56 out of 100 Books

Reading “Save Me the Plums” by Ruth Reichl.

First this is a story of food, how we came to look at it in a different way. Aside from filling our empty stomach. It heals and comforts physically and spiritually. It gives company to the lonely. It consoles a grieving soul.

Gone are the days, when we try reminiscing grandma’s cooking. Replicating food in memory. The rapid stream of information and communication brought memories into real time. People gathered, shared and talked about it now.

Second this is a story of those people who rose from the bottom to make the story. Not only creating the information and communication system, they shared the story to us, as well. The story became sophisticated that I had never bought and will never buy their story.

Third, because they knew I will never buy their story, these people revealed how they are taking back the same story to me, who vowed not to buy their story.

55 out of 100

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz

This is an advance copy I got from the library. A personal memoir and all the women around her: her two grandmothers,their sisters, her mother, her sister, friends and neighbors, father and brother. It is her story of how these people influenced her life, from juvenile detention, to jail, to addiction to army training, to college to being a writer and a political activist. As an advance copy, the book was interesting in that it caught my attention and I read it through all the way. There were some parts and stories that were repetitious, unrelatedly and hazy transitions. Overall I would give it three stars.

54 of 100 Books

Reading “What Rose Forgot” by Nevada Barr. This is an advance copy book from the library recommended by another reader according to the librarian. It piqued my interest from the beginning because it is a story where Rose “woke” up and found herself living in a senior’s home. Having been a caregiver before, this is a story close to my heart. In fact, been trying to find an angle of a story to write my own.

I found myself “glued” to it during a ten hour trip back to New Jersey. And, overall I it was interesting enough that I almost finish reading the entire book during that time.

The story presumes that it happened in a couple of days, perhaps weeks. For an old woman to have done: sleeping inside a tepee, going back to her old house, running after a killer, spying twice into the nursing home through the help of a sister who was computer savvy, doing all these things through the help of her teenage granddaughter, and a a lot seems unbelievable. All these things happened without getting caught by the police. Yet, I was intrigued with the story and felt one with the adventure of this old lady. Believing its unbelievableness. Through this book, I think I also found the other side of myself, believing in adventure, suspense, thrill in reading.

53 of 100 Books

Reading/Scanning Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Scanning is the best description happened in this book. If I did read, it was on a superficial level. The big bold prints made that easy. Not to mention the illustrations were so elementary that you get the meaning at a glance.

Whatever written were things that were never new, the writer, true to the book’s title on steal. We had either heard or read these ideas before. Or, other people had talked about it. And, we encountered them as well perhaps because we had been looking for it. Ideas to fill up our empty lives, our longings and aspirations. But our short memories, limited attention span, sadly failed us. Adulterous, our innate characteristic shifted us away from these ideas.

One should never tire of reading this book or any written materials that may sound similar.

52 of 100 books

Reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow, released from prison after three years incarceration only to find that a few days before Laura died in a car crash with a friends’ husband. Much later, discovered from the dead guy’s wife they had an affair. What kind? Don’t ask me. With a title of an errand boy, nowhere to go and a condition of no questions asked he begins a mysterious ride after accepting a job offer from Wednesday.

The journey occurs in the mystery of winter, while he is asleep, in a dream that predicts his tomorrow, and in the midst of disaster, is saved, and if the dream is indecipherable, its meaning explained each time Wednesday appears. Meeting people, going to places, with familiar names but is forgotten as soon as they rest on his ears.

Some of his dreams goes far beyond, way back in time, hundreds of years back, with millions of events and information attempting to penetrate his limited memory.

But because after losing everything, he has nothing to lose, he was giving, surrendering.

Perhaps all these things happened in a dream in one night. Just like in real life.

The story is a fantasy, with all the made up names. Familiar and alien. No, I stand to be corrected they’re not made up. They are real, Wednesday, shadow, town, country, world, Paris, Easter, with generic names like mama, john, Nancy, all these people maybe one and the same person he deals with and the places real – Las Vegas, Nevada, lakeside, perhaps the same and one place at the same time.

Otherwise this story is real because he came from prison, he has neighbors, drives a car around, eating pasty inside a 4Runner, meeting girls and kids. Why, it is reality with christmas season around. And it is in war. From itself. From its people. From its country.

Everything in this book happened in the present, there was no past, there will be no future. The real God it is. Gods in this book means “gods” (small g), those things that we idolize and put above more important than us.

