High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick HornbyHigh Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Number of pages: 323
My copy: paperback, bought from D’s Books in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films (Reservoir Dogs…); top five Elvis Costello songs (Alison…); top five episodes of Cheers (the one where Woody sang his stupid song to Kelly…). Rob tries dating a singer whose rendition of Baby, I Love Your Way makes him cry. But maybe it’s just that he’s always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think (awful as it sounds) that life as an episode of thirtysomething, with all the kids and marriages and barbecues and k.d. lang CD’s that this implies, might not be so bad.

I’ve been wanting to read Nick Hornby books for a long time, but I never found a reason to pick any of them up. Sure, he was on my radar, but every time I’d be in the bookstore to get a new book, I just don’t stop by to check his books. Maybe it’s because I have a bias for female contemporary (romance) authors, or you know, I just never had a reason to, until now.

So we discussed this book last April in the book club. I started reading this as soon as I finished the previous book, and when my friends started finishing the book ahead of time, I wondered if I was having a hard time reading it because I was busy, or because I was just disinterested.

Don’t get me wrong – High Fidelity was very entertaining, and I thought Rob was a bit of an adorable music dork who was just starting to group. I liked the setting, and while I wasn’t super enamored with his friends, I thought they provided a pretty fun cast of characters. The song references weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but somehow all of them made me imagine this in a movie (even if I didn’t actually go and watch the movie version of this book).

But at the end of it all, I felt pretty apathetic over Rob. Perhaps it was his whining that got to me, which I tried to understand because I knew I also did that (and sometimes I still do that). Maybe it’s because of how he treated Laura, except Laura wasn’t so great either. I wish I can say that I couldn’t relate to him, but I have had my share of disappointments in romance – perhaps not like Rob’s, but don’t all romantic failures have some kind of common vein in them? I didn’t exactly dislike Rob like some of my other friends did, but I didn’t like him so much, either. I had no strong opinions about him (or his story, for that matter), which kind of made me pretty much apathetic to the book.

The ending was okay, and okay, I liked how there was that some sort of turnaround there for everyone. But I think that’s the extent of care I could give to this. Maybe I should watch the movie version of this for better appreciation? I would try to read another Nick Hornby book, but perhaps not anytime soon, and I would probably only do it if I was given a more compelling reason. Don’t take all of my words, though. I think it just wasn’t for me, and like Rob’s other relationships, I think that’s okay.

The best part of the book, IMHO, was the discussion. My adopted little brother did an excellent job with the discussion, and I actually bought a faux leather jacket to follow his whims as the moderator. ;)

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

…sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. (p. 63)

…he’s worried about how his life is turning out, and he’s lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all. (p. 151)


Other reviews:
It’s a Wonderful Book World

Minis: Charlie and Willy Wonka

So last December, our book club’s book for the month was a very sweet book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read the book yet, but this is one of the books that escaped my childhood. But nevertheless, I was excited for it not only because the discussion date is also our Christmas party, but also because hey, it’s chocolate. Who wouldn’t want that?

I ended up buying the complete Charlie and Willy Wonka adventures book because the series completist in me surfaced and I figured it was cheaper to get the two-in-one book when I went to the bookstore, plus I may want to read the other one after I read the first. So here are my review of the two books as my first Minis post for 2013. :)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie Bucket # 1
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  155
My copy: paperback, The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka, bought from Fully Booked

Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last!

But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

* * *

Charlie Bucket comes from a poor family who lives near Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. Always hungry, Charlie looks forward to his birthday every year because he gets to have one chocolate bar. Just in time for his birthday, Willy Wonka announced that he is opening his factory again, and five lucky kids who can find a golden ticket will be given entrance to the factory. Our little hero finds one in the most unusual way. Together with four kids — one who likes to eat, one who likes to chew gum, one who never stops watching TV and a spoiled brat — Charlie comes in and finds that he may be in for the biggest adventure of his life.

I remember my first impression of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was reading the first few pages: it cheered me up. Maybe it’s a psychological thing with all the chocolates and all, but I felt a bit lighter when I was reading the first few pages. Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryis children’s fiction anyway, so there’s nothing heavy to expect in the book, which my very busy and frazzled mind appreciated very much — a very well-deserved break.

