Malditang Librarian

all things from books and reading and life

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book review: Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley. New York: Square Fish, ©2011.

This is another Booksale find. Without Tess is a young adult novel, and it tells the story of Lizzie, a teenager who still struggles with the memory of the death of her sister Tess. She was ten and Tess was twelve when she died. Lizzie is now fifteen, and the death of Tess three years ago still affects her in the present. Tess was a child who was in her own world, who believed in magic, which wasn't just childish magical thinking but bordered on delusional. She totally believed in a make-believe reality, and Lizzie was always part of her strange games. Tess believes she has powers, and she has been (in her imagination which she mistakes as real) a wolf, a horse, a selkie, and other fantasy creatures.

Soon, their parents realize there is something wrong with Tess. They try to do what they can to treat her, but it was too late. This is a story about the tragedy and how Lizzie will accept and move on from it.

The story is told from Lizzie's perspective as she struggles with school. She regularly meets the school guidance counselor Dr. Kaplan for therapy. She has one thing left from Tess - a notebook she calls the "Pegasus Journal" which has Tess's morbid and magical drawings and poetry. In a writing class, instead of writing her own poems, she submits those by Tess instead. The story shifts from past to present. Lizzie tells her childhood memories with Tess, and how she deals with it in the present. The main suspense of the book is how Tess dies. Lizzie must learn to come into terms with Tess's death and her involvement in it.

The book is similar to another book I liked, The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand (link leads to my review). In that book, a girl tries to move on from the suicide of her younger brother, though the characters are much older than Without Tess. Like that book, the story also shifts from past to present, and the main mystery is how or why the other sibling died. The sister also has some guilt from the death and has to learn to accept it. However, in my opinion, The Last Time is the superior book and more emotionally affecting.

Lizzie is a teenager with the predictable rebellion and angst (made worse by her sister's tragedy), and as I was reading I pictured her perpetually rolling her eyes at older people and saying words always dripping with sarcasm. As Lizzie narrates her younger days with Tess, I think it's an accurate portrayal of how siblings typically treat each other when they're children - the younger always seeking the approval of the older, but resenting them at the same time. Lizzie's family is also Jewish, but they are not that religious. It's interesting to learn a little bit about this culture from the book.

Tess died young, and from her behavior, she is mentally ill. In the book, she was diagnosed as psychotic - a condition where "a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, unshakable beliefs in something untrue or not based on reality." (source: WebMD)

I don't really feel Lizzie as a character and she has a rushed love story in the last chapters. The book shines in its sympathetic portrayal of mental illness (for a more adult take on this topic, I really love The Drowning Girl: a memoir by Caitlin R. Kiernan). I also like the short poems written by Tess in between chapters. I wished that there were illustrations of Tess's drawings as they were only described by Lizzie, but also those drawings are way too morbid for a YA book. Tess has an amazing imagination, and even if she is 'delusional', there is a certain magical and childlike beauty to her fantasies.

While it wasn't exactly mind-blowing, I think it's a good take on mental illness, siblings, grief, and moving on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

PH's first 24/7 Public Library launches in Cebu City

The Rizal Memorial Library & Museum in Cebu City (source)
Last March 9, 2018, Cebu City's public library started it's 24/7 library services. This is the first "24-hour" public library in the country. 

What's interesting is this started due to one concerned citizen who asked the mayor if it was possible to open the library to cater to students, citing that the library is a 'safer' place in the city. Mitch Roldan has commented on Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña's posts on social media: 

"Mayor, I’m also hoping and praying that you will consider having the public library be open for 24/7 for us students who need to study in a library setting. I think students will be glad to pay a little amount to keep the services good keysa mag segi mig spent sa McDo nya papahawaon ra diay (rather than spend in McDonald’s but will still be asked to leave after a few hours). Hope this will be considered." 

The mayor replied that he will look into it and announced this later: "The Rizal Public Library is being outfitted for 24-hour use. The air conditioners are being upgraded, additional staff and guards being hired, CCTV installed, and WiFi routers are on their way."

This is good news for public libraries. Many people now need spaces to study and work. I've noticed the popularity of coworking spaces even in Iloilo City, and I have to admit that they do have more attractive spaces than most libraries. However, coworking spaces have expensive fees. The public library is free for all. I often stay in Iloilo Provincial Library if I need to work or focus on something. 

Of course, libraries should always assess themselves and their client's needs before deciding to change the opening hours. I hope that Cebu City Library will be successful in this and that other libraries also try to see what the clients need most and offer services according to those needs.

