Welcome to Envy Park

Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Bright Girl Books
Number of pages: 142
My copy: Kindle edition

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

* * *

Ever since I reached my mid-20’s, or at least, ever since I started experiencing the so-called “quarter-life crisis”, I started categorizing some of the books I read into a “QLC” category. This list includes Astigirl by Tweet Sering, and Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, both of which are non-fiction. After reading Mina V. Esguerra’s Welcome to Envy Park, I finally had a fiction book in that QLC books list.

Moira Vasquez is on a break, and she’s taking this break in her brand new condo in NV Park after five years of working and saving in Singapore. And this break it meant: no job, no boyfriend, but with some plans on where she’s jetting off next. She has no plans of staying too long, really, even if Ethan, the cute guy who lives in the same building is proving to be a really good distraction. Moira is convinced that she’s home for a quick stopover, but what if what she needs is already right in front of her?

Welcome to Envy Park didn’t feel like the usual contemporary romance that I’ve known Mina for. Somehow, this book feels a little bit more mature and perhaps it’s because the romance felt like a side story to what Moira was going through. I admit that I’m not a Moira. I’m not the type of person who’d shake things up just because (until lately, anyway). I tend to become comfortable, and just settle there until the restlessness finally hits me and I drag myself up. I never thought of working abroad, and until now I still don’t think about it, but I do admire Moira for her guts to do it, and to keep on doing it. It takes a certain kind of personality, I guess, to be willing to uproot yourself every time.

But you can’t always uproot yourself, right? At some point in your life, you have to start thinking of settling down (I got that feeling when I turned 27. Then things happened, and now I felt the need to uproot myself again, heh), and this is basically Moira’s story. I liked how Moira was exposed to so many people in the book and how she observed them, and how she compared her life to them with her lists. Her voice is fun and fresh and her struggles with her thoughts, her career, her family and her love life felt true, like it’s something someone her age experiences.

The story flowed easily, although it may not be as gripping as other romance novellas are — perhaps it’s because again, it really didn’t feel like one for me. I thought it was more about self-discovery, and yeah, a certain kind of coming of age, and romance just happened to come with it all. And isn’t that how it really often happens in real life?

Welcome to Envy Park is a book about choices, how it makes us, how it affects the people around us, and the things that come with it. It’s a bit different from Mina’s other books, but it’s a good one. Definitely for people my age who are thinking of making major decisions in life (don’t worry, you’re not alone!). :)

Number of dog-eared page(s): 9

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

I swear, he just lets things happen, like he’s a leaf in the wind.

I don’t rock the boat if it’s not worth rocking just yet. As opposed to what, declaring to the universe things that haven’t happened yet?

Maybe I needed to place a tiny portion of my happiness in someone else’s hands, and not completely control it.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
A Little Bit of Everything

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Speak
Number of pages: 301
My copy: paperback, Christmas gift from a colleague

will grayson, meet will grayson

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high school stage.

* * *

There was a time soon after I graduated college that I was so obsessed with High School Musical. I was unemployed, and I was a kid at heart who can’t stop watching Disney Channel all day while I did nothing, so when I saw the trailer for High School Musical, I was curious. Then I watched it, and watched it and I couldn’t stop. I loved the entire thing. I even bought the book, and then watched the movie(s) and played the songs until I got sick of it all. But I have fond memories of those movies, and sometimes I kinda wish that I can break into song any time and people will just join me in singing…even if I can’t sing. Haha.

But anyway. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan features two Will Graysons who meet one night in the strangest place in Chicago.. There’s the “don’t speak, don’t participate” Will Grayson, best friend to Tiny Cooper, a large and gay guy who heads their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. All Will is concerned with is not getting noticed, but being friends with Tiny Cooper makes that difficult. And then there’s Tiny’s friend Jane, who seems nice, but Will wasn’t sure if she’s straight or not. And then there’s Will # 2, or will grayson (without the caps), who lives a hard and isolated life, with just an online friend named Isaac making his life easier. The two Wills meet one night, and then their lives change…and it all goes down in a high school musical made by Tiny Cooper.

