows of Kabul (ordered online for Php175 @bookprojectph)
Fidget verb -to make a small movement, typically a repeated one, with your your hands or feet -an act that often reflects discomfort, restlessness and impatience
I guess this word sums up my month. I have been fidgeting with my blog and posts — making two steps forward yet taking two steps back.
But while I am feeling uneasy with my virtual life here, the real world has been kinder to me. The best news of all is that I have found the drive to read my pile of books again. So far, I have ticked off two from my TBR list:
As for writing, I’ve decided to continue sharing that old poems from IG that I haven’t shared here in WordPress. Since I am not in a creative mode yet, I’ve decided to focus on tinkering with my website.
First, I’ve added two new widgets: Goodreads and Instagram. Second, a new profile picture is up — one that shows (slightly) a face. Haha. For a long while, I’ve been hiding my avatar behind a book. I guess now it’s time to slowly reintroduce the fidgety little girl behind this blog. 😁
Hope you are all doing well on your side of the Earth. Have a great day! 💛
I shared a shortened version of this quote in my recent post, Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. I love the simplicity and the reality of this line, and it is something that strikes a chord within me. I hope we all find courage in our hearts to be who we are, do what we want, and go wherever we want to be. Carpe diem!
Short Synopsis: Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings… and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.
Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.
What I Liked:
Coelho delivers a love story with added depth. On the surface, it is about two childhood sweethearts reunited. But as the story unfolds, it becomes an intricate weave of life and love, faith and spirituality, fear and trust, mistakes and forgiveness, fighting for one’s dream and surrendering to one’s destiny — all these and so much more. The book is a retelling from Pilar of how she ended up weeping for this nameless man, but I love how it didn’t have to go way far back to establish the story. There were no unnecessary backstory of their early lives or past loves. You just have to be in the moment and watch how these two characters navigate through uncertainties.
It’s a character-driven book that brims with food for the thought and for the soul. Like the rest of Coelho’s works, this one leaves points to ponder on each page. It raises questions that require self-examination and at the end, you not only discover something about the characters but also about yourself.
I love how the story includes two of the subjects that I am fond of: stories of apparitions and mountain climbing. I am not a very religious person but I grew up in religious family and community. During my childhood days, we used to have a collection of postcards of several saints. I would read their stories at the back, stare at their young photos and wonder if one day, an angel or the Virgin Mary herself would appear before me. The stories of Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia particularly stuck with me for a long time, and it feels good to be reminded of them again. As for mountain climbing, I love how Coelho relates finding our purpose in life to it. Most of the times, we have no idea what lies ahead and the path we are treading can be lonely and cruel. To the common spectator, every step is ordinary and the same. But to the mountain climber, it means courage and braving the unknown.
What I didn’t like: None. Only the fact that I did not get to read Pilar’s letters by the river. I would have loved be spoon-fed more of Coelho’s wisdom and beautiful words. Yes, no doubt!
“You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”
“Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment help us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments — but all of this is transitory it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.”
“And happiness is something that multiplies when divided.”
“Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow.”
“Our universe require that we avoid getting glasses fall to the floor. But when we break them by accident, we realize that it’s not very serious.”
“It’s one thing to think that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
“Go and get your things,” he said. “Dreams mean work.”
Final Thoughts: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is the first book of Coelho’s And On the Seventh Day trilogy. It’s a series that is linked by concept rather than characters, wherein human frailty and strength are explored in a span of one week. This novel is about distinguishing who we are, who we want to be and who we are destined to be. It’s about carving own path and accepting the challenges that come with it. It tells a story that is worth every second of your time. I promise.