stacked: monthly book picks

True to my ever dorky self, I keep a list of books to watch out for every month. I have slight tendency to go haywire in a bookshop because of the need to purchase everything I get my hands on.

Does that happen to anyone else or is that just me?

If it happens to you too, then this list might help. These are books you can check out first so you don’t get lost in the sea of perfection that is books. If not, then these may be books you wanna start with. They’re all fun reads with a certain degree of social significance. Although all of them are already available, I’m aware that some books stores may not carry them yet, so you might want to check online to get them (e.g Amazan, Goodreads, etc). Anyway, onto the list.

1. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

If you’ve read any of Tregillis’ work, then you must be expecting a lot (like me, obviously). The first thing I read of his was the Milkweed Triptych where the retelling of the second World War was so vivid and believable; I could almost imagine British warlocks and Nazi super soldiers being introduced into history textbooks. After that, I just got every single book he wrote, and he has never failed to deliver the same amount creativity and intrigue since. I would go so far as saying that he’s one of my favorites from this genre.

At the core of The Mechanical, which is a new imagery for steam punk, is the age-old question of determinism versus one’s free will and how it relates to artificial intelligence. Despite the complexity of that, it’s told in a very engaging context where ‘clakkers’, mechanical men, are powered by alchemy to protect and defend the Brasswork Throne – now, the only superpower. Trust me, even if this isn’t usually a genre you go for, this book is a worthy read. It delves into a lot of different topics which I think you’ll enjoy.

2. Find Me by Laura van den Berg

It’s for the scifi-loving book lovers who gravitate towards strong female leads and a steady dose of mystery. The book chronicles Joy’s life after she discover she’s immune from an Alzheimer’s-like pandemic that wipes out most of the population and how she makes sense of the world by studying survivors of that disease.

3. The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi

If you follow me on twitter, you would know that I’ve been raving about this book for awhile. The humorous and quirky writing style that Amanda took was so strategic and appropriate in delivering a stance on a very prominent social issue (that you all know I feel strongly about), the concept of beauty.

The book is about two friends, one ‘objectively’ beautiful and the other not (for lack of a better word), who attempt to make the people around them see who they truly are. Here’s the catch: they do it while masking their appearances. It’s a light and funny read with an undertone that persuades you to question your personal identity and how other people see it and shape it.

4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Much to my dismay, I have not read this book yet, but my recommendation is based on the massive postive reviews it got and the summary I was sent to read. I’m definitely getting a copy soon though. Also, I’ve supported ALL the books this author wrote which includes Never Let Me Go.

Personally, I loved the intimacy of the relationship between Axl and Beatrice as they remember their past and see how much effect it has on their future. I’ll definitely tell you on a different post if the book holds true to the summary I got.

5. Dirty Pretty Things by Michael Faudet

Faudet’s writing style and content is definitely not for everyone. There has been polarized views on the ‘dirty’ aspect of it. Personally, I thought it was sensual, but delivered with a certain degree of sophistication and humor that reads Faudet all the way.

I could keep describing this book to you and how it must have looked when I read this while walking around, shopping with a few friends, but I’d much rather leave you with quote that I think underlines how he was able to deliver a book that a lot of readers can keep referencing back to.

“She was a curious girl who loved the smell of old books, chasing butterflies and touching herself under the covers.”

So those are the books that are breaking my bank – okay, maybe just some of them. I tried to give you as much diversity as I could to cover everyone’s preferences. If you want more entries like this, you can email me or comment below. You know I love talking about my favorite books so if you enjoy reading about them too, I’d love to make more.

Also, there will be a massive announcement on the post after this so stay tuned – especially my fellow book geeks. You’ll love it.

weight for me

Get it? Weight? Forgive me, my very patient readers, I feel unusually punny this morning.

I was still young when I first discovered the social standards of what’s an “acceptable body type”. Even then, it perplexed me. How can there be a standard for bodies when there are at least 7 billion people in the world, with obviously very different frames and figures? What’s even more confusing is the decreasing number on the scale that’s religiously celebrated by TV ads, magazines and fashion shows—soon enough in the streets of cities and the hide outs of far flung towns too.

Body image is both a personal and a social concept. Much of how we objectify beauty  is caused by the culture we live in. Beauty in an African town, not yet reached by the claws of New York runways, may be an exquisite, dark-skinned lady with a short, curly hair and hefty womb, ideal for child-rearing. In Japan, it could be captivating doll eyes and a petite frame, emphasized by a bright eye make-up and pastel, baby doll dresses. In fashion week, it’s a size zero, thigh-gapped, perfectly-sculpted, 5’7 and above model walking down the runway for some of the biggest names in the industry.

What’s my point there? That even in a very superficial and judgmental society,  beauty is and always will be relative.

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This isn’t the part where I say, well be unhealthy and and raise you middle finger in mock salute to those who eat greens. That’s not my intention.

