Posts by vya01

Reader. Writer. Gamer.

A Slow and Timeless Read

“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki is a novel that begs to be read slowly and purposefully. Take your time with it and be rewarded with magical reading experience you will want to savor time and again.

What begins as entertaining diary entries written by a young teenager weaves into a tapestry of stories with a diverse cast of characters. Meet Nao’s grand-uncle Haruki #1, a WWII pilot who died while carrying out a kamikaze mission over the Pacific. Also, her great grandmother Jiko, who is a Zen Buddhist nun—an anarchist, feminist, and novelist—all rolled into one.

Meanwhile, there is the story of Ruth, a novelist who discovers Nao’s diary, among other relics, packed inside a lunchbox that washes up along the beach. Ruth begins reading Nao’s diary. She quickly becomes obsessed with learning the truth about the sixteen-year-old girl, her family, and their present situation.

Through her diary, Nao reaches out to someone who will listen to her story, and Ruth responds to her in the now. The two protagonists connect through time and space, and a magical story between the two time beings unfolds.

Here is collection of stories that explore the duality between Japanese and American culture, past and present, death and life, individuals and the world around them. Here are narratives told by two individuals completely separate yet inexplicably one.

Intellectually deep and heartrendingly human, Ozeki’s novel is a life-changing read. I see myself getting lost in the magic of Nao’s story time and again for years to come, and I hope that you will join me in this timeless adventure.

And if you decide not to read any more, hey, no problem, because you’re not the one I was waiting for anyway. But if you decide to read on, then guess what? You’re my kind of time being and together we’ll make magic! – Nao Yasutani

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – Book Review

I am a Haruki Murakami fan.

I love his more ordinary works like “Norwegian Wood” and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” but I also enjoy his more out of this world novels, like “1Q84” and “Kafka on the Shore.”

“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” with its abundance of surreal and supernatural elements, belongs firmly in this second category.

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Book Cover

Toru Okada, the story’s protagonist, is recognizable as one of Murakami’s everyman leads—an unremarkable, ordinary man who is totally lost in life. When Okada’s wife leaves and refuses to speak with him, he is jolted out of his once uneventful existence.

Okada’s attempts at understanding why his wife left him and his eventual attempt at getting her back lead to his meeting a bizarre bunch of people, each of them too enigmatic to summarize in this review. He also ends up going on bizarre adventures, from the bottom of his neighbor’s well to the netherworld that lies beyond ordinary Tokyo.

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Another book cover design

Much of this novel does not make sense, but that’s part of the Murakami reading experience. Veteran Murakami readers know to expect a story where the journey is more important than the destination, where there are more loose ends at the end than the beginning.

That’s what I love the most about “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and Murakami’s other works. Reading them transports me to a dream world of observation and introspection, and this transfer from reality to a fictional world is crucial to me, as a fiction reader.

Murakami once again explores the familiar themes of loneliness, alienation, and search for identity. It’s nice to read about characters to whose experiences and feelings I can relate to. Life, more often than not, is nonsensical and unexpected. Murakami captures this bizarre nature beautifully in “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.”

Indie K-Pop Favorites

Milk Tea

K-indie due Milk Tea

Listening to Korean pop music is one of my guilty pleasures. My early favorites include Girl’s Generation and f(x). Then, I became a huge fan of Davichi, Akdong Musician, and IU. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for certain types of K-pop music, so I now focus more on individual songs I like rather than specific artists.

I’ve also fallen in love with Korean indie music.

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K-indie group Urban Zakapa

This is probably a side effect of my frequent reading and writing at coffee shops like Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Speaking of which, a CBTL branch recently opened a block a way from where I live—and that’s the most amazing thing ever!

Listening to K-indie songs also relax me and lift my spirits at the end of a long day. Here are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Vanilla AcousticCookie, Coffee

Urban ZakapaCafe Latte

Raspberry FieldHave You Seen?

Lucille TokiRainy Day

Milk TeaMr. Chocolate, Ms. Orange

CloverOne Wave

Coffee BoyThat’s Nothing

I can imagine all of these songs playing on my dream coffee shop playlist. How about you?

Featured image caption: K-indie group Vanilla Accoustic

Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge 2017

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Hello, Verne of Coffee Bean and Tea Reads here!

This is my third year joining the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge, hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly.

I’ll admit, I failed to reach my reading goals in 2015 and 2016. I do love reading fantasy though, and the intention to read more is there. Now, here I am making a reading commitment once more.

