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A Breeze of May 2020

The last time I saw the sky tinged this pink was on a warm day at university, on a drive back home with my books near my feet. It felt like a blessing to see it like this early this month, after more than two months of this strange routine. Even so, May was a period of growth: I started writing again in a journal as part of meditation practice and, in the process of doing so, I rediscovered my Catholic faith. My day starts at 6 a.m., in which I proceed with having morning exercises, family meals, calls with friends, and leisure time for reading books and watching new films.

I think about how May could have been better, but as it comes by like a breeze, it dissipates. It passes off as memory. For me, I can always look back at it as a constant reminder of what was, what should be, and what ought to be better.

This month, I had difficulty reading and only managed to complete two books, namely Courtney Summers' Sadie and Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds. Although I enjoyed both books, I found both underwhelming, failing somehow to capture my complete interest.

Between the two books I read in May, I enjoyed Bracken's novel more despite its close resemblance to the plot of many well-known dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games trilogy and Divergent. Set against a chilling context, her novel follows a dystopian setting in which young survivors of a rampant disease are held in government-owned rehabilitation camps due to their supernatural abilities that render them "dangerous" and "threatening." The author's writing was beautiful and easy to read through, though the plot of the story itself was long and heavy to digest. I look forward to continuing the series soon.

This June, I hope to expand my reading by going through local and Asian literature, young adult books discussing social issues, and adult literature set in different contexts.

Through this ongoing break from online requirements, I found time to discover great music through Spotify. My friends and I had a DJ session through JQBX, and I fostered a deeper appreciation for indie pop music and original Pilipino music (OPM, or music of the Philippines).

Some of my new favorites include: Lisztomania by Phoenix, Honey by One Click Straight, Sanity by Lola Amour, Home & A Song About Space by Reese Lansangan, Wait by Over October, and Golden by Cory Wong & Cody Fry. I love and support local and indie music.

Beyond discovering new songs, I have also been doing more exercises and simple meditation every few days. I participated in the 21-Day Meditation Experience by Chopra Center Meditation that a close friend hosted online, which has helped me reframe my mindset, think more positively, accept my vulnerabilities, and, more importantly, rediscover my Catholic faith. Unfortunately, I failed to be consistent with daily meditation, but I am happy that, through this activity, I have somehow found a way to be closer now to God despite years of questioning my faith. Now every day before bed, I find peace and hope through quiet prayer, seeing that it helps me draw strength amidst these trying times.

Despite the near 50°C weather in Manila, I will always remember May as the month of growth and rediscovery. As summer ends and typhoon season gradually nears, I hope that June brings to many people new blessings, miracles, and change long sought after.

How did your month go?


Why I Love Nonfiction

I remember being young and in love with fiction. Book after book, I devoured through copies of Markus Zusak, Ruta Sepetys, and Cornelia Funke, each one capturing my heart in a manner like no other. I stood by Meggie Folchart as she read book characters into life, as her father Mortimer gave life to even more, and I wept alongside Harry Potter as another well-loved friend dissipated into dust. 

Now, many years later, with eyes that search for more, I have fallen in love with nonfiction. 

My interest in memoirs has expanded over time. Maybe I love the way it speaks to me, or how it offers me with a new perception of life as I get older each day. Nonfiction has opened my eyes to more drastic realities and has told me things I needed to hear. As I near my 20's, I see my life differently, take my obligations with utmost priority, and learn the ropes of this so-called "adulting." And more than ever, I need such books to guide me.

5 Reasons Why I Love Nonfiction

1. There is inspiration in reading about actual events and lives. Some of my most favorite memoirs is Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie and Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air. Both books have changed my perspective on adversity and have taught me to embrace life as if every day is your last.

2. I find guidance. Every nonfictional book that I read has a piece of the author's wisdom and knowledge, and I feel empowered by this. I feel that I can direct my life to something more.

3. There is always something new to learn. Books written by authors beyond my nationality offer me a fresh take of what life is like outside of my culture. Such was the case for Michelle Obama's Becoming. In her memoir, I understood better how politics and governance can influence your life and, in turn, how your life can change the course of the future.

4. Reading nonfiction allows me to see what people think and believe, and this challenges me to understand others and be more open to foreign cultures.

5. Nonfiction books educate. Learning does not stop.

Do you read nonfiction?


Ninth House

That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you'd been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for.

This being my first novel from the author Leigh Bardugo, Ninth House failed to entice me to its fantasy realm and characters despite its promising story. Frankly, I was not impressed by the plot of the book despite a premise filled with magic, murder, and mystery.

Set in Yale, Galaxy "Alex" Stern is recruited into the ninth house, Lethe, which ensures security as the eight secret societies—the Houses of the Veil—perform magical rituals that are unique and distinct from the rest. The death of a girl on campus, the disappearance of her friend Darlington, and her ability to see ghosts compel Alex to uncover the events that unfold before her as well as discover the profuse magical entities and powers that exist.

In reading this book, I found myself primarily confused throughout much of the story.

The world-building was impressively developed, but I found that it was executed ineffectively. Unlike many fantasy books that I have read, Ninth House developed a universe that was slightly difficult to grasp and understand. This comes in relation with the book's shaky start, where I felt initially confused due to the many terminologies, names, and minor characters that were introduced with little to no explanation, leading me to rely on drawing hints and clues from the story. Thankfully, the latter half of the book eased gradually as everything began to make sense. In the end, we see more answers to questions initially raised at the start, though this does not change the fact that the exposition proved to be difficult to fully grasp.

Alex and her friend Darlington are likable characters, but ultimately, they are not my favorites. We see the close relationship between these two characters as the book shifts between the past and present, and though I admired how they have respectively developed, I was not fully convinced that they were interesting characters. In addition, the heroic figure that Alex was intended to be did not capture my intrigue in a similar fashion as that of other fictional characters, partly due to the difficult writing. The writing style was simply difficult to enjoy because of the amount of confusing information that was introduced.

Ninth House is not an easy read. An adult dark fantasy book, it is filled with scenes pointing to sexual assault that some might find distressing. While I did enjoy the book in some aspects, unfortunately, I do not think that this is a book that I would like to read again anytime soon.

[Trigger warning: This book includes depictions of violence and sexual assault.]