It seemed like the best time to read a John Green book where he wrote with someone else is always around the holiday season. Or maybe I’m just saying that now because last year, I read Let It Snow around Christmas time too, and I enjoyed it, so when I was looking for a happy book to read during the holidays this year, I decided to read this book. I was already tickled by the first chapter — classic Green, introducing his main characters: a lead who isn’t really interested in standing out, a girl who seems partially unattainable, and a loud sidekick (except this time we have a louder and bigger sidekick). It was cute, and then I go into the other will’s world and I was plunged into a dark, depressing world. I almost stopped — what was this? Why is this will so sad? And why is it taking so long for the two Wills to meet?

I honestly thought I wouldn’t like it, especially since I felt that will’s chapters were too depressing. Granted, will was depressed, but I wanted to finish his chapters so I can go back to the other Will, who was partially pleasant. That, and it was kind of fun reading Tiny Cooper, even if it seems like the book should have been about him because…well, it was all about him. Suddenly he didn’t seem like a sidekick. But anyway, I found Will’s chapters funnier, and I liked the cute little “dancing” thing he had with Jane. It was something you’d expect from John Green, really, and it was really nice to read.

I really thought I wouldn’t like the book, but then I got to the end and I actually found myself tearing up at some parts. I think the best part of this book isn’t the romance, or even the Will Graysons meeting, but Will’s friendship with Tiny. It reminded me a little of my own friendships with people and how true it was with how we all just happened to be friends, and we didn’t really seek each other out at first. Although I don’t completely buy the fact about you can’t pick who your friends are, I like the sentiment that Will expressed when he told Tiny that if he could pick his friends, he would still pick Tiny. That was really heartwarming.

The ending did feel a little contrived, but I thought it was sweet and funny, especially at the exchanging numbers part. Hihi. But it was a nice way to end it, especially since I’ve long suspended my disbelief with how the musical came together and all that. Just like in High School Musical – you don’t really think what they did could happen in real life, right? But still, it was fun to watch, and it was a nice and sweet ending. Same with Will Grayson, Will Grayson: the ending was nice and heartwarming, and I actually found tears in my eyes by the time I ended the book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn’t exactly the best holiday read (or…I don’t think it really counts as one, really), but I enjoyed reading it. Oh, and I remember people telling me that Tiny Cooper is the best John Green sidekick…but I think I’m still a Radar – Paper Towns kind of girl. :D

Number of dog-eared pages: 30

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed. (p. 174)

It seems to me that all things we keep in sealed boxes are both alive and dead until we open the box, that the unobserved is both there and not. (p. 197)

When you date someone, you have markers along the way, right. You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. You can plot the points on a graph…But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are. (p. 260)

We’ve been friends too long to pick, but if we could pick, I’d pick you. (p. 260)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Oops, I Read A Book Again

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira KalmanWhy We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Number of pages: 357
My copy: borrowed from Kai

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

* * *

I think I mentioned it before that sometimes, you need to be in a certain mood to appreciate some books. Sometimes, no matter how other people like a book, if you’re in not in that kind of mood, you won’t be able to relate to any of the characters no matter what you do, or you won’t be able to feel what the book wants you to feel. (Of course, there are some books that are just really hard to get into, even if you are in that same mood, but that’s another story.)

So, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (and illustrated by Maira Kalman). I’ve seen this book and wanted this book when it was published, but I think I saw a not so good review of it somewhere, so I stopped wanting it. I have to admit that this is the kind of book that is right up my alley, especially since I was all about embracing your inner romantic last year. Then the book fell out of my radar, until it came back again and a friend lent me her copy because I figured it was time to read it.

Then I tried. I read the first few chapters, and then had the extreme desire to throw the book away so I stopped. I didn’t want to throw the book away because it was bad, no. I wanted to throw the book away because it was getting too close for comfort. And the truth comes out. :P Suffice to say, maybe I was in the mood for this book, but it was too hard to read it because I was too much in that mood. Did that make sense? Anyway, months later, I decided to try reading this book again because some girls in our book club was reading this. I figured, why not join them? It could be some sort of release, as a good friend told me when I mentioned it. So I put my brave face on and started again.

