The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner Review

I wouldnt let myself not read any Manbooker nominee or winner before the year ends right? I picked up The Mars Room as an extra book in my Book of the Month pick for October. This book is one of the 2018 nominees for the Manbooker Prize. 

The story is about women who are in prison. This book shows us about life in prison which to me is very interesting to read. It seems to me that this book shows and opens us to the life of the people in the prison, on what goes in there and how they were able to survive. What I liked about this book is that it tells a story of all of the characters and how they got into prison and how they live in prison. The story has the right paced and told the story for each of the characters carefully.

Its always interesting to read about how people live differently. This book in particular describes how life will be for women who live in poverty and to women in prison. This book shows you how women in prison get by in living and many ways on how they survive. It shows a different side of the prisoners – that they can have something that is kind and positive. 

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton review

For my October’s book of the month pick, I have selected this book because it has a fantasy like element into it and the premise hooked me up.  I have such high hopes on  this book because it is very interesting. It has this dark – autumny vibes that I really liked.

Book of the Month’s Quick Take


A satchel, a sketchbook, and a photograph connect the lives of a present-day archivist and a mysterious Victorian woman in this sweeping tale told across a century.

Book of the MonthSynopsis:In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

What I love: I love the beginning of the book. I love how it connects the present day characters to the past. I love Elodie’s work as someone who works as an archivist in London. I love when she was uncovering the truths about the items that she has uncovered and somehow it is linked to her family. I love how the author connects the stories and histories of characters together. It has a good beginning. I was intrigued as to the story and how it will unfold. I love Lily’s story at the beginning. I noticed that some of the elements are darker and these are a perfect theme on a cold, rainy nights.

Unfortunately those are not enough for me to sustain my interest. Suddenly, there are too many characters and names to keep track off. I got lost and confused as to why there are so many characters and dont know how to keep up with the story. Personally, in my opinion, the stroylines are too many and not all of them are important to the main story. Towards the middle and through the end, I find the book slow, confusing and uninteresting. I wasnt sure that the author will be able to tie all of them together. All in all, it was a book that is not for me. I gave it 2/5 stars in Goodreads.

First Year Anniversary Gift Ideas

I have been looking for 1st year anniversary for Tim that is affordable, a little bit of cheesy and memorable. I dont want to go big for the first time but I want to give something that both of us will love and use. If I wanted to, I can go big and go all out, but then again, I want something simple and something that has meaning. Again, simplicity = best.

I wanted to share these simple gift ideas for your first year anniversary that I would be recommend:

Star Map 

One of my ideas is the star map of our first date. There are a lot of those things that are available on Etsy. A star map is the map of the stars or how the stars looked like on a specific date and on a specific place. I love this gift is because its a simple gift that remembers a specific time and place. It is a unique way to remember something that happened.

KRMaps prints maps and star maps on Etsy. They also offer to have the print framed and ship it for you for free. I have chose them to print the star map because their design is simple and classic. I love the pale blue ‘chalkboard-ish’ design. I love the simple cursive white font that you can customize.

I greatly appreciate that KRMaps was very prompt in responding to my queries and was able to send me the picture of image to be printed to ask me to confirm. The shipping was free too and they packed it really well. I have Tim’s copy framed and the frame was good quality and packaged really well. My copy was just the print and the paper that it came out was thick and good quality. I definitely recommending them.

This is the link to the star map that I bought.

Date Nights Card

Another great idea is doing a date nights card / jars. Sometimes, there are days that we wanted to do something but we ran out of things to do or sometimes blacked out. This is a perfect gift to spice up dates and have different new date experiences that you can do with your boyfriend. I originally planned is to make one from scratch – like using a glass jar and using colored paper to write up date ideas.

FlytraponE on Etsy was a perfect place for you to buy this. I tried searching for this on etsy and seems like they are the most popular ones and with good reason. I love that the cards are thick and good looking. They also give you 4 blank cards for you to customize. The ideas within are cool and when me and Tim read it, we really thought that most of them are a good idea.

