The Boy Who Came Back to Life

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No, I am not Will Byers, and no, I do not fancy a sojourn in the Upside Down, but I definitely came back.

Hello, my beloved bookish community! How I’ve missed you so. It is that time of the year again where I take a break from sailing the seven seas and traipsing around the globe—I’m making my job sound grander than it actually is but, shush, let me assume it is. Unlike the previous one, I’m on a much longer break and staying in the country for the rest of 2017.

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I was fortunate to be offered another contract with Norwegian Cruise Line and to be on the same ship that I was on last year, which is the Jade. It meant going through basically the same itinerary—with the addition of a handful of new ports—but also reuniting with some of my friends. So, I revisited Venice and Santorini and Cozumel and Mykonos and, in more ways than one, it felt to me like I was going back to my hometown but at the same time, in a lot of senses, it almost seemed like I was seeing these places anew. Especially with Venice. Suddenly, I was finding myself in the back alleys on my way to Pasticceria Tonolo—easily my favourite pastry shop in all of the cities I’ve been to during the eight months I was abroad—or sitting by the Canal Grande with my friends, sampling different kinds of cheese and sipping wine, which by the way would’ve cost us thrice in our country and would’ve been considered a luxury but is just an everyday commodity, a lifestyle in Italy. Or that time we spent two hours in Palazzo Ducale and left feeling alive but also like there’s still so much to see. Or when I celebrated my birthday by having a solitary trip to Ca’ Rezzonico, this 18th-century museum of Baroque goodness that boasts exuberant apartments and gilded ballrooms and sumptuous salons. Or, just, the afternoon walks in this quaint, magical floating city, immersing myself in a rich blend of culture and history and arts.

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I went back to Barcelona and Athens, to boot, where I took a tour of the Acropolis—THE Acropolis, empirical even in ruins. But my new adventures brought me to Florida, Málaga, Rome, and Costa Maya, among others. I found myself inside the Museo Picasso, in the city where one of the most revered artists of the 20th century was born. I made a wish in the Trevi Fountain and stared in awe of the Colosseum, which was mainly why my friend Ian and I missed our train going back to Civitavecchia, which, again, is funny now but in retrospect was hella scary. I discovered the warm, laidback Costa Maya, instantly becoming my favourite part of the week. I fell in love with Key West, where I visited Ernest Hemingway’s house. I got introduced to new friends and some more new friends. These lovely and fun and amazing people who helped me either a find the right booze for me (beer will ALWAYS suck) or b feel more comfortable in my skin. I basked in the sun. I danced. I read the first half of the Harry Potter books. I said yes more freely. I went to my first bonfire. I got drunk. I marveled. I cried. I laughed.

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And now we are here, back to my country. Back to Angeles City. Back to blogging. I’m still trying to get back to writing and creating a routine. In fact, this post took me a week—a painful, hair-pulling week of stumbling and reassessing and introspection. But, as one of my life heroes once said, “seek out what magnifies your spirit.” And I know this community does just that.

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So, what did I miss, lovely bookish people? Let’s catch up!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

How Blogging Helped Shaped the Reader I am Today

Once upon a time I read 5-11 books a year. A YEAR. Now, those were the early formative stages of my bookish soul. And consuming such exceedingly shuddersome, infinitesimal amount had more to do with the fact that I wasn’t in love with reading. Yes, there you go. I said it. Once upon a time you wouldn’t catch me holding a book (except, well, textbooks which don’t count anyway) or wonder what a hardback To Kill a Mockingbird doing in the cabinet, on top of my clothes, when there’s already a stack on my bedside table (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the first title you’ll spot, shh) or why I left Vanishing Girls and Noggin in my uncle’s office that one afternoon*. No. For 16-year-old Shelumiel reading was an erratic diversion. A pastime. A casual activity.

Until he started blogging.

This isn’t an origin story so I’ll spare you the minutiae of my Tumblr days. But I’m here to remark that back in 2012, I’ve never heard of the term “young adult” or “YA.” And you’re probably thinking, he’s kidding, right? HAHAHAHA. No.

Stumbling upon YA was highly pivotal for me. Because if Harper Lee kindled my love of reading, it was Stephen Chbosky and John Green who made certain I stayed in love. So I become a mostly-YA book blogger and never looked back.

If it weren’t for book blogging, I would have no idea which contemporary novels to include in my radar. I would have a sorry excuse of a list for diverse reading. I wouldn’t pay attention to publishing houses—as we speak, most of my favorites are from HarperCollins and its imprints—and release dates or anticipate upcoming titles. I would be perpetually in the dark where hyped books are concerned. Heck, I wouldn’t even know you can request advance reader copies (ARCs)! And I wouldn’t have an outlet for fanboying (!!!).

Book blogging helped paved the proverbial yellow brick road that leads to fellow passionate bibliophiles, authors and publishing people. And you can argue that blogger exhaustion is real, because it is, but being a part of this wonderful community made me a better reader. So yeah. Presently, I eat up 4-5 books a month and that’s quite a big deal for me.