Why We Broke Up is a break-up story, a long letter from Min Green to Ed Slaterton, her ex-boyfriend, telling their story from her side based on the items in the box that she was returning to him. These items (the illustrated parts of the book) were remnants of their short-lived relationship: bottle caps, a box of matches, movie tickets, a protractor, a note, a book, among other things. Take it, it’s yours. This is why we broke up. Either you have the feeling or you don’t, Min writes, and we are left to wonder what exactly happened that led to Min and Ed’s break-up.

Warning: this is a book full of drama. Every page is dripping of Min’s bitterness and anger and heartbreak, and…well, it was kind of expected because of the title alone. The hard part of it, I think, is that I was kept in the dark why they broke up. I just know they broke up, but I didn’t know why, and Min just kept on repeating “this is why, this is why” with every item she wrote about. It wasn’t until the very, very end that we know, but the entire time, she just rambles on and tells their love story without a hint of the real reason why. And it’s hard to see, too, especially since Ed seems a perfectly good guy from the start. Okay, perhaps he’s not perfect — he seems secretive, he has this thing about saying “no offense” and he seems judgmental about some guys who aren’t into sports and labels them “gay”, but he seemed to really like Min, so why is Min being so damn dramatic about everything?

Since I was reading the story from Min’s POV, it was easy to pin the blame on her. You know how when a friend tell us a love problem, the first thing we often do is to try to find what our friend is doing wrong because it’s something we can fix, because we know our friend better than the other party? It’s that kind of thing. I read everything from Min’s POV, so it was easier to try to find something that she did wrong…until I found out the real reason why they broke up and then, damn it. Ed, you’re an asshole. I understood why Min is so angry. Granted, she wasn’t perfect, either — she shouldn’t have jumped right in ahead in the relationship, she should have took her time, she should have seen the signs from the start…but well she’s a teenager. This is young love. We have all been there. And I guess even if we have the wisdom of the years with us, things like this still hurt just the same.

The best part of the book, though, is Min’s friends. I loved Al and Lauren (there was another name, but I forgot, eep), and to some extent, Jillian, that girl that Ed dated before Min. I loved them, and what they did for Min in the end. They didn’t do anything so special, really, but they did what good friends do in times like this. I reread the last parts of the book because of them, and I was glad that Min had them with her in the fallout.

I’ve never been in a relationship, so it follows that I’ve never been in a break-up…but there were some times in my life where it seemed like the pain I was feeling is something akin to a break-up — at least, based on what I read and saw on TV. And maybe that’s why I ended up liking this book, because in some ways, I have been there. I know at least a fraction of what Min felt. Whether it’s a relationship ending, or an almost-relationship that never became one, there’s still pain there, and it hurts just the same. But the good thing I got out of all of this is…well, reading Why We Broke Up was strangely cathartic. Huh, my friend was right. Reading this book at the end of the year was a surprising release of feels. ;)

So yeah, I liked Why Why Broke Up. Perhaps if I read this last year, or any other time later, I wouldn’t have liked it as much. But I liked it, and I am glad I read it, despite all the drama. (Because trust me, I’ve had enough of drama in the past year. :P)

Either you have the feeling or you don’t.