Seventy five percent of the book. I don’tknow why I am reading this book. Oh I remember I never like sci-fi, dystopian, Star Wars, romance, YA.

Sometimes there are accidents we get into we wish wouldn’t happen, yet we purposely attract ourselves into it, deliberately. Yet we know that things happen whether we like it or not.

But my grace is sufficient unto you.

51 out of 100 books

Reading Where Crawdad Sing by Delia Owens- The story is about a girl who has lived in a marsh all her life. Abandoned by her own family first by her mother, brother then finally her father. She taught herself to live with what she saw from her own family while they were still around. Until a young boy came and taught her reading, someone she has learned to love but who had to leave as well. Then came another boy who took advantage of her innocence, who taught her how to hate.

The book has been in my radar for years. Disinterested in reading novels, I was however open when opportunity came, without any effort of my own. When the librarian called out my name specifically and recommended this book while it was on her hands. I borrowed the book on thursday, by saturday at work break time it was finished.

It was an easy read, by that I mean I only wanted to go with the flow of the book. It was like watching a girl growing up in your neighborhood only with this girl a reader knows everything that happens to her and at least sure the girl doesn’t get into trouble. Which I saw as the story went. There wasn’t any physical violation, she was like an angel someone was protecting her all through her life. She stayed away with people when they treated her bad, and stayed with those who were good. You like her, although sorry for her but felt she wasn’t in a pitiful situation because she was doing well with whatever came her life. With all the living things around her, she was never alone, in fact she learned from it.

And at the end of the book, you feel fine because you found she did what she learned from life and you are satisfied.

The Starlet and the Spy

By Ji-Min Lee

The Starlet and the Spy by Ji-Min Lee – first of all I would like to commend the author for coming out with this book based on a picture taken after the Korean War when Marilyn Monroe came to visit American troops while on honeymoon in Japan with her then husband, Joe DiMaggio. One picture is of Marilyn Monroe and the other was a female interpreter at work standing between a UN soldier and a North Korean POW.

Ae-sun or Alice the name given to her by an American boyfriend, clearly became a spy when she had to identify a communist infiltrator she saw during the evacuation of Koreans. Working as a translator, translating flyers into Koreans, after the war, and for her english speaking skills, she was then assigned with Marilyn Monroe as one of the assistants when the starlet came for a show with American troops.

I would not comment on the grammar and transitions, since these are the easiest areas for improvement. Instead I would comment on the overall story. The main character, Alice is depicted with her relationship with three different lovers at a time where the entire book is centered. Ku-yong is the lover after the war, Joseph during the war, and Min-hwan before the war.

Marilyn Monroe whose billing is half the title, got only a chapter in the book. The backcover says its a portrayal of unexpected kinship between two different women, except for both of them taking in sleeping pills, there was nothing kinship in the story. This was Monroe’s second marriage while Alices’ third relationship. The third guy was introduced in the first few chapters of the book and never came back. This chapter could’ve been deleted since it never had a role or it may be resurrected at the final chapters. Although I did saw how this third guy saved Alice and helped her after the war since it was portrayed that Alice became so sick after the war.

Why Religion – Elaine Pagels

My first impression on this book is a discussion on the subject, religion. Having been asked of the same question when pursuing a doctoral study, it seems that the question had lingered since then. Having written scholarly books on subjects related to religion, the author attempted to write another book that would tell us religion’s relevance in the 20th century. In attempting to do that she ended writing about its relevance in her own personal life. Despite admission of not wanting to write about her own grief, she ended up doing it.

Now three quarters of the book, the book is dealing more on grief for the death of a son then later a husband. It seems that death and its grieving, after everything is done and gone, religion and God comes in. When there is no other place to go.

She found the answer through this book. Not because she was searching for it, but because her own life asked her.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Author: Azar Nafisi

This is the nth time I got hold of this book without reading it until now. The story is about the author, an Iranian national herself whose father was once a mayor -later deposed – in Tehran. This is her life while living in Tehran within two years – though she stayed for eleven years after – during the revolution when the Shah was exiled and how Iran gradually went back into a conservative autocratic state. Her and her friend’s personal experience detailed how the authorities, used confusion, division, fear, anger, blind loyalty, blind obedience to build up the government that it is now. For two years the author secretly gathered women to a meeting to discuss western books which were forbidden during that time. I could see how the women became aware of their culture and how books are supposed to help and open their minds. However, it must be so difficult to be in that suppressed culture where a woman is controlled mentally, emotionally and physically. It must be interesting to know what happened to these women later on in their life to see the extent of influence in their life having been exposed to these different ideas. There maybe few women who do rise up from their usual role, I think most concedes to their role that of being a mother and a wife, though not belittling that role, I believe that they turn up to be models and teachers to their own children.

Reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

When the librarian handed me this book club read for next month, my first reaction at the cover and on the first pages was this might be a story about slavery, depicting man’s cruelty and inhumanity against its fellow human. Halfway to the book, I was proven wrong. This is a story of waves in the water. The waves doesn’t care with the speed, depth, location nor the width of the water where it is in. Its only concern is being a wave. For me, the cruelty and violence were appropriately narrated without creating hatred and abomination to anyone. Sex was depicted in the only way it was supposed to serve, biological means. This looks like shorter version of “Roots”.

From page 107

Used to being honored, adored, idolized for being born in royalty bloodline, James was puzzled, surprised and challenged when one woman dared doing otherwise. Even more provoked when she said, “Respectfully, I will not shake the hand of a slaver,” He searched for her and when he did, he became more astounded listening to answers to questions that would linger in his mind much later. Puzzling him so much that made him doubt the person that he is. Is he the person that they say who he is, the brave one, adored one? And this is what he learned from his grandmother: “We are weak most of the time. Look at the baby. Born to his mother, he learns how to eat from her, how to walk, talk, hunt, run. He does not invent new ways. He just continues with the old. This is how we all come to the world, James. Weak and needy, desperate to learn how to be a person. But if we do not like the person we have learned to be, should we just sit in front of out fufu, doing nothing? I think, James, that maybe it is possible to make a new way”.

She kept smiling. The sun was setting behind them, and James finally let himself cry in front his grandmother.

Shoeless Joe

Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella (6/21)

This is a fiction story book inspired the movie, Field of Dreams. I could only admire the ability of the writer in being able to compose and coincide events in the lives of all the characters: the living in conversation with the dead about their passion in life, baseball.

I am reading this book for the book club in trying to find more interesting book than those on my reading list. Though I love the story of the movie when it came out, I found out that it least interest me now. Not a fan of baseball here, though I would like to search further why were they banned in baseball in the early 1900’s. That would be another review, perhaps.

The Strange Library

By Haruki Murakami

This is a short book everybody could read in ten minutes or less. Its words are typeset in about 20 font or more. I discovered it from one of the bloggers I follow in my bid to expand my reading. The story is about a writer or someone who went to return a book to a librarian – finding her doing what librarians do – scanning a huge volume of books-. Upon presentation, his book was stamped and checked and – nothing was said-. And because nothing was said, he said what someone says to a librarian, “I want to borrow a book”. , because of a dare, naming a title, knowing it never exists, a name that came off his head, a book on tax collection during the Ottoman Empire. Books that sounded considering interesting or informative and as relevant to the present time as it was in the past, and should’ve been written by anyone for that matter. Directed and found without difficulty is room 107 located in another part of the building. Now with the volumes on hand, he is readying to check it out, only to be told that the books are for internal use only and cannot be taken home. Which means that the reader has to stay and read it inside the reading room. When he showed signs of returning them instead of borrowing, there came a pressure he cannot refuse to do what he wants to do. So he stayed on the condition that he’ll do it in thirty minutes because he has to come home for dinner with his mother waiting for him. There were a lot of twists and turns that prevented him from doing what he wants to do. He has been so worried all along about his mother who must have been waiting for him at dinner table. When finally after all the twists and turns and with the help of some personalities, he was able to escape this labyrinth (my word) inside a library and come home finding his mother serving hot breakfast on the table.

And I am also surprised why I keep on using him in this review when in fact except for mentioning an old man and a young lady, the gender of the writer or the story teller was never mentioned in it. I could’ve used her as well. Since this is a very short book, I recommend reading.

McBride on James Brown

In this book, written ten years after Brown’s death, McBride, a musician himself and a writer, attempted to narrate Brown’s story as Brown would’ve told it. Truth as near truth could be told, erasing what fictional lies written before.

The Godfather of soul music, his statue sits in the middle of downtown Augusta, Georgia,

…”left most of his wealth, conservatively estimated at $100 million to educate poor children in South Carolina and Georgia. Not a dime of it had reached a single kid. Untold millions have been frittered away by politicians and lawyers who have been loosed on one another by various factions of his destroyed family”.

Though claimed to be original, the author dug into the different personalities that may had influenced his style of music. The book talked about categorizing soul music,

… ‘its problem lies in its categorization itself, soul music is generic that means nothing and everything. It’s a label, a sales term.”

