Fiction

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li: A Book Review

Where I live, there’s never a shortage of Chinese restaurants to choose from. As a Filipino, if I’m not craving for Filipino food, my version of comfort food is Chinese. I’ve got Rice ‘N Roll up the street from my house, Little Szechuan which delivers the best lunch plates to work and Wing Lee, my…

The Seas by Samantha Hunt: A Book Review

Sometimes you come across a book that throws you so out of field that the only choice you make is you sit with it, go through every single page, suddenly caught in a buoyancy you didn’t think you’d enjoy until the last turn, the last sentence and last word rolls of your mouth, stuck in…

Convenience Store Woman: A Book Review

Ever have one of those moments where you feel like you’re not made for this world? That nothing you see around you makes any real sense but you’ve got to get on with the norm, with what’s expected to make life less complicated? Meet Keiko Furukura, the star of Sayaka Murata’s novel Convenience Store Woman (Shop your…

Finding An Uncommon Type, with Tom Hanks (A Book Review)

I have a confession to make: I don’t really care much for Tom Hanks the actor, but I am quite impressed by Tom Hanks the writer.  When Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks was released, I was immediately intrigued. I usually ignore books by celebrities and dismiss them, with the exception of The Autobiography of Gucci Mane which…

Navigating the Heartland, with Ana Simo

If 2017 was finally the year that ushered in feminist science fiction fabulism, let 2018 be a stronger contender for more releases of the same kind! Last year, I read two notable books in this category and reviewed them on the blog: The Power by Naomi Alderman (one of the best books Barack Obama said he read…

Beyond the Rice Fields with Naivo

Ravinkazo nanintsana Ka ny lasa tsy azo ahoana Fa ny sisa ampanirina Leaves falling There’s no protecting those that drop But those that stay are made to grow (Malagasy Hainteny) First, an embarrassing confession: I am woefully ignorant about Madagascar, the Malagasy people and the Malagasy culture. It wasn’t until I signed up for Restless Books monthly…

#GetLit this January 2k18

Halfway into the month and I’m just sharing this month’s reading list! Truth be told, I’ve been slow to start this year with my reading, and I’m finally wrapping up some books I started back in 2017. This month, I’d like to keep it real, keep it slow. In the past, I’ve sped through books…

#GetLit This Holiday: A Literary Guide to Family Parties

Note: This post was originally published on HellaPinay.com. You ready for another Filipino family party? With the end of 2k17 just around the corner, you know there’s bound to be an endless supply of pancit, lumpia and possibly (hopefully), lechon. Not to mention all the do-do’s as my family calls ‘em: asado (stewed pork or chicken dish), menudo (another…

The Great Five from Libromance: Best Fiction Books of 2017

Running a book blog is lots of hard (but pleasurable!) work and one of the things I’m always excited for are end of the year lists, best picks and titles deemed noteworthy usually announced around this time. I’ve seen a lot of best of the year book lists and here are some of my favorites:…

A Lifetime of Looking, with Lisa Ko (A Book Review of “The Leavers”)

Days after reading Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (Amazon | Indiebound), one question lingered in my mind: can we really spare our loved ones the most gory, painful thing in our lives in order to save them–whatever “saving” looks like? The story is written in the same format Arundhati Roy’s latest book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, where you…

The Woman’s Lot, with Min Jin Lee (A Book Review of ‘Pachinko’)

As I write this, Trump’s visit to Southeast Asia is underway. The 12-day tour in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines reflects the increasing importance of the region tied to American interests, in aspects of geopolitics and economics. South Korea is his second stop, and I think about the increasing provocation from his…

Fiending for (More) Fiction

After doing my #FinestFiction reading challenge in the summer where I attempted to read the longlist for the Man Book Prize, I was hooked. Not only did I push myself to read out of my usual genres, I also stuck with some books I would’ve otherwise put down already. I learned a lot. And I…

The Way We See Things, with Fiona Mozley (A Book Review of ‘Elmet’)

Count Elmet (Amazon) by Fiona Mozley as an unexpectedly beautiful read, a tender tome of family and loyalty. As with the other titles on the Man Book Prize, I wouldn’t have explored this book if it weren’t for my #FinestFiction reading challenge. This felt a little like reading Autumn by Ali Smith, to go beyond the first few pages…