However, I realize now that while I’m reading this as an (almost) adult, I wasn’t as enchanted with the book as it went on. I liked the Oompa-Loompa’s song and all, and the lessons that Mr. Wonka gave about each kid are pretty valuable, but in the end I just find him a bit...creepy. I wouldn’t want to be left alone with him, really. Perhaps if I read this as a kid, I would enjoy it for all its chocolate-y goodness, but the grown-up part of my mind is resisting some of its charm.

I think my younger self would have loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryif I had a chance to read it back then. My sweet tooth would have been beside herself with glee. But now that I’m a little bit older (I was about to say jaded, but that’s too negative, heh), I just like it. I would’ve loved it, but now I just like it.

Now I want a chocolate bar.

Other review: marginalia

Charlie and the Great Glass ElevatorCharlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
Charlie Bucket # 2
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  159
My copy: paperback, The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka, bought from Fully Booked

Now that he’s won the chocolate factory, what’s next for Charlie?

Last seen flying through the sky in a giant elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket’s back for another adventure. When the giant elevator picks up speed, Charlie, Willy Wonka, and the gang are sent hurtling through space and time. Visiting the world’’ first space hotel, battling the dreaded Vermicious Knids, and saving the world are only a few stops along this remarkable, intergalactic joyride.

* * *

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevatorpicks up right where the first book left off, and Charlie finds himself with Mr. Wonka and the rest of his family inside the glass elevator and by some crazy mishap involving one of Charlie’s grandmothers, they all end up in outer space. But no fear, since Mr. Wonka is there! They find themselves looking at the world’s first space hotel, some bewildered astronauts and finally some Vermicious Knids who are set on having them for lunch.

If Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was fun and comforting, I was just kind of …weirded out with the next book. There’s lots of space stuff here, which was fun in itself, but the fun feel of the first book was missing in this book. It felt like all the other adults in this book save for Willy Wonka and Charlie’s Grandpa Joe were all…well, stupid. The Vermicious Knids delivered the right kind of terror, I think, and even I wouldn’t want to be trapped with them. Sure, there’s a smidgen of adventure in the first part, but it didn’t really fly with me. The second part, when they’re back in the factory, worked a bit better for me although I felt like it was just an afterthought in the book. There is a bit of a lesson there somewhere, but it didn’t have the same charm as the first book.

I guess if I were younger I would’ve enjoyed this one too, but honestly, I was just reading it to finish it when I got to the end. Although it had some fun merits, a part of me wished that I just stopped with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now I can’t get the image of those Vermicious Knids out of my head.



Adorkable by Sarra ManningAdorkable by Sarra Manning
Publisher: Atom
Number of pages: 387
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Jeane Smith’s a blogger, a dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand, and has half a million followers on Twitter. Michael Lee’s a star of school, stage, and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie. They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can’t they stop making out? This novel is about an unlikely relationship, but it’s also about roller derby, dogs on skateboards, dogs on surfboards, dogs doing any form of extreme sport, old skool hip hop, riding your bike downhill really fast, riot grrrl, those boys you want to kiss but punch in the face at the same time, dyeing your hair ridiculous colors just because you can, stitch ‘n’ bitch, the songs that make you dance, the songs that make you cry, being a bad ass, cake, love, death, and everything in between.

* * *

So I got Adorkable based on impulse, and I got it because I was curious with Sarra Manning books. I haven’t found copies of her adult contemporary romances just yet, so I settled for her YA book and one that seemed to be something I would like. Jeane Smith is a blogger and she basically runs her own life with her own brand of quirky style. This makes her quite unpopular, especially with her strong opinions on things, which puts her on the other end of the spectrum from popular boy Michael Lee, who she can’t really stand. When Jeane’s ex-boyfriend and Michael’s ex-girlfriend get together, it was the only thing that they share in common. But is that enough for them to…well, start snogging? Apparently, it is.

So Adorkable. I liked how clear Jeane and Michael’s voices were that even if there were no clear chapter headings or style changes every time a chapter changes, I know who’s speaking. I liked the idea that Jeane makes a living as a blogger (possibly enough to get her one of the homes for sale outer banks if she wanted to) and how she speaks to so many people about her own brand and how she has become the voice of the teens. There were so many fun things in this novel that I can’t help but smile and wonder why those things didn’t happen back when I was Jeane’s age. I could’ve been one of those blogging superstars too, you know? :P There were also many laugh out loud moments, in the book and “awww” moments, especially during that Christmas scene with the Lee family and…well, basically anything that involved Michael because he is kind of adorable.

