Best place to be on a Sunday afternoon, in my opinion: In bed, reading this. It’s supposed to be the first book of a trilogy and reportedly Hollywood bigwigs are already salivating at the mouth to film it. I’m only in chapter 3 of the first section and already I think I’m not gonna get enough sleep in the next few nights: girl-child left at a convent, killer bats in South America, military conspiracy/coverup, a convict dreaming strange dreams…

This guy must have learned at the foot of the master, Stephen King. 😉

So many vampires, so little time

I love the Anita Blake series…

So many vampires, so little time

“Memory is an internal rumor.”—Santayana


“Black is the absence of light but white is the absence of memory. The color of can’t remember.” Nice, yes? Both are from Stephen King’s Duma Key. I really get in trouble when I leave the office. Temptations abound. Saw this at Fully Booked High Street when I passed by there after an event at lunchtime today. There wasn’t even an internal debate on whether I should buy it or not! It’s like my mind went on autopilot and just directed me to the cashier. Good Sense threw up her hands and gave me up as a lost cause. I may now have to starve this weekend to make up for buying the book. No regrets.

Random notes on a rainy Friday night

1. It’s now almost eight in the evening and I’m still stuck in the office. Pathetic, much? I’m just tying loose ends before calling it a week. But it’s raining so I can’t even go malling after I leave work. Grr…

2. Got an invite to a friend’s kid’s birthday party. I didn’t want to go, for a lot of reasons that I don’t want to go into here. Our circle has been avoiding this friend for a while now. We don’t talk about it much, but we all find excuses for why we can’t get together with him…Bad, I know. Which got me thinking, if you can’t be bothered to keep in touch, is the friendship worth saving? Should one just “call it quits” so to speak? And how do you break off from a friendship anyway?

3. I went to beginner’s yoga last Wednesday at Yoga Manila. May I say that my muscles are still aching? And considering Hoze, our instructor, only taught us the two basic sun positions, it’s pathetic how out of shape I am. I used to do yoga back when it wasn’t fashionable. Back then, I found the asanas a bit hard but it wasn’t torture—my limbs could support my much lighter body. This time, it was pure hell. I guess because I’m trying to force my body, which has gotten gazillion times heavier since then, into positions it doesn’t want to get into. (Sulit ang P400! As Hoze said, “Don’t worry about the sweat. You paid for it” Damn right!)  When I was attempting to do the Downward Facing Dog I could hear my back saying, “Terrie, are you sure it’s a good idea to do this? What if you can’t get up? You’ll have your ass hanging in the air while they call the paramedics!” Pride is a great motivator.

4. Interesting read for the day: This blog about the book The Forger’s Spell by Edward Dolnick about Han van Meegeren, who in the 1930s-40s forged six Vermeers that fooled everyone. Excerpt from the blog: “Of course, once the truth was known, the van Meegerens were taken down from their place of honor in museums and private collections and hidden in basements…Yet, if what we prized in a painting is its intrinsic quality, why should it matter who painted it and under what circumstances? Is the aesthetic experience any less? Must we have a validation like Vermeer before we can admire a work of art? And in that case, aren’t we behaving like the philistine tourist in a museum who has to look to see who painted a picture before deciding whether to like it or not?”

5. And speaking of blogs, but now going decidedly low-brow, over here in surreal Philippines, people in the metro woke up today and heard the shocking news: Chikatime was closed by a well-known stylist who was frequently mentioned in the infamous blog. I say it’s about time!

In the interest of full disclosure, and not to be hypocritical about it, I did read the blog in the beginning and found it funny. Gossip is always interesting, largely because there’s always some small helping of truth in them. And done right, it can even be influential. I think though there’s such a thing as responsible gossip. Sounds like an oxymoron, yes. But look at NY Post’s Page Six. It’s a gossip column at heart, but it deals with gossip like it was news. Meaning, they tried to confirm stories or at least get both sides to a story. They didn’t just publish hate mail and insults. Which was the reason I ultimately stopped visiting the blog in question. In the end, it wasn’t even delivering any chismis. It was just flinging insults left and right. And that’s no fun, especially if there’s no context to it. Sayang, done right, it could have been the start of a new—or maybe not new. Let’s say a mutated—breed of…can I even call it journalism? Well, why not, if we’re talking about the most basic def of journalism, which is delivering the news. I guess Manila will just have find another diversion. That won’t be hard to do in this crazy town.

My summer reading list

My most potent memories of summers when I was a kid were long sleepy afternoons when everything was quiet and my dad would be reading his latest thriller, either lying down in the master’s bedroom or in the sofa at the sala. At a nearby table would be a big mug of black coffee and an ashtray with a cigarette smoldering away. In another part of the house, my mom would be equally engrossed in her book—hers would be a bestseller (“easy reading” in her words)—also with a mug of coffee beside her. At this time of the day, everyone and everything was quiet. No one was allowed to watch TV (there wasn’t anything good to watch, anyway) or be noisy.