The Legacy of Shame, with Kamila Shamsie (A Book Review of ‘Home Fire’)

“I pledged to ISIS in January 2015 and left in March,” said Raad Abdullah Ahmad, 31. “My family disowned me after that. Imagine having no family. I left because I didn’t like what they did to people.” –ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender En Masse (NYT) When I read the lines above…

Loving in Ireland, with John Boyne (A Book Review of ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’)

Before I picked up John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Indiebound), I must confess that I barely knew anything about Ireland. The most I’ve read about the country and its history was from Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire, wherein he mostly talked about how a crop, the infamous potato, from a historical, political and epistemological context in…

Reading the World with Ali Smith (A Book Review of ‘Autumn: A Novel’)

“What you reading?” This was the question Daniel Gluck, an older man (almost a century old) with the wisest soul would ask Elisabeth, his new, young neighbor every time they took walks. Before you go down that route, it’s not what you think. Autumn: A Novel (Amazon | Indiebound) by Ali Smith is a novel set…

On Love & Refuge, with Mohsin Hamid (A Book Review of “Exit West”)

When Warsan Shire, Nigerian poet wrote No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark, I knew that in spite of my experiences as an immigrant, I knew nothing about being a refugee. Since the refugee crisis broke in the Middle East, I’ve read different stories about the forced migration of millions of…

The Ways We Choose to Live, with Magda Szabó (A Book Review)

Assuming that someone could vouch for us, and assure her that neither of us were likely to brawl or get drunk, we might perhaps discuss the matter again. I stood there dumbfounded. This was the first time anyone had required references from us. “I don’t wash just anyone’s dirty linen,” she said. I grew up…

#FinestFiction: Reading the 2017 Man Booker Longlist

Since the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist came out, I’ve been stewing on this thought: so many books, so little time. After my pseudo-dramatic rant on Friday, and after perusing the aisles and shelves of Green Apple Books & Music in San Francisco, I made my decision: this summer, I’ll be reading all of the…

At War with the World & Within, with Arundhati Roy

“…she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.”I was late to The God of Small Things (Amazon | Indiebound) reading party but I distinctly remember reading it at the time that I did — more than a decade later. It was December 2011 and I finally…

Loving in the Martial Law Years, with Lualhati Bautista

“Martial law” was just a buzzword when I was growing up, hemmed in within the walls of an all-girl Benedictine school compound, something we talked about in passing during our history class. While the lesson itself was short, I remember feeling a sense of indignation towards the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family who…

What You Know, What You Don’t: A Story of Marriage by Lauren Groff

“Paradox of marriage: you can never know someone entirely; you do know someone entirely.” Trust Green Apple, a local bookstore which has been my go-to for a decade now, to hand you the next best read just when you needed it. Right there on the corner of a long table of bargain books was Lauren…

A Return to Sacred Land, With Rosario Castellanos

“All moons, all years, all days, all winds, take their course and pass away. Even so all blood reaches its place of quiet, as it reaches its power and its throne.” — From the Chilam-Balam of Chumayel, an ancient Maya manuscript  It’s the last night of my trip to Mexico City (Distrito Federal of Mexico), and…

Homesick for Another World, with Ottessa Moshfegh

It’s rare for me to come across a book where I don’t want to annotate it. Over the years, I’ve learned not to fold the corners, stop writing on the edges or underline/highlight passages for the simple act of preserving them. Instead, I’ve resorted to using a nifty app called Evernote to take notes. Reading…

June’s Reading List 

Ah, June — the beginning of summer, of sun-kissed bare shoulders dotting sandy white shores, the season of the infamous beach reads. But before I get into the nitty gritty of that, here are this month’s reading list: Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparesidos, timely because of the Philippines’s current situation (martial law declared in the southern region); The Nine Guardians by…

May’s Reading List

The month of May is a lot of things: May Day or International Workers’ Day (May 1), Mental Health Awareness Month, Memorial Day in the U.S., Mother’s Day (May 14), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Malcolm X Day (May 19) among a slew of other celebrations and observances. I’m still reading Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of…

The Feminine Ferment, with Claudia Salazar Jiménez

The experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it. –Vladimir Lenin I’m writing this right after attending a May Day mobilization in Oakland, California, where black and brown people took to the streets to commemorate and continue the struggle of…