But…my like for this book kind of ends there. I really wanted to like this book, but somehow most of it just kind of got on my nerves. I think it came to a point when I realized that I was one of those kids that Jeane would be annoyed at if I were in high school with her. I don’t follow trends blindly nor go and be mean on purpose to some classmates that I don’t like, but I feel like I’m not dorky enough to pass by Jeane’s standards. And somehow that made me feel like I’m in the wrong despite the fact that the book was promoting being comfortable with yourself. Maybe Jeane is just not the person I would be friends with if I was back in high school. I’d like to believe that I won’t be judging, but knowing my high school self, I probably will. There were times when I enjoyed and admired Jeane, but I think there were more times when I was just exasperated with her, and I wondered what would be her undoing. Sometimes I think she was trying hard to be too radical and dorky, and I just got so annoyed a how she pushed everyone away.

But maybe that’s the point of that, and the point of the story with how she changed. Still, I felt that when that turning point finally came, it was too late for me to start liking Jeane again. I get all the empowerment with being yourself and daring to be different, but here’s the thing: do you really have to be in everyone’s faces and think who doesn’t dress or think like you so you can be adorkable? Nah. Adorkable is cute, but I think it’s not my kind of book.


Other reviews:


Insurgent by Veronica RothInsurgent by Veronica Roth
Divergent # 2
HarperTeen, 525 pages

One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I didn’t really love Divergent when I first read it, but I liked it well enough to get the second book in the series. I must admit that I’m really more into it because of the covers because it would look nice on my shelf, but as for knowing what happens next, I wasn’t in a hurry to read it anytime. Call me ambivalent, I guess. That, and I may be one of the few readers who don’t have a fictional crush on Four.

But anyway, Insurgent is the second book in the latest dystopian YA series taking readers by a storm. This book picks up immediately from where the first book ended, so I had to check the last parts of the first book before reading through this one to remember how things ended. The action was there at the start, and I was really interested in knowing what would happen to Tris and Four and the rest.Thing was, I actually forgot who the other characters were, so I kind of groped in the dark as I read on.

I think my favorite part of Insurgent is really getting to know the other factions more. I liked their “field trips” between Amity, Candor, Erudite and even the Factionless. I liked seeing how the other factions worked, and how they supported how their world lives. My issues at how the world like this can exist that I mentioned in the first book still remain, but I guess I’m more forgiving this time around because I was curious about how their world operated. We see more of the villain and how cunning she is…but also, she didn’t give much dangerous vibes than I expected. She’s just…smart, but dangerous? Nope, didn’t feel like it. There were a lot of betrayals in this book though, and it was hard to know who to really believe in as the story unfolds.

My main issue with Insurgent is really its length. It felt so long, but there were too little things happening! Divergent had me glued to the pages with all the exciting things, but the sequel kind of fell flat with that. I felt that it went on too long when some scenes could have been cut, or shortened. Perhaps it was written that way to show more of the world that Tris lives in, or fine, to give way to introduce the factions more, but I think it could have been made shorter. I remember coming to a point where I was almost skimming the pages because I wanted to get to the exciting parts. While I did like knowing more about the factions, I can’t help but wish it hurried with the action scenes in the end. Case in point: this was my favorite part in the book, but see that it happens in p. 440, where one would normally expect more exciting things to be happening in a 500+ page book:

Of course, this lukewarm reaction could be because I was reading an equally long book while I was reading this one, so I could be just in the middle of a slump and I was feeling impatient.

I did like Insurgent‘s ending though, and it had that second-book-in-trilogy-cliffhanger ending that I kind of expected, like how Mira Grant did it with Deadline. The ending feels like a game-changer and I am curious with how Veronica Roth will run away with this one. Overall, I liked Insurgent but not as much as I enjoyed the first book. I will still read the last book, just to satisfy my curiosity…but I think I’ll just borrow the next book instead of just buying one for my own. Unless of course the cover convinces me otherwise, that is.