Click here on the date night card that I bought

Pictures! 

You take a lot of pictures in your phone and there is so much you can post in instagram or facebook. I love printing pictures because its like old school – you print it and you can design your apartment or your place with pictures. I have one in my ref and one in my office desks. This is a good gift for him to post in his place and probably place it in different places. I used Shutterfly and it was such an easy app to have your pictures printed. You select photos from your phone and have them delivered it to you. I like this one because I was able to edit my photos first on what I want.

Mixtiles is also a good app because they can print your pictures but they put this in a good tile that is ready to put up in your walls. And seems like you can remove it and post it again if you want to move the picture. I was about to pick this one but I think its a little bit pricey but someday I will print some from them.

Review: Lo and Sons Catalina Tote Weekender Bag

I have been looking for a long time of a good weekender bag that I can use when I am going on weekend trips or a good carry on hand bag. I wanted something that is spacious enough to put my laptop on or 1 book but at the same time, not bulky enough so it can feet at my under seat bag in the airplane.

I have been eyeing Lo and Sons Catalina selection in almost 3 years now. This line of weekender bags are classy, clean and has enough dividers / pockets in the bag to organize the insides of your bag. I also love the idea that it has a section for your shoes. Also, this carry on bag has a pocket that you can use to put up in your 4 wheeler bag! This is very tempting bag to buy.

After moments of debating, going back to the site and looking at these beauties, I have done it. I have bought my own! I bought the canvas white Catalina Tote because I would love to have a canvas bag and I think the size of the bag is the perfect one for my height. (even though I would love to have the bigger ones, it would seem too big for me on my everyday use).

I have used this bag now when I spend my weekends at Tim and using it for wok. I love how big and spacious it is to use as a weekender bag and everything that I needed fits (not to mention I sometimes over pack for a weekend). I love that the shoe section of the tote can be adjusted and you can remove the divider inside to make one big tote. I dont usually do that but instead, I use that section to stow away my used clothes. I also love that it has a key chain for my keys and now my keys are in the bag always and I dont forget it anymore. The color of the bag is definitely a challenge for me because I need to be more careful on where I place this and what I put inside especially if this is food or pens. The handles are comfortable and sturdy enough to carry heavy items. The pockets on either side of the bag is helpful and very accessible to smaller items and I can actually see myself using this bag when I fly and using these little pockets to put into my passports and chargers and other important little things.

Overall, Lo and Sons Catalina tote is worth the price. You can actually get 20% off on your first purchase when you subscribe to their email list so get your weekender bag from them!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I am new to listening books through an audiobook and have thought that listening a novel is maybe not a good idea because I might dose off, not pay attention too much and get lost in the story.

Finishing up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was a surprise for me. I listened all through out through my libby app and towards the end, I was happy that I have listened to it. This is one of those books that took me by surprise – in a good way.

About the book:

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

The reason why I like the book is because Eleanor is such a funny narrator. She is awkward person who does not know how to act in social situations which makes me laugh everytime. Her thoughts on why people some things are witty and funny at the same time. Sometimes, I thought ‘yeah, she makes sense’. I love that she is very honest and does not hesitate to tell people how it is.

 “These days, loneliness is the new cancer—a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”

What I love about the book is that it tells about effects of loneliness. Loneliness is a dangerous thing. I can relate in some way on what Eleanor had encountered. When one is lonely, you tend to focus your attention to the wrong person who gives you some attention. You tend to be blinded of the things that should be a red flag about the person and in turn can be a dangerous thing. I remembered a few years ago, I have felt and experienced the same thing. I realized that I go after people who gave little attention and gave my thoughts and energy towards them but in the end, they turn out a completely different person than what your idea of that person is. I get it. Sometimes loneliness and being lonely is not something people talk about freely especially to younger people. This book shows how important it is that people connect with other people.