P.S. The illustrations were a good touch. :)

P.P.S. And no, I don’t think I’m the “return all things” type person. I think I’m more of the “throw things away” one. ;)

Number of imaginary* dog-eared page(s): 7
* Because the copy isn’t mine. :)

Favorite imaginary dog-eared quote(s):

…let’s go, let’s go together toward something extraordinary and I started making plans, thinking we would get that far. (p. 39)

…thinking there was time, plenty of time to see what pictures we’d made? But we never developed them. Undeveloped, the whole thing, tossed into a box before we really had a chance to know what we had, and that’s why we broke up. (p. 65)

A note, who writes a note like that? Who were you to write one to me? It boomed inside me the whole time, an explosion over and over, the joy of what you wrote to me jumpy shrapnel in my bloodstream. I can’t have it near me anymore, I’m grenading it back to you, as soon as I unfold it and read it and cry one more time. Because me too, and fuck you. Even now. (p. 69)

We couldn’t only have the magic nights buzzing through the wires. We had to have the days, too, the bright impatient days spoiling everything with their unavoidable schedules, their mandatory times that don’t overlap, their loyal friends who don’t get along, the unforgiven travesties torn from the wall no matter what promised are uttered past midnight, and that’s why we broke up. (p. 86)

Rating:

Other reviews:
marginalia
In Lesbians with Books
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

2013 Book Report

So another year ends, and time for some numbers! How was my 2013 in terms of reading?

Image from we heart it

Image from we heart it

Total books read: 78 + 2 Animorphs reread
Total pages read:
19,298*
Total print books: 46
Total ebooks:
34
Total audiobooks: 0
Total rereads: 5
* Includes 82 pages from History in English Words

Written by male authors: 24
Written by female authors: 56

Reviews written: 54

Ratings:
5 stars – 13
4 stars – 41
3 stars – 23
2 stars – 1
1 star – 0
Did not Finish – 0

2013 Challenges Status:
4 out of 4 books for Chubby Chunkster Challange
1 out of 5 classics for 2013
24 out of 20 books for 20 Filipino Books
27 books for Required Reading

Well, 2013 is definitely lower than 2012, or 2011, I have to say. Life was a little bit busier this year, and again, I seem to have started reading a lot slower now (except maybe for the past few days, but that’s because I’m on vacation). I don’t really mind, because I think I’ve gone past the point that I need to read, read, read so many books in a year just to feel accomplished. I liked that I hardly had low-rated books this year, though — I guess it means I’m learning to choose only the books I would surely like…or I’m just lucky that I read the books I ended up liking.

I read a lot ebooks this year, much thanks to Hannah the Kindle. However, that meant my print TBR pile didn’t budge, and I want to tackle that next year. I love my Kindle, but I do miss reading print books, feeling paper and yeah, dog-earing them, too.

There were many, many bookish events this year but I hardly documented them here…because…well, life. And perhaps I am feeling just a little burned out with book blogging, and I’m sure it’s obvious because I hardly reviewed books compared to last year. I mean, I wrote a lot of them, still, but for the latter part of the year, I was just reading and not reviewing. I gave the blog a new look and a new name, but still, I didn’t review a lot. I still think it’s because of life, and other things, really, but let’s see where this goes. (Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Not yet. :D)

But overall, despite life and all other things that happened in 2013, I still think it’s a pretty good reading year. And there’s just more books to read and maybe review in the next year. Right? :)

I leave you now with my best books of 2013, with some honorable mentions. :D

Honorable mentions:

Happy end of 2013, everyone. :)

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life  by Shauna NiequistCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
Publisher: Zondervan
Number of pages: 238
My copy: Kindle edition

Cold Tangerines is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives. It is about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It is about spiritual life, and about all the things that we have called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all. It is the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and her life, and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It is both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling us upward to the best possible life, and giving us room to breathe, to rest, to break down and break through. Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.

* * *

I was shopping for a Christmas present for my mom in Body Shop when I saw that they have new stocks of my favorite body butter scent, tangerine. That scent became my favorite by accident years ago, when I went there to claim my Love Your Body membership birthday gift, and they gave me a small bottle of their tangerine-scented lotion and body wash. I used it for the gym and loved it, and eventually bought more until I got broke and realized that my daily bath stuff are too expensive. So while I was there, buying a Christmas present for my mom, I decided to get a tub of the tangerine body butter, since it’s on sale anyway. Plus, the scent just really cheers me up.

I’d like to believe that the moment I had with that body butter was something that Shauna Niequist was pointing at in her first book, Cold Tangerines. The subtitle alone is an indication of it: Celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Plus the fact that what I bought was a tangerine scented body butter, it kinda fits the entire thing, right?