I think that this also shows that we librarians should also be open in communicating to those in authority in our institutions on what the users' needs are. The Mayor didn't usher the improvements for the library until he realized (and someone told him) that the citizens need it. 

This is Mayor Osmeña's Facebook post on the new improvements in the library:

Cordova, C.D. (2017 March 8). Cebu library to open 24/7, thanks to netizen’s request. Manila Bulletin Online.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Free eBook: Passing the Board Exam by Malditang Librarian, RL

Here's a handy PDF eBook of all my board exam tips with some additional content. This little eBook is meant to motivate and inspire test-takers to work hard and succeed in the board exam. This is written for the Librarians' Licensure Exam in mind but also applicable to other professions.

This contains my previous blog posts on board exam tips. Since they have become diverse over time, I decided to compile them in one downloadable format so I can easily share it with anyone who asks. This also saves me time since I don't have to explain everything all over again.

The board exam may be the most difficult exam of your life, and most of us feel the pressure to pass. I hope that through this effort, you will be motivated and inspired to work hard and pass that exam. Remember that it is a challenge you must pass, but it is only the beginning of professional life. We need adequate preparation, not just intellectual preparation through studying and reviewing. We also need spiritual, emotional, financial, physical preparation.

Remember, that this only contains my suggestions and what works best for me. You don't have to follow everything. In taking advice from others, always keep in mind that what works for others won't necessarily work for you. Always decide with considering what's best for yourself.

Here are the contents of this eBook (53 pages, with over 10k words):
  • Prayer for Test Takers
  • Introduction
  • Studying Tips Part 1: Study Smarter
  • Studying Tips Part 2: On the Actual Exam
  • “The Secret” of Topping the Board
  • 5 things to Remember in Preparing for the Board
  • 6 Ways to Improve Your Focus
  • Review Center or Self-Review? Pros and Cons
  • Don’t Overlook your Health
  • Encouragement for the Board Exam (that has nothing to do with studying)
  • 5 Reasons to strive for the Top Spot or Top 10, and 1 downside when you succeed
  • 5 Bible Verses for your Review
  • Congrats, you passed! So, what's next?
  • Failure is not the End
  • Tips for the 6 Subjects of the LLE
  • Helpful Links
  • Recommended Reading
  • About the Author
This eBook is FREE and feel free to share it. Before downloading, I only ask:
1. SHARE this Facebook post below so it can reach more board exam test-takers.

2. OPTIONAL: Like/Follow @MalditangLibrarian Facebook page.

Download the book from the links below. Click the "Download" button to save the PDF on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can view/read this on any device. Please share your comments and thoughts about the book!

Alternate Link: Download in Dropbox

This eBook is also printable. For printing, I recommend using Adobe Acrobat software and select the 'Booklet' format for printing. Print the "Front side" first before printing the "Back side", then you can fold it to make a little handy booklet. I designed it so it can be printed as a booklet on short bond paper (8.5" by 11").

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book review: Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller

 Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller. New York: Fawcett Crest, ©1969

The original title of this book is "A Place for Us," and the real name of Isabel Miller is Alma Routsong.

Have you ever browsed a pile of books in Booksale and a book just called to you to read it? I have found many great books this way (and some not-so-great books), and this is one of the lucky finds that was good. The first thing that caught my attention is the cover which featured a painting of two women reaching out to each other, which reminded me of Margaret Atwood books for some reason. I began reading shortly after buying it, and I finished it on the same night.

On the cover is the description of the book: "An affecting novel of two young women who fell in love in 19th-century New England." My first thought was, ' it's a lesbian novel' but you won't find the word 'lesbian' in its pages. It's set in the early 1800s in America, so in the story, the decisions of Patience and Sarah are still quite shocking and controversial to their families.

The story is told from the perspectives of both women. We first read Patience's side of the story. She's quite rich, owning half of their family estate. Her dead father left her with inheritance she shares with her married brother. She's a painter, a hobby that her brother's wife detests. She's quite resigned to the fate of being the 'unmarried old aunt' until the day a woman named Sarah was at her door.

Unlike Patience, Sarah is from an average family. She cuts and sells wood for a living, a job that's usually for boys but since she's in a family full of female children, the task was given to her. She doesn't usually wear women's clothes, and people tend to judge her harshly.

Patience invites her to her home and shows Sarah her paintings. For the first time, Patience feels that someone appreciates her art for the first time. It seems to be love at first sight for them both. Both feel that they don't belong to their families and want to have a place to call their own - and they immediately talk of leaving town to go live in some other place and be together.