We kids learned not to disturb our parents during this time, mostly because we ended up pulling out my dad’s white hairs while he was reading or being sent to sleep by mom—which we all didn’t want to do. Safer to be in our bedrooms, doing our own thing. Then again, we almost always ended up having siesta, anyway, because there just wasn’t anything to do!

My parents never imposed reading on us. I guess it just came natural that we’d all end up readers by their example. I picked up the habit earlier than my brothers, mainly because I was the only girl and thus tended to be left out of neighborhood games. My brothers all got into reading either in college or after.

But I guess our tastes were formed during those long summer afternoons from absorbing what my parents were reading. My brothers and I still love reading mysteries, thrillers, and anything involving police or detectives. Anything with a good story and plot, we liked. None of us liked the long narratives where all the action takes place in the protagonist’s head. Bo-riing!

Maybe because of those summers, I almost always think of reading lists at this time of the year.To be sure, I buy—and read—a lot of books in a year, but I only ever think of compiling a list every summer. Maybe it’s an attempt to recapture those long summer days when my most immediate, sometimes only, concern is choosing which book to start first.

For Summer 2008, here’s my reading list, in no particular order, with a short synopsis of what each novel is about:

Free Food For Millionaires (Min Jin Lee) tells the story of Casey, a first generation Korean-American raised by status-conscious immigrant parents, who becomes estranged from them after she graduates from Princeton. Casey’s familial, romantic, and professional struggles take place in New York circa 1990s. Started skimming this weeks ago just to get a feel for the prose, and before I knew it, I was 30 pages into the book! I had to stop because I was then reading four books at the same time!

The Naming of the Dead (Ian Rankin) One of Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels. I just picked it up from a Powerbooks sale bin because it was cheap. But I’ve always been curious about the Rebus novels so I figure this is a good place to start. Set in Scotland during the 2005 G8 meeting, this contemporary thriller has a healthy dose of action, politics, murder, and a serial killer on the loose. This is the first time I’ll be reading a Rankin novel so will report back as soon as I’ve finished this.

World War Z (MaxBrooks) I first heard about this from Lex, then I forgot about it until I saw a trade paperback in either Powerbooks or Fully Booked (couldn’t remember which). I couldn’t buy it at that time because I didn’t have any money. And then Mabes raved about it, so I figured, what the hell, I really have to get a copy—I’ll figure out how to eat later. Looked for it at the bookstores and couldn’t find it. I finally lucked out on a copy a week ago so even though it was out of the budget, I bought it. What is it about? It starts our with a pretty hokey premise: The world gets overrun by zombies 20 years ago. This book is a collection of narrative accounts from survivors of the “plague.” From the premise, one would think that this is a lightweight book. It’s not—it’s compelling reading as it delves into geopolitics, history, and how humans cope in a crisis. And pretty frightening too, considering that there are viruses and bacteria out there that the human race has no defense against. What if one of the viruses mutated and started animating the dead? Rumors have it that Leo di Caprio’s Appian Way and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Productions conducted their own bidding war for the film rights and Plan B won the bid. It’s supposed to be in pre-production by now.

The Wars of the Roses (Alison Weir) This is a reread. I picked it up from a sale bin. What is it about? The conflict of the houses of Lancaster and York during the Middle Ages. It’s a nonfic historical account but Alison Weir is a good writer with agood voice for narrative so it’s not boring.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) Again, a reread. I picked this up from a Booksale, mainly because of its faux leather cover and unusual size (slightly narrower and shorter than a paperback).

The Harlequin (Laurell K. Hamilton) The continuing saga of Anita Blake, vampire hunter. Sometimes the prose of this series can be clunky and it doesn’t pretend to be high-brow, but I like this because of the universe that Hamilton created. For instance, vampires are very old-fashioned and their protocol can rival any ofthe great courts of Europe during the Middle Ages and the Rennaissance—maybe because these vampires lived through those times. We also get to see how the hierarchies of the different weres—the wolves, hyenas, lions, leopards,etc—work, as well as how humans cope in a world where the things that bump in the night have moved in next door.

Darker Jewels (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro) A novel of the 4,000-year old vampire Comte Sant-Germain, this time set in the court of Ivan the Terrible in Russia. Yarbro’s Sant-Germain novels are not so much horror novels as historical fiction disguised as vampire novels. I first discovered this series from the book Come Twilight, which I bought at a Booksale. I’ve been on the look out for them ever since. The only drawback is that this series spans history from ancient Egypt to 1930s America. That’s a lot of books!

God’s Spy (Juan Gomez Jurado) On the eve of the declaration of the new pope, a serial killer is loose in the Vatican. This was a cold contact. I normally don’t buy new books by unknown authors, but I made an exception of this one because of the premise. I’m glad I did.

The Burning Road (Ann Benson) This is a novel with two narratives—one set during the Middle Ages when the Bubonic Plague decimated Europe and the other narrative thread set in the near-future with a plague that’s related to the Black Death spreading throughout the world. This is a sort of companion piece to her earlier novel, The Plague Years.

Thunderstruck (Erik Larson) A true account of the lives and times of the murderer Hawley Crippen and the scientist Guglielmo Marconi set in Edwardian England by the author of the superb The Devil in the White City.