“People don’t like these facts, but I can’t help that. If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

Another thing that I like about the book is this quote. I have learned living in the US is that people like to ask how you are.  You should always answer, you are fine, or anything positive. No one answers that they are not okay. That is not a social norm. I guess when you think about it, it’s pretty messed up, because most people doesnt really want to know how you are doing. All the more reason that this book gives the importance of human connection and interaction.

Also, its very relatable because Eleanor is very socially awkward. I can somewhat relate to her in not knowing what to do in work parties and tends to avoid these as much as I can.

But through the book, I havent sensed that Eleanor is weak. Even though she has these quirks, she is doing ‘completely fine’, she does things the best as she could and should I say more confidently than me. A good unexpected book that’s heart warming and funny. 5/5 stars!

Columbus CoffeeFest 2018

I like drinking coffee. Coffee is a good drink and whenever I dont get a cup of coffee, it makes me cranky and unfocused all throughout the day. An unfocused Angela in a work day is a no no. I can sometimes drink 2 venti sized coffee in one day (more if needed) during busy season. I have been trying making coffees through french press, espresso maker and brewer and practicing in perfecting to make a perfect cup just so I can save the money I spent in Starbucks. Because lets face it, it is expensive especially if you like a white chocolate mocha venti.

September 30 was Columbus Coffee Fest and me and Tim were lucky enough to snatch a ticket to participate in this festival. Coffee Fest is an annual coffee tasting event in Columbus where you can taste different coffees from different local coffee vendors in Ohio Village. You can also get to buy their beans if you liked the ones you tasted. There are also other knick knacks that you can buy.

Coffee Vendors at the September 30th Tasting Day to Include:
Kampfire Coffee Roasters, LLCBrioso CoffeeThird Way CafeRocky Den Cold Brew CoffeeFlatlands CoffeeLa Terza CoffeeRoosevelt Coffee Roasters – The Roosevelt CoffeehouseRed Cedar Coffee Co.Backroom Coffee RoastersThe Coffee MessSilver Bridge Coffee Company, Ramble CoffeeFlorin CoffeeJennings Java Coffee RoastersBoston Stoker Coffee RoastersActual CoffeeCoffee EmporiumHemisphere Coffee RoastersCoffee Crafters AcademyCoffee ConnectionsThe Little Red Coffee VanBacca CoffeeAkron Coffee RoastersRoaming Goat Coffee Co.Crimson Cup Coffee & TeaCommunity Grounds and Stauf’s Coffee Roasters.

This was my first time going to Columbus CoffeeFest and you get to choose your session – morning or afternoon session. Me and Tim bought the afternoon (3-6pm) session. We get to receive a Coffee Fest mug to use for our tastings. A perfect souvenir in my opinion.

Complimentary mug and the map to coffee goodness!!

I was really excited to taste all the coffee that the local coffee vendors made. It ranges to light to dark roast, tastes from full bodied to fruity tastes. It was interesting to see the different ways the vendors roast their coffee (some of them includes fruits!). Some vendors offered mini pastries that goes well to their coffee which is always appreciated.

Poster map of the Ohio Village

This was also my first time going to Ohio Village and I love the small vintage town like feel that you can walk around. The coffee vendors can be inside the old buildings, be on the stands or have their own food truck displayed on the field.

There are also live bands performing on every side of the village. That Sunday was a perfect day to be out and sip coffee.

Me and Tim coffee filled and happy

At the end of the day,  me and Tim just drank a little too much of coffee but we have enjoyed the event so much.

Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk

It has been a long time since I was taken by the book. This book just blew my mind and just made me smile all through out reading this. I know that I must read this book after my short trip to New York last year and it was about an old lady walking on her way to her dinner on New Year’s Eve.