Of course, family issues make it more complicated. The society they live in is too Puritanical. There are frequent references to the Bible and punishment for sin. Edward, Patience's brother, wants the relationship to end. Sarah's father beats her up for her determination for Patience. They fall in and out of love, and Sarah leaves her home and Patience, to have an adventure alone. She eventually goes back, their relationship gets deeper, and soon Edward wants Patience to leave. They both try to make a life of their own.

I had the impression that there would be dramatic fights and confrontations regarding their relationship, but I felt pleasant surprise that the families of both Patience and Sarah don't really condemn them for what they feel. After their initial reluctance, they learn to accept it, and Edward telling Patience to leave was out of love than harsh judgement.

What I like about this book is the simple, poetic language that is both nice to read and has a subtle, dry humor. I read books not just for the exciting plot, but because the prose makes me feel a certain way. The writing somewhat reminds me of Margaret Atwood, but it's a little more subtle than Atwood's prose-poetry and metaphors.

This another great book to add to my LBTQA+ reads.

The story is inspired by the real-life relationship of the painter Mary Ann Wilson and Miss Brundidge, who lived in the early 19th century in Greene County, New York State.

Monday, March 5, 2018

12 [movie reaction]

Last Saturday, I attended another free event in Book Latte hosted by PruLifeUK, "Let's Si₱ and Talk: a millennial's financial advantage" and it was an informative and educational talk on financial and investment literacy. Some new friends invited me to watch 12 in Iloilo Cinematheque and since it only costs 100 pesos I thought it would be interesting. I saw this as one of the movies showing and at first I wasn't into it, I'm really more interested in watching Smaller and Smaller Circles which will show next week. Anyway, on to the movie review!

12 is about a couple who have known each other for 12 years. They have been best friends for 5 years, in a romantic relationship for 7. They have been living together for a long time, and their relationship isn't perfect even after 12 years of knowing each other.

The movie mostly focuses on the two main characters. Alessandra de Rossi plays Erika, an artist and musician, careers she had to give up for her boyfriend Anton (played by Ivan Padilla). The story is told with flashbacks to the happy days of their relationship, and the present time when they are both older and weary of each other. Erika says that she wants space from Anton, since she feels that she has 'lost herself' due to her always following with what he wants.

I know this is mundane but I like the big house where the entire film is set. I love the placement of things in the frames. I admire how they shot the flashback scenes, because the two actors look younger there in contrast to the scenes for the present, where the colors are blue and dark.

The story starts with Anton proposing marriage to Erika but she refuses. The movie feels like one long lovers' quarrel. As viewers, we go through all the details of their relationship and what they hate (and love) about each other. Erika wants to go, and it seems that the two can't live with each other but can't live without each other either. They argue about small things, each other's insecurities, and while the story plays we see their personal histories and tragedies that made them what they are. Though in the end, they both must decide and realize that sometimes true love means 'letting go.'

I think that it's a realistic portrayal of a long-term relationship, of truly knowing another person, both their positve and negative qualities. The movie is both funny and heartbreaking. Anton is an English-speaking dude while Erika just says things directly in Tagalog, and this difference between them makes for good comedy. Ivan Padilla is a new actor and this is his first movie here, and I think he has potential but he can use some improvement. There are parts in the movie that feels repetitive and dragging.

I only knew after watching the movie that Alessandra de Rossi wrote the story! She also wrote and sang the theme song, "Twelve". Didn't know she was a good singer.

While your colors ran into the sun
I was your ocean
Sweet undertow
And you never drowned
I was chasing you
Was I breaking you?

Under this mess we’re in I found
Your lifeless body on the ground
My fingerprints were all around
I was the one who took you down

"Madali kang patawarin kasi gwapo ka. Pero may hangganan din yang gwapo card mo." -Erika
"I want to make others happy so I can be happy until I am unhappy." -Erika

Watch the trailer:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Books I read: February 2018

This has been a busy month, I had my comprehensive exams for my Master's degree. It was for eight subjects and lasted for three Saturdays. I still managed to read three books. How fast time flies, I'll be 25 years old by the end of March.

I wrote one book review on this blog of a YA book I read last month: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma [link leads to my review].

Here are my reactions to the two other books I read:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

With the news of Ursula K. Le Guin's death, I read The Left Hand of Darkness (I bought it in 2009 but didn't read it until now). An Envoy for a planetary confederacy is sent to the planet Gethen to invite them to join. The people of Gethen look human but they differ in gender - they have no fixed gender, they are either male or female according to their unique biology. The novel explores a society affected by the biology of its people.