Except for his exceptional creativity in music that was passed on to this generation, his is a story of how one successful person ended up a financial disaster, a disaster passed on to his family and community who wanted a bite of his success, or even those who never wanted it, but got burned because they loved the man.

Reading Paul Theroux

Book Title: Fresh Air Fiend

In today’s age and time, it is easy enough to travel, pick your choice: land, air and water or space, take snapshots and come back home with memories. And why am I reading a travel book, again? When all it has done was put me to sleep. Because of this, I dared myself to find one that wouldn’t. And I had wanted to see what others found.

Theroux enlightened me to look at travel book from another angle.

“…. some travel book ought to have prepared us for those events….i.e., Iran and China Tiannamen Square…. maybe even prefigured them….”

As a peace corp in his younger days, it may perhaps contributed to the author’s love for travel. And not merely traveling itself as a tourist, but using a not so common mode of transportation searching for that joy in travel.

A bestseller, this is the second book I am reading by this author. He has mentioned his love for the open air, space which is completely opposite to a writer’s space, a chair, a room, a table, alone in solitude.

This book is a collection of essays written at different times.

Reading Little Fires Everywhere


Author: Celeste Ng

The story is about an almost perfect community, progressive suburbs where everything is planned: where students walk without needing to cross dangerous streets going to school, where the houses were uniformly built and color coded, their garage fill with top of the line vehicles, and where residents were supposed to be successful. And an ideal family of six, a lawyer father, journalist mother, and a list children living in one of these houses. It takes a single mother and her daughter to momentarily interrupt life the entire community.

Because, buried beneath this perfect facade were its secrets waiting to unfold. A reality never coinciding with what it purports to show.

The story started and ended without any complications. There were secrets, yes but it wasn’t staggering. The secrets unfolded like the pages in the book. I was hoping that there was something extraordinary story with Mia. I don’t know what did I want with her, or any special reasons. I think sometimes thats how we are as people. We expect too much from others, yet its us who haven’t lived up to our own expectation.

Reading Min Jin Lee (Pachinko)


Fiction. Author: MinJin Lee. 400+pages. 2017

Well reviewed, a best seller, a national book award finalist, it was set in the early 19th century. This is a  read deviating  from memoirs and nonfiction. Browsing the  recommended section books of the library and from time to time, I have to face the fact that fiction reading are interesting at times. Though, partly at the end of the book, I had skipped several pages to see what happened in the end. 

Pachinko (パチンコ) is a type of mechanical game originating in Japan and is used as both a form of recreational arcade game and much more frequently as a gambling device, filling a Japanese gambling niche comparable to that of the slot machine in Western gaming (Wikipedia).

The story is about  immigrants from Korea to Japan and narrates  more of women’s resiliency, strength against extraordinary crisis in life. The kind of character that we hope to be: strong, solid, powerful, determined but not overpowering. Family and friends that are faithful, loyal and extremely charitable.  It is the kind of love story that we wish to have, steadfast, everlasting, resolute.  Or a lover we had wished we encountered: trustworthy, loyal, dutiful, staunch.  Except for the cruelty of the ruling administration and  its implementors most of the major characters are good, gentle, kind and generous. Antagonist or protagonist exist  not in characters themselves, but the influencing events that make up those characters.

58 0f 100 books

Reading, “How to Read A Book” By Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, Non-fiction

Originally published in 1940 and republished in 1972 by Simon and Schuster

Halfway to my goal of reading a hundred books for the year, I am suddenly in dilemma where accomplishing this endeavor takes me. It’s almost the end of the year and my number stopped there. All the interest and energy I initially felt when I commence this project were now waning, I couldn’t even lift my feet for my next steps. A battle I fight with myself.

After fifty books in six months, I needed another book to help me succeed. And I came with a book how to read a book. Somewhere, somehow I knew that book exists. Thanks to technology.

So it did answered some lingering questions inside of me. It sent me back to my original whys in this venture.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to read a book?

What were my goals in reaching this number?

Why do I have to read a book in the first place?

And, there is only one phrase that strike me in this book:

“If your aim in reading is to profit form it – TO GROW SOMEHOW IN MIND OR SPIRIT – you have to keep awake. That means reading as actively as possible. It means making an effort – AN EFFORT FOR WHICH YOU EXPECT TO BE REPAID.”

I had expected to be repaid, somehow in mind or spirit.