Short synopsis:

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

This book is light hearted and at times it just kept me smiling when I was reading this. Lilian is a strong woman who knows what she wants – what she wants to wear, what she wants for her make up and what she wants to eat and what she wants to be in her career. When I was reading her walking through Manhattan – it reminded me of my short trip in New York and inspires me to walk and to walk more. I love that walking to her gave her perspective. I love her for being herself and just different. She is a unique individual and her story resonates me. This is one of these books  that I will always pick up whenever.

The Silence of the Girls Review

I have read two of the my  first Book of the Month’s books that I have picked (see here for the my review of The Dinner List). My September main book of the month pick is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Baker. This has been well received and well reviewed so I wanted to read it. Plus this was a retelling of the Iliad and thought it is due for me to read a historical fiction (ancient history).

Synopsis at a glance:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war’s outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

Review:

This book was really well received in good reads but I was disappointed that in the end, I wasnt one of the readers who liked this book. It was such a let down because I was expecting that this retelling would tell a story about the women who rises during the war between the Greek and the Trojans. Also, I guess I have been expecting it to be a good ancient geek mythology style story.

The first part of the book is good – honestly, my favorite part of the book. It was strong – it had elements of mythology on it. I am excited on what’s going to happen. But then, after that – it was nothing. The second volume threw me off because it switched from Briseis’ perspective to Achilles!! I mean, i thought this is going to be perspectives of women who are caught between the war? Why do we need to hear it from Achilles perspective if the title of the book is ‘The Silence of Girls’? I dont know. I was hoping more from it.

Though I appreciate that it was accurate – i think the book at the later part (second and third) was just half baked. The book has a lot of potential but it fall short in the middle and into the end. The author tried to make it very accurate that it forgot the premise of the book – the women, the girls who are caught between the war. The story has spent so much time with Agammemnon and Achilles, Achilles and his relationship with his mother and Achilles mourning on the death of Patroclus. It was just disappointing. Towards the end, I was really sad that it lost my interest and I dragged my way in to finishing it. A sad thing.

The main character and her POV is flat – I dont think she has anything in her – her thoughts, desires, cares. It lacks fire or oompf  to me. The women in the story are flat – too many of them and too many the same flat characters and they’re not very memorable.

I also think that the writing is a bit confusing? I dont think it was written with thought? I just think that there are dashes and sentences that does not necessarily make sense to me.

Truly, the title was fitting – The Silence of the Girls because even in this book, the women did not have any voice.

Meeting my Adansonii Swiss Cheese Plant

This small cute vine plant with leaf slits on it has caught my eye ever since my sister has introduced to me. Monsterra has become so popular in the house plant community (especially monsterra deliciosa) but taking care of a big monsterra is not possible to a small apartment that I am currently living with. This little swiss cheese plant, the mostera deliciosa’s cousin is a perfect fix and solution. The more I look at this, the more I like adansonii more than the deliciosa. I love the dark green delicate leaves plus it can be trained to be climb through walls. Perfect for apartment life.

I was so excited once i received this plant from Hirt’s Garden. It wasn’t the best condition – it was a little dampy and it seems like one of the cuttings are just put there, without roots! 2 weeks or so later, it’s getting better and now I am noticing some new baby leaves about to open.

Handling houseplants that thrives humid conditions is a first to me. These plants grew from tropical places and taking care of them here in the US is a bit tricky. Its tricky to recreate their natural surroundings. I have read before that they need humid places and using a humidifier can help it take care of it will help. I was shocked to see when I came home after leaving it on the weekend, a mushroom popped up! I was so worried that I re-potted and removed the soil (as much as I can) it to a terracotta pot.

Below are some care tips that I have read and some good articles to read about these Adansonii:

Some things that I am currently doing:

Light: Bright indirect light. I have only a west facing window so putting this in a window sill might fry the leaves. Currently its fall and rainy so I put it near the window ledge – in my dinner table.

Water: They say that they like moist soil – which I have no idea what that means. I tried doing it and I think thats how the mushroom grew. So currently, I am looking at how the leaves look like and water when its the right time. Since its colder season, I would think it would be like a once a week or every 2 weeks watering.