Reading Zadie Smith’s “Swing Time”

When Zadie Smith writes “Nowadays, I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own,” she was writing the essence of my own soul. I’ve long been a fan of Zadie, although I’ve never actually finished any of her novels. I remember…

Revisiting History, with Rabih Alameddine

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.  –Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting I walked up the stairs to the Poetry Room of the City Lights Bookstore one evening, eager to see Rabih Alameddine and listen to a reading from his most recent book, The Angel of History (Shop…

A Crisis of Values, with Karan Mahajan

This is what it felt like to be a bomb. You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview…

How to Mother, with Brit Bennett

“An inside hurt was supposed to stay inside. How strange it must be to hurt in an outside way you can’t hide.” –The Mothers, Brit Bennett Often times, we are attuned to grand and sweeping tales about life and death, love and heartbreak, stories which take us to new landscapes, push us to new heights,…

A Lifetime of Remembering, with Colson Whitehead

I’m usually a tad bit late to everything but for Colson Whitehead’s reading at the Green Apple Books in the Sunset, I was an hour early. His book The Underground Railroad has just been longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction and while the reading wasn’t for another hour, the place was already packed. While…

19 Years Later: Harry Potter & I

The memory is clear as day: the arrival of relatives from the U.S. meant imported goods (chocolates, clothes) from a balikbayan box but this, this time, was no usual clamoring. My Lola, who used to travel back and forth between the Philippines and her adopted home country would always come home to see the rest…

A Series of Simple Joys, with Elizabeth Strout

I read Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton in a span of two days. It was hard to put down, for many good reasons. Lucy Barton’s story is not grand by any means. She’s laying on a hospital bed in Manhattan for the most part, as she recounts experiences, relationships and various moments in…

An Unnecessary Woman (And Her Books) by Rabih Alameddine

How does the old cliché go? When every Arab girl stood in line waiting for God to hand out the desperate-to-get-married gene, I must have been somewhere else, probably lost in a book. Ah, but where to begin with this book? I picked up a copy of Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman from a local bookstore at Green…

On Grief and the Permission to Leave, with Max Porter

I don’t know who to thank for bringing Max Porter’s book Grief is the Thing with Feathers within my sphere of biblio-senses, but I owe them a lifetime of gratitude. While grief and gratitude may be emotions on opposite ends, I was able to reconcile both in this book — one of the most memorable pieces of…

The Power of Homegoing, with Yaa Gyasi

Reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing at the time of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s deaths was surreal, as if I was looking at the lives of these two black men from a generational perspective, with Gyasi’s historical fiction lens. Over the weekend, protests across the country and around the world erupted as yet again, the lives of black…

What We Really Talk About When We Talk About Love, with Alain de Botton

…is a lot of romanticism. It’s in the movies we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to. From Disney “Princess” films to books and movies inspired by Nicholas Sparks, the irresistible charm of romance permeates our culture. It’s the nostalgia of the fairy tale, it is its allure that keeps us affirming star-crossed…

Nigeria, Philippines, Americanah: Longings & Musings

For three nights in a row after finishing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah I found myself missing Ifemelu and Obinze. It was about 11 at night, and I was sitting in bed with the vastness of the Oakland sky outside my window. I reached to my side table and held Adichie’s book, still in awe of how one…

The Necessity of Memory with Viet Thanh Nguyen

Writing about war is never an easy task, it involves remembering what must not be forgotten, slowly treading a path in one’s memory that is never neutral. It is filled with opposing forces — of heroes and villains, of the noble and the wretched, of the conqueror and the conquered. But it must be done.…

Remembering the Grief and Reality of War, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun a day before April 14, 2016, which marks the 2nd anniversary of #BringBackOurGirls. Back in 2014, the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped about 276 Nigerian schoolgirls from the Chibok Government Secondary School in the middle of the night. Over the weekend, Pope Francis also…

The Courage it Takes with Sunil Yapa

It’s a little weird to read the chants you’ve been yelling at protests, rallies, in meetings and conferences centered around social justice. I saw these on the text of Sunil Yapa’s book Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, a book set in Seattle amidst the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protests.…