How did book blogging help shaped the bookworm that you are?

*A home office. I currently live with my aunt and uncle. No, I am not an orphan.

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184 F-Words, 28 Illustrations and 4 Book References: Andrew Smith’s ‘Winger’ by the Numbers

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724 days ago today, a class act was published. It’s called Winger by a guy named Andrew Smith. 724 days later, it’s still a class act. And so today, I break down this masterpiece by the numbers. Because there’s a lot to take in from this book and someone has to do it. Here, and you’re welcome:

184: F-Words
These include 68 times Ryan Dean West said fuck/fucking inside his head (“because [he honestly doesn’t] cuss”), 9 times out loud (uh) and 107 times it was said out loud by everyone else.

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195: Other Obscenities
Why stick to ‘damn’ (23) when there’s ‘goddamn’ (26) and ‘goddamnit’ (5), right? Or ‘shit’ (38) – ‘shitty’ (5) – ‘shithole’ (2) – ‘dipshit’ (5) – ‘bullshit’ (4) – ‘shitfaced’ (1). Obviously, you’d be such a tool to read Winger using the Clean Reader app. (Does ‘jerk’, if used in a you-know-what context, count? In that case add 4.)

28: Illustrations
Sam Bosma’s work is spot on. And it comes in parcels: 12 comics-style, 4 straight-up drawings, 4 diagrams and 8 notes/letters.

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1: Fourteen-Year-Old Eleventh Grader
He also happens to be in love with his sixteen-year-old best friend.

9: Hot Female Characters
From Annie Altman to Megan Renshaw to the five-out-of-five-possible-fruit-arrangements-on-your-head-in-a-Brazillian-dancer-kind-of-way-on-the-Ryan-Dean-West-Samba-mometer nurse to Rachel Altman—who is Annie’s mom and yes believe your eyes—to smoking five-out-of-five-toothless-one-eyed-hillbillies on the Ryan Dean West Drop-Yer-Pants-Boy Tote Board Nurse Hickey (that’s her name), there’s no shortage of ladies for our “142-pound sack of dehydrated failure” hero.

1: Unhot Female Character
There’s only 1 unhot female character in the world of RDW and it’s the “not-even-hot-on-Pluto” Mrs. Singer. But she sure has more than 1 epithet, which are anything but boring. “Never-spent-a-fraction-of-a-minute-in-her-life-being-hot,” “so-not-hot-you-should-never-look-at-her-when-you-have-a-hangover,” and “so-unhot-she-is-quite-likely-the-only-two-legged-female-besides-his-mom-no-wait-including-his-mom-Ryan-Dean-West-wouldn’t-want-to-run-into-at-night-when-he-is-only-wearing-boxers-and-nothing-else” are just a sampling.

1: Awesome Gay Friend
One name yo! Joey Cosentino.

4: Book References
These are Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse (specifically the short “Rappaccini’s Daughter”), Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Foretopman, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and another short story collection, In Our Time, by Earnest Hemingway.

42: Perverted Thoughts
Ryan Dean West, who is also Winger because he plays wing for their rugby team, is a boy. A boy can daydream. A boy, however, doesn’t always get away with this:

12: Times Ryan Dean West is Called Out for Being a Pervert

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2: RDW-to-Parent Conversations
ONLY. These are through phone calls and both to his mom. I mean, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU, MR. & MRS. WEST?!!

33: Self-Proclamations of Loserosity
Because what teenager doesn’t feel like a loser. “I am such a loser” appears 29 times, “I am a skinny-ass loser” 1, “I am such a fucking loser” 1 and “I’m a loser” 2.

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33: Pledges of Honesty
In his defense, Winger is as honest as can be in telling his story. Proof? He repeatedly maintains “I’ll be honest” (20) throughout the novel and “to be honest” (8) and “to be absolutely honest” (2) and “to be perfectly honest” (2) and “to be totally honest” (1).

6: Times RDW Got Into Trouble
The book opens in Upside-Down Toilet World and, already, that doesn’t sound so good, does it?

3: Doctor Visits
As the book cover would suggest…

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10: Betch Pet Names
Charles “Chas” Becker, a.k.a. Betch, is an asshole and he loves his roommate. Go figure! His terms of endearment for RDW include Chicken Wing, Idiot, Retard, Asswipe, Pusswing, Pussboy and Dipshit, to name some.

7: Moments RDW had to Pee

147: Hyphenated Modifiers
If you’ve no idea what these are, please refer to the unhot-female-character-count-which-is-ruled-by-Queen-Mrs.-Singer. (See what I did there?)

15: RDW Rating Systems
Because Winger is so smart he has rating systems for almost everything.

5: Pine Mountain Teachers
And there are over 800 students.

10: Times RDW Misheard Something
That include 2 from Annie, 6 from Mrs. Singer, 1 from Joey and 1 from Screaming Ned.

“”Aww,” she said. “What a cute boy.”
Okay, I’ll be honest. I think she actually said “little boy,” but it was so traumatizing to hear that I may have blocked it out.”

