The Street Back Home – A Poem

I have uncanny memories of lives / I did not live, / of deaths I did not suffer, / of history I / did not make / as I avoid the watchful, / the waiting eyes of raptors / at the creeping / turns of a dying lamp's light / I do not anymore remember / how to truly fight

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I Am Buried in Romance Books by Filipinos (And You Should Be Too)

If you’re like me, you’re probably familiar with the agony and ecstasy of having a gigantic book pile. You’re probably also familiar with its random growth spurts, triggered by book sales and events like the recently-concluded Manila International Book Fair.

Want to know the reason why I was quiet for a long time? It’s because I was trying to embark on a clearly fruitless quest to make a dent in my pile of books.

To be fair, this wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have to work. Or sleep. Or eat. The spirit is most definitely willing, but my flesh is weak and I find myself just staring at (without actually seeing) pages so often that I sometimes just give up and go on YouTube instead.

Give me some credit, though. Over the last few months, thanks to the amazing people in #romanceclass, my bookworm self has been nourishing itself with loads and loads of romance books written by super talented Filipino writers. And I’m quivering with feels because they’re so good.

Wanna browse my current bookshelf? Here are the books I’m currently reading (or have read recently):

Sexy Suspense – The Takedown Trilogy

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

I’m swept up in Bianca Mori’s Scorched Earth (the third book) right now, and I’m equal parts afraid of it never ending—because the stakes are so high—and afraid that it will—because that means I’ll have to say goodbye to Peyton and Carson. I mean, how can you NOT love two characters who have complex souls and a complicated attraction to each other? I’m finding it hard to not spoil this book for everyone else because there are so many cool bits here.

5 word summary: Clandestine operations and European travel

Buy it here: Print

LGBTQ Love – Another Word For Happy and Don’t Tell My Mother

ReadinginBetween_Another Word for Happy and Don't Tell My Mother
Images from romanceclassbooks.com

I read these two books by Agay Llanera and Brigitte Bautista back-to-back because…well, it just felt right to do it that way. And frankly? I’m so freaking happy that I did. Even though it felt like I got heavily punched in the feels at certain points in these books (for a person who has near-pathological attachments to her family, the parent issues were so painful), you ultimately get some catharsis at the end. If you’re going to read these books, please read them one after the other. They’re enlightening and satisfying.

5 word summary: Coming of age and LGBTQ

Buy Another Word for Happy here: Amazon Smashwords Print

Buy Don’t Tell My Mother here: Amazon Print

Strange Romantic Realities – Wired Differently

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

Describing all the feelings I have for this book by Chris Mariano is tricky. Quite frankly, I’m still digesting it all even though I’d read this a couple of months before. Something about it stuck with me, burrowed into my bones the way “Instructions on How to Disappear” did. All I can say is that all the pieces are beautifully written and wonderfully structured. It pretty much blew my mind and my soul, and I think it should be required reading for everyone.

5 word summary: Chris Mariano is a genius

Buy it here: Amazon Print

Beautiful Body Positivity – If the Dress Fits

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

I’ve been beating myself up for not buying a copy of this book by Carla de Guzman sooner, since I’m a huge fan of fabulous girls who are totally okay with who and what they are. Martha definitely falls into that category, and damn if I didn’t relate to her from the beginning (in which there were lots of yummy, yummy takeout). I’m not plus-sized, but I do like to eat and there are people who feel the need to comment on that. And then there’s Max, who reminds me of a human puppy even though he’s actually a veterinarian. This book is so good, you guys!

5 word summary: Food, family, fake boyfriend, doggies

Buy it here: Amazon Smashwords Print

Of course, I’ve read tons of other books over the last several months; and the only reason why they weren’t featured here is because I binged by author and I can’t pick just ONE from their work (I’m looking at you, CP Santi). Someday, I might start writing full-blown reviews for each of them again.

But right now, I just want you to know that these beauties exist and that they deserve your money.

To find more awesome romance books by Filipinos, visit #romanceclassbooks

Exercises In Mindful Reading

Will It Blend Writer Edition

I’m trying to be more mindful when I’m reading again.

Over the last few years, I’d fallen into the habit of reading purely for pleasure (losing myself in fiction, poetry, and memes) or reading to learn new things and improve my skills for my day job (also enjoyable, in a different way). I’d find myself just sailing through narratives or reducing pieces to bite-sized pieces of facts I can incorporate into my thought processes.

And while my brain thinks just the same when I do these things, it’s stopped chewing and savoring the significance of the stuff I read. It’s not bad that I do it. It’s just that it’s made me impatient for the next thing, the future that always looks better before you get to it.

What I mean to say is I rarely stay present for the present anymore, especially when it comes to reading.

I really suck
I really do.

It’s part of the reason why I signed up to be a beta reader for BookBed Fictory. One of the things I used to do as a teen (about 15 years or so ago, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!) was read other people’s work and really take the time to evaluate them:

  • Did I enjoy it? (Important question)
  • Why? (REALLY important question)
  • How could it improve? (Helpful AF question)

Beta reading stories for Fictory will push me back into the mindful reading state of mind that I used to really get into. Its added bonus, of course, is that it forces me to really think about the stuff I write too. Will readers enjoy this? Why will they enjoy it? Can I write this in a way that will make them enjoy it MORE?

Will It Blend Writer Edition

The long and short of it is it’s a great mental exercise if you want to be more present, which in turn is absolutely helpful if you want to be a better writer than you were before.

It’s also great when you’re a die-hard reader who wants to find more books to read without having to rely on “if you liked this, try reading this” types of articles on the internet. If you pay attention to what you like and dislike, it’ll be much easier to shortlist stuff for your TBR list and minimize the risk of getting a book you’ll regret spending money on.

It’s happened to me so many times, guys. So many, many times.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered this, by the way. I, like most bookworms, am easily distracted by shiny new things, which is why I’m still waffling over whether I’ll go to the MIBF this weekend (are you guys going? I hope you have fun!). I just know there will be books over there that I’ll want to buy for the sake of buying, without taking my established preferences into consideration. But then there are folks I want to support at the event, so…

Anyway, my real point is that I’m trying to re-establish an old reading habit I’d lost when the years piled on so I can be reacquainted with myself, and I believe it’s a habit that can help anyone. All it takes to read mindfully, after all, are a few simple questions.

What are you guys reading right now? Are you enjoying it? What parts do you like? What elements or tropes are a must-have for your reading material? What do you avoid reading? Let me know!