If the world gets to set standards on beauty, so can you. Make it personal; make it about you. Embrace your curves, your slim figure, your bum, your muscles—everything about you. If you still wanna lose some weight, fine. Go for it! Before you do that though, make sure you love yourself first because if you’re counting on loving yourself when you’ve lost all the weight, it might not work. Often, body image issues aren’t even physical. It’s what you see, not what really is.

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I want you to look in the mirror and see someone beautiful.

I hope you’ll step on that scale and love yourself whatever number it shows.

I beg that you walk in any store and ask for your size confidently, not caring if it’s in one or two digits.

I pray that you’ll be happy with who you are, proud that you’re beautiful in every single way.

 

united colors of bullies

It’s been awhile since I last put up an entry and before I start sobbing and saying sorry for leaving you guys hanging, let me just say that I had a tough month writing 15 chapters of a book I’m hoping to publish. So please please put down the pitch forks, I’m not one to make excuses but my brain was fried (figuratively of course).

Today I thought it would be fun to write about a topic that inspired one of my book concepts and that is bullies– in all their colors and varieties. We already know about the obvious ones, which mind you are a scary lot but there are more subtle versions. They hide under the covers labeling themselves something more beautiful and attractive. The magpie in us grovel for the promise that it oh so boldly declares then we realize later on that the shine it has is all that it is, shine.

The inspiration came from a nostalgic evening of coffee with 2 of my best friends- after they convinced me to keep writing on this blog because THEY ACTUALLY READ IT AND LIKE IT. Imagine my surprise when they started talking about entries I wrote, I mean these are my overly critical, highly intellectual and difficult to please best friends we’re talking about. My self loathing subconscious found that difficult to believe and quite frankly, I was speechless for a few moments.

On the same night, we realized a lot about the path we took together in college. We gave up so much to be that image of an over achieving student whose main goal is to get the best grades, manage as many  extra curriculars and maintain as few creative, non logical pursuits as we can. Labels and expectations- the box they made for us- those were our bullies. 

photo from caity-bullying.blogspot.com

I’ve finally learned that bullies don’t just come in different kinds of people, they come in every shape, size or form. I may not have been shoved around or locked in a janitor’s closet by some teen fiction stereotype queen bee but I’ve been confined in a society where there’s a predetermined standard of beauty- one which some may claim I don’t fit. That norm, that belief, that is my own brand of bully. It follows me around, taunting me to cinch around my curves and smoothen my edges to fit this overused mold already made for me.

When I  found enough courage and fought back, told society to shove its size zero, fair-skinned, blonde perfection up their bums, another bully manifested from the shadows- one far stronger and more paralyzing than its predecessor. The firm grip of its manacle, over sized hands smother me with ridicule of how success has and will continue to elude me because the career I chose to love and devote my life to will not earn me millions, buy me a mansion or a jet-setting lifestyle

Your bullies may be far more frightening or life threatening than mine. I can’t be the judge of that and I won’t try to. If there’s one thing I took away from dealing with bully after bully, people and circumstances alike, they’re never as easy to deal with as they they seem on the outside. It’s a bully for a reason. They know your weakness and capitalize on it as much as they can so you’re hurt in the worst possible way. They planned the perfect, most gruesome way to twist and turn the knife they stuck to your heart so you’re left clutching at it, trying to rip it off and stop the bleeding.

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But if you don’t know already, let me be the first to tell you, you’re far stronger than any of your bullies. You have the ability heal and those battle scars will remind you every day of how you fought and how you deserve to be happy- HOW YOU’RE WORTH A LIFE YOU CHOSE TO LIVE and not one chosen by some thug or an unfortunate circumstance for you. 

You get one shot at life my friend, don’t let some bully take that away from you. 

On Beauty Pageants

To say I cringed every time the contestants try to muster up a response is an understatement. At first, it was funny because the crowd cheering and people throwing questions at you can be rattling and the best you can do is calm yourself down and laugh at your own mistakes but as it progressed the answers just got worse. Bb. Plipinas and any pageant for that matter is a platform to elevate not only ones self but what you represent. With those answers, it’s like saying that the country represents beauty but not wit. It’s a 2 hour marquee saying we support what’s superficial, what’s physical and ignore what’s intellectual.

The questions were current and personal. They do not require a masters degree from the fanciest universities to at least solicit a decent response. I felt obligated to rant because for as long as I remember I have been defending pageants as a legitimate avenue to embody empowerment, bearing and class. This is where we portray role models who are yes, beautiful but are intelligent and opinionated as well, to the rest the Philippine populace and later on to the world. How could we do that when my twelve year old sister tweeted about having the applicants play “Who’s Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” before they qualify for the pageant. The pageant shouldn’t be the center of mockery because it’s degrading not only to the contestants, who obviously also did their best, but also the audience who make fun of other slip-ups. It shouldn’t be that way but it is because it really was a disappointing sight.

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Nevertheless, all the criticism should encourage the winners and all the other contestants to work on what they know they lack.