7: Internal Debates
Because, clearly, Ryan Dean West doesn’t have enough going on for him.

So. Serious question: do you think this is the last time I’ll ever talk about Winger? HAHAHAHA. NO.

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I Am a Pretty Dang Slow Reader

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You know those voracious bookworms who consume books at the rate of which, say, a sweating-heroin-smuggler-at-a-border-crossing’s heart does its pumping?* Okay, them and me stand at extreme opposites of the spectrum. These people—the readers, not the sweating-heroin-smugglers—average between 75-150 titles a year (some even go as far as 250), and how they manage is an enigma I’ll never dissect. And for the longest time, this frustrated me to no end. I’d often sit and obsess over how my list of read-books looks fantastically heartbreaking in comparison to a friend’s. Or how I’ll never catch up on my TBR pile. Of course, there is something inherently problematic about the scenario. I recognized that early on. But not until late last year have I figure it out. The problem lies not in my incapability to read fast; it lies in my self-invalidating because I cannot read fast.

So I want to read faster. But truth is I am a deliberate reader. This is a conscious choice for me. Like, I go from word to word. I don’t skip (which, to my surprise, others do). I keep track of quotations. I tend to reread certain passages I really felt, that resonated with me. And all these, I guess, contribute to why I read quite slowly. Because I do not imply that fast readers aren’t deliberate readers and neither is it the case. Some people I know can practically sell you a book they read and loved four years ago even if they devour books with the urgency with which I drink coffee. This whole business with books and reading is idiosyncratic: why we read, how we read, what we read, and speed is no different.

On a larger scale, I decided, my dilemma touches a universal book nerd problem. Because there is so much self-inflicted judgments out there. “I feel like I need to read the classics.” “Oh, I should start reading more literary fiction.” “I have to read Author X because Reason A.” “I cannot consider myself a book nerd because I read less than 50 books a year.” I tick somewhere in between 30-40 books a year and I’m done being ashamed of it. I own my Slow Reader-ness. I still thrive to read faster but I’m more aware now of what I want to get from the experience as opposed to just piling up titles on my Goodreads shelves.

Do I still want to read faster? Yes. Am I willing to sacrifice any of the contributing factors I mentioned above? I don’t think so. At least not at this point in my reading life. But kudos to Team Read Faster and those who actively seek ways to improve their reading speed! Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that there are a lot—and by “a lot” I mean A LOT—of amazing new releases every month, heck, that’s not even counting the backlists. So read more. Read harder. Read diversely. Read faster. But, ultimately, enjoy the process.

NOTE: This blog entry is inspired by the latest episode of Dear Book Nerd, The Need for Speed. If you haven’t already, go check out this podcast because it’s always interesting and often illuminating (or self-revealing?) and Rita Meade, the host, just has a lovely voice and personality.

Now let’s talk. Are you a slow or a fast reader? If, like me, you read slow, do you see high-volume novels as daunting? What was the longest one you’ve read in terms of page count? Or if you’re the opposite, do you constantly try to improve yourself or is it more of a natural thing? And to you, fellow book reviewer, do you take notes while reading? Does this greatly affect your reading speed? I’m really interested to hear from you!

*Well, yeah, I can never not make a Winger reference.

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Meet Me

Hello Word Press and hello Blogosphere! I’m thrilled that I’m finally here and focusing on what I really love about blogging—talking books and the reading life! Today, Bookish and Awesome is live.

Some of you know my origin story: I was Whims and Ramblings from Tumblr. But I want to introduce myself the old school way. And by that I mean literally. The classroom set up. Ha!

(Because, you know, I’m awkward like that.)

Here are 13 Reasons Why, er, Little Things to Know About Me:

1. Once upon a time, I didn’t like young adult fiction thought I didn’t like young adult fiction. (I know, I know.)
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2. I have a self-diagnosed OCPD. (Yeah, OCD is another candy.)
3. I am not a rereader.
4. I call my phone Scout and my instant camera Alexandre. (One of my best friends thinks it’s pointless.)
5. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters was what led me to dive into the PJO/HOO books. I’m forever grateful.
6. When I was, I think maybe seven or eight, I got bitten by a dog in the left forearm.
7. I have a love-hate relationship with A Song of Ice and Fire.
8. I fell completely, irrevocably in love with Ruby Sparks. I repeatedly watched a certain scene several times a day, everyday, for one whole week. And did I mention, too, that I cannot shut up about it?
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9. I’m a sucker for cream.
10. Also, ketchup. It’s my Magic Instant Food Enhancer.*
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11. I write daily fake tattoos (a quirk I got from E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars).
12. In college, I was the only guy in class who admittedly loves Taylor Swift.

13. I wanted to like The Catcher in the Rye more than I actually did.

There. I hope we could build a talky, chaotic—in the most positive way—community here. And let’s discuss books! Lots of books.

*I would use a Loki-gorging-on-ketchup gif if I could find one, but, alas, the internet is not a wish-granting factory.

Now it’s your turn. I want to meet you. Hit that comment box below!

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