Anyway. I loved the first Shauna Niequist book I read, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, so when I saw that her two other books were on sale on Kindle on early December morning, I immediately bought it. I was a little afraid that her books might be those one-hit thing, meaning I won’t really like the others I read because I won’t be able to relate to it, but I shouldn’t have feared anything with her first book because it was exactly what Bittersweet was for me when I first read it: it came at the right time in my life.

Cold Tangerines is exactly about what it says: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Here, Shauna Niequist talks about the many little ways that God shows Himself in life, how the natural becomes spiritual, and how the physical things we see and we do are all connected to how we are nourished spiritually. There’s food, friendship, writing, traveling. There’s body issues, vacations, heartbreak, family. Shauna shared stories of her personal life, much like how she also did in Bittersweet, and then points the reader to God, and His faithfulness and His wonder in the ordinary life that she had.

Which means, we too, can see this, the extraordinary in our everyday life. I loved how easy it was to relate to her stories in this book, and whatever stage of life I was in, I would be able to find wisdom and advice in this book. Shauna’s honesty shone in this book, and when I read the part about how hard it was for her to write in this book, I realized how much she must have struggled to put these words on paper. But that struggle was a blessing, at least for me, because I know that struggle, too. I feel that every time I write a post for my personal blog, wrestling with the words in hopes of them being used for something. And then there’s the forgiveness chapter, one of my favorites, which really and truly came at the right time because I was struggling to forgive and ask for forgiveness from someone as well. Like Bittersweet, I think I highlighted almost half of the book — there were just so many quotes to keep — the ones I added below are just a glimpse of it, really.

I don’t plan on using my tangerine-scented body butter everyday because I don’t want to run out of it too fast. But I do take the time to smell it everyday, in a way to remind me that I can choose to see my life as sweet and happy, because it really is. And that is what Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines is — a reminder that there is something super in our natural life. Cold Tangerines is the kind of book I would recommend someone to read especially for the New Year. It’s fresh and honest and funny and inspiring, and I think it would help set the mood for the fresh start that everyone’s looking for in the turn of the year. Or if it’s not the New Year, read this, still. This book is a reminder that there is beauty and hope and redemption in this extraordinary everyday life.

Number of dog-eared page(s) highlighted quotes: 138

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

God is no match for the wreckage of the world we live in.

The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another.

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.

Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.

I felt so small and anonymous, surrounded by the sounds and smells and sights of a place I’d only read about, and I could go as quickly or as slowly as I wanted to. There are only two things I like to do alone: reading and traveling, and for the same reason. When you travel, and when you read, you are not actually alone, but rather surrounded by other worlds entirely, the footsteps and phrases of whole other lives keeping you company as you go.

Help us to be brave with one another, for these are the days.

Words are the breakdown through which I see all of life, instead of molecules or notes or chords and colors. words in even black and white snakes, back and forth across the page, the portals through which a little girl found a big world, and through which, now, a grown-up girl is trying to pass.

I have never been so clingy and strange, so unmoored and lacking in appropriate small talk, and I am beyond thankful to my friends for sticking around in the worst of it.

When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest. When I pray, I don’t feel so alone in the universe. I feel like there is a web, a finely-spun net, holding it all together, keeping it spinning. I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power, and the one who holds the power is good.

It was like a full-time job, forgiving her over and over, with each new angry thought or bad conversation, but it was good work, like how good it feels to shovel snow or rake leaves in the cold air.

It happens when we do the hardest work, the most secret struggle, the most demanding truth telling. In those moments of ferocity and fight, peace is born. Shalom arrives, and everything is new. And when you’ve tasted it, smelled it, fought for it, labored it into life, you’ll give your soul to get a little more, and it is always worth it.

Nothing good ever comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up the things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.

The sacred mixes in with the daily when you have a conversation with someone you love, or you read a great book, or when you do something courageous.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Wrecked.org
Sierra’s Bookmark