My copy: hardcover, bought from Fully Booked

Other reviews:
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
The Book Smugglers

Minis: Required Reading for August

Still working through my review backlog, so I thought — let’s do a Minis post again! I don’t know if I should make this a habit, but I’m making it a sort of special case for August’s reading list so I can get them all down in one go. I’m efficient that way. (And also maybe a bit lazy. :p)

On another note: I was supposed to include the review of Noli Me Tangere in this post, but it isn’t short anymore, so I will reserve that for another post. :)

Paper Cuts by Pam PastorPaper Cuts: Dodging Deadlines, Celebrity run-ins and Other stories I told the Internet by Pam Pastor
Publisher: Anvil
Number of pages: 169
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

Paper Cuts is a collection of stories from my crazy life, what happens between deadlines.

* * *

I got this book a year ago during the book launch, not because I knew the author or I was even really remotely interested — I got this simply because I wanted to support local authors and their work. Of course, with the not-so-high interest level, I pushed this down my TBR until I finally pulled it out so I can finally read it. Paper Cuts is a collection of stories from journalist/writer Pam Pastor based on her adventures in her “crazy life”. I liked the idea, given that I’m a blogger myself, although I doubt that my life is as crazy as hers.

I enjoyed Paper Cuts for the most part, especially the ones where the author shared anecdotes about her family. There’s nothing like crazy family stories to set the tone of a non-fiction book. I also liked her crazy commuting/cab stories because I share the same things too. However…my enjoyment kind of stopped there. After some time, I just couldn’t relate much to the other parts of the book. It feels like maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I wanted to have the same adventures as she did — meet different celebrities, go around the world for her job and party when there’s time — but I’m actually quite happy with my own life. These stories were good to read, but it’s not something that I would probably gush about, unless they were my own experiences, that is. But knowing (boring) old me, I don’t think I’ll even reach as many crazy experiences like that.

It’s not a bad book, per se. The writing was very witty and again, there were several stories that made me chuckle, but I was a bit apathetic for the rest of the stories. It’s just one of those books that I am not a part of the intended audience. But you know what, maybe that’s why I haven’t heard of the author until her book came out — maybe it’s because we’re just in entirely different circles. Overall, it’s an okay book.


Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob OngLumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob Ong
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 186
My copy: paperback, gift from KD

Mula sa kasumpa-sumpang kahirapan at kalunos-lunos na kaignorantehan sa mundong kanyang kinagisnan, namulat si Marie sa tunay na mukha ng matamis at mapapakasakit na pag-ibig.

Ngunit makakayanan niya ba ang mga hamon ng bukas?

Ano ang kanyang magiging kapalaran?

Huwag na huwag palalampasin ang mga tagpo ngayong gabi sa telesineryenobela na kumpleto sa mga pang-aapi, paghihiganti, impostor, amnesia, kasal at diary!

* * *

Bob Ong was a staple among my friends in college, because he provided us with quick and funny reads that keeps us afloat during stressful school days. I guess reading his books has become a habit that I haven’t shaken yet, that’s why I wanted to read his latest book, Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin (loose translation: Stay Away From Me). The title is a play on one old Filipino song Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin by Rodel Naval that eventually became a title of a Filipino noontime soap opera. The book is written in script format with three stories, one that plays on the cliches found in Filipino action movies, Filipino horror movies and finally, Filipino romance movies. Since this book is written for Filipinos, it’s going to be hard to explain these cliches to foreigners, so let’s kind of leave it at that. Anyway, as with every Bob Ong book, the book pokes fun at different things in the Filipino society, too, with the purpose of using humor to make the readers thing.

This book reminds me of those old gag skits I used to write for my org in school. And that’s the only charm of the book. Overall, I had the huge urge to just chuck the book and not finish it. There were some funny parts, yes, but it wasn’t the old funny thing that Bob Ong used to write. More often than not, the jokes fall flat and are just plain corny. It’s not that I didn’t get it — I just didn’t appreciate it, I guess.

So it’s either I’ve outgrown Bob Ong books, or this is just blah. Maybe a little of both? Or I guess I just kind of miss the ABNKKBSNPLAKo and Stainless Longganisa days.


Required Reading: August