The envoy Genry Ai deals with the politics of Gethen and try to convince the rulers to join the alliance. The prime minister of the country Karhide, Estraven, helps him but due to some betrayal, he is exiled. They work together for Genry's mission.

I like how it explores gender identity and imagines a genderless society. The parts I love most are the short myths and legends of this unique alien culture. However, I did find it boring and dull in some places but quite visionary. This novel, like Frank Herbert's Dune, also won both the Nebula and Hugo award.

The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimensions of Fairy Tales, Legends, and Symbols by Joseph Campbell

Borrowed this book from CPU's Theology Library. I read Joseph Campbell's The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimensions of Fairy Tales, Legends, and Symbols (1990). Campbell widely popularized the concepts of "Hero's Journey" and monomyth, that there are similar themes in the myths of every culture. But I admit this book is quite dragging, boring, and hard to read except for the mythological tales it relates. I don't agree with his views and criticisms of Christianity.

The most accessible Joseph Campbell book I read is "The Power of Myth" which is written in a conversational language as it is composed of interviews with Campbell by Bill Moyers. "Joseph Campbell: an Introduction" by Robert Alan Segal is also a readable overview of his ideas.

What I like about this book is it explores the major themes in the mythology of various cultures throughout the development of human society. From the period of hunter-gatherers to the beginning of agriculture; to the first cities and civilizations; up to the modern times. It also explains the same mythological symbols that occur in widely different places that mean the same thing. Even if myths are centuries old, they are still beautiful and meaningful. I still love the magic of reading them. Myths touch the soul.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Shape of Water [movie reaction]

Update: 3/5/18 This film won Best Picture in the Oscars and Best Director for Guillermo del Toro

“If I spoke about it–If I did–what would I tell you, I wonder? Would I tell you about the time? It happened a long time ago, in the last days of a fair Prince’s reign. Or would I tell you about the place? A small city near the coast but far from everything else. Or would I tell you about her? The princess without voice.” -from the opening narration of the movie

When I heard of Guillermo del Toro's new movie The Shape of Water, I immediately liked the concept. Merman in love with a human girl? That's something I'd want to watch. I watched the trailer and was more intrigued that the female protagonist is a mute woman working as a janitor at a secret government facility where this mysterious creature is kept for research purposes.

The movie is set in the 1960s, during the Cold War. Russia and America are competing in space exploration.

We meet Elisa, a mute woman. We see her life and her daily routines each day. She has a couple of friends: her coworker Zelda, a fellow janitor; and Giles, her gay neighbor. She speaks in sign language (with subtitles on screen). Her monotonous life gets disrupted when a strange creature is kept in the laboratory, and her being the cleaner, she has access to the restricted pool where it stays.

The first time they looked at each other.
Soon, Elisa and the creature share a bond and Elisa visits him in secret. She brings him eggs, teaches him sign language, and makes him listen to music. They are fascinated with each other, and Elisa seems to be the only one who sees it as more than a mere creature. I didn't even notice that the two actors didn't speak the whole time! Even with the costume, Doug Jones can still express intense emotion. Sally Hawkins, the actress playing Elisa, is great as well. They show that they can act even without words!

The villain in the story is Colonel Richard Strickland who captured the creature from a river, and the locals worship it as a god. Strickland repeatedly abuses the creature and plans to kill it. Elisa, knowing this plan, sets out to save it. She finds an ally in the scientist Robert Hoffstetler, who doesn't want the creature to die. Together with her friends, they try to do what they can to save it.

Elisa shows him a cute picture book.
Meanwhile, Elisa and the creature fall in love. That may sound weird but it makes more sense in the movie and it was executed really well. Even if the love interest is a humanoid amphibian, the emotion and realness of it make it a great love story.

This movie feels more like a fairy tale, like The Little Mermaid in reverse set in the 1960s. It feels whimsical and vintage, and the atmosphere of the entire movie is inspired by water: underwater scenes, rain everywhere, pools and moisture in most frames. It's worth watching on the big screen.
If I told you about her, what would I say? That they lived happily ever after? I believe they did. That they were in love? That they remained in love? I’m sure that’s true. But when I think of her… of Elisa… the only thing that comes to mind is a poem… whispered by someone in love hundreds of years ago.
“Unable to perceive the shape of You… I found You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love. It humbles my heart for You are everywhere.”