Temperature: They like warm humid places – like the tropical places or greenhouse. I have a small humidifier at home that I use all the time that I put beside it. Also, putting plants that are alike (plants that like humidity) together will create a more humid place. Also, putting pebbles with little water in the pot saucer can help with humidity too.

Propagation: I currently put 2 cuttings in water so I am hoping and crossing figures to have these cuties grown and include in the pot to have the plant more bushier.

Thoughts on The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

It was an age old hypothetical question – if you could have dinner with five people – dead or alive, who would they be?

This was the premise of the book which caught my attention in one of Book of the Month’s choice in August. It was a lovely concept – a magical realism genre which always a treat to read for me.

This was the premise of the book, The Dinner List.

Synopsis: When Sabrina arrives at her 30th birthday dinner, she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past and, well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

I have finished this book in 2 nights – but almost in 1 sitting and I am disappointed and annoyed. I haven’t felt so annoyed and frustrated at this book in a long time. It was surprising that I have finished this and now I wanted to share my thoughts on this. (Spoiler alert below! If you would like to read ahead, be warned. I will try to be more general and not too spoiler-y)

What I like about the book: The premise and the choices that Sabrina has for her dinner guests. I liked the people she chose and it helped me in keeping me from reading and finishing the book. The story kept back in forth between past and present which explained the time of the dinner. I like how easy it is to read.

But sadly, the things I dont like about this book weighs more than what I like about it. Bear with me on this.

What annoyed me and make this book so frustrating to me is that Sabrina’s relationship with her best friend, Jesse,  and her fiance/ex boyfriend is very irritating. It was childish and selfish. I kept thinking to myself – how old are they? Why do they act like very childish and not their age. What makes me angry is that they are 30. 30. Thirty. Even me who is younger doesnt act like that. Everything is selfish. I dont like how  they kept scores. I dont like that they are selfish.

Jesse is annoying all throughout the dinner. How she interjects and reacts in the dinner is very disrespectful. I dont like how she speaks whats on her mind and then she will say “but its your dinner and its all about you”. It seems to me that she wants it to be her and then she’s just saying that oh wait what do you care its your dinner making it all about her. And then it was revealed that she felt that Sabrina wasnt there for her and got tired from fixing Sabrina’s problem/ I understand that some people can be like this – making other people’s problems theirs, sometimes I do that. She also kept like pushing her opinion and choices to other people. What kind of friend is this? I cant stand it.

.. And how Sabrina deals with her? It was unhealthy! Sabrina said that she felt abandoned and bore a grudge against Jesse, and she said she wanted saving to? Look I understand some stuff like not being there because Jesse was always with her boyfriend. Its just too much, its not what friends are its not like this.

Tobias – ugh. Her relationship with him is exhausting. They try to one up each other who loves the other most or more. What is this? This is not how relationship work. they want the other to be happy but they dont know how to listen. Especially him. Its like every single thing that they clashed their heads they argue. No compromise. He also worst of all just escapes – he just escapes from reality and doesnt deal with it. Towards the end of the book, these 3 characters got worse and worse. And people they are 30.

What I dont like also is the cheating part of the story. Sabrina got into a relationship with Paul – which was described as the most vanilla-y guy there is. And when Tobias came back, she just cheated and broke up with him. Later on, she was comparing them and noting that Paul was seamless and easy. it sounds to me that they get along (aside from the fact that she doesnt love him back which I personally felt that she used  him as a warm body). The more I read about Paul – the more I like him. He seems like the most normal, mature and understanding person from the story.

Overall, it was exhausting and frustrating. Very selfish people who got into dinner together. The other invitees – the professor, Audrey Hepburn and the dad was okay but nothing interesting as to why they are there. Maybe this book was not for me and I felt that it was let down.

I rated this 2/5 stars – 2 because I think the premise is good. But it fell short and it was childish overall.