This 2017, I’m going to be realistic and aim to read 12 fantasy reads. I’m a slow reader who enjoys pausing in between passages I find magical and meaningful. I also have other time consuming hobbies including playing board games and video games.

I have stacks of fantasy books on my to-read list including The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Enjoy my first Flights of Fantasy read for 2017, Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – Book Review

Who is Kvothe and how did he become the most notorious wizard of all time? Is he a hero or a villain? Dead or alive? Everyone knows the stories, but nobody knows the truth. Nobody but Kvothe, now hiding in the small town of Newarre, while trying to live inconspicuously as a bed and breakfast owner named Kote.

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Kvothe: Master Swordsman, Wizard, Musician (Art from Pinterest)

He seems content with his new peaceful life, but trouble is brewing all around him. Demon attacks are growing rampant. The war—which he may have directly caused—continues to ravage the land. How long can this exceptional swordsman, wizard, and musician remain anonymous? Not much longer if his companion Bast has his way.

Bast is Kvothe’s assistant. He is also a demon, a prince of the Fae who is hell bent on restoring his master to his former heroic self.

Fortunately,  Kvothe stumbles upon and saves Chronicler, a famous traveling scribe, from a couple of demon spiderlings. Chronicler has traveled far and wide in search of Kvothe, so he could record and publish the wizard’s life story.

“The best lies about me are the ones I told.” – Kvothe

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Kvothe fights the Scrael (Art from Pinterest)

As the scribe records Kvothe’s story, Bast works behind the scenes to rekindle the fire that once made Kvothe so great.

The Name of the Wind is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. It follows a twofold narrative structure, featuring a third-person narrator narrating the present, and Kvothe talking about his past.

This fantasy novel is many things. It’s a school story set in The University where Kvothe and his companions study magic. It’s a love story between Kvothe and Denna, an irresistibly attractive woman with wealthy suitors lining up to court her.

The Name of the Wind is a story and poem entwined. Kvothe, exceptionally skilled in music and theater, is a former member of the traveling troupe Edema Ruh. Music plays a major role throughout the story. It also helps Kvothe, mired in poverty, earn some badly needed money.

“Music is a proud, temperamental mistress. Give her the time and attention she deserves, and she is yours. Slight her and there will come a day when you call and she will not answer. So I began sleeping less to give her the time she needed.” – Kvothe

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Kvothe and Auri (Art by Manweri)

The entire troupe—including his parents—were killed by The Chandrian, a group of seven being commonly regarded as mythical characters steeped in folklore and superstition. Kvothe has been struggling to survive on his own ever since. He’s also been seeking revenge against the Chandrian.

Learning more about his parent’s killers and a means to destroy them is the main reason he enrolls in the University.

“Someone’s parents have been singing entirely the wrong sort of songs.” – Haliax, leader of the Chandrian

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Kvothe meets the Chandrian (Art from Pinterest)

I loved reading The Name of the Wind. I find the novel well written. It’s a pleasure to read Patrick Rothfuss’s lyrical prose. Sections of poetry and music that I would normally find distracting, even boring, were beautifully interwoven with the main narrative.

The tension between Kvothe’s being skilled in music and wizardry versus his being poor and unlucky, keeps the story constantly fresh. The way he is forced to face the realities of life is visceral and down to earth.

“My parents danced together, her head on his chest. Both had their eyes closed. They seemed so perfectly content. If you can find someone like that, someone who you can hold and close your eyes to the world with, then you’re lucky. Even if it only lasts for a minute or a day. The image of them gently swaying to the music is how I picture love in my mind even after all these years.” – Kvothe

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Kvothe’s parents dancing (art by Kurogane-Sensei)

The first novel is essentially a very long prologue. It leaves many questions unanswered: How did Kvothe get expelled from the University? Did he get his revenge on the Chandrian? How did he end up a fake small town bed and breakfast owner? Who is Bast, really?

Still, The Name of the Wind is an exceptional story on its own. I want to read more!

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 out of 5

5 Beans

The Board Game Geek Secret Santa Experience

I contributed this blog post about by first Board Game Geek Secret Santa experience to the Dice Kong Board Game Cafe website.

Dice Kong Board Game Cafe

If you have Googled a board game—any board game—for research purposes and whatnot, you have likely visited the Board Game Geek website. BGG is the number one resource for all things board games on the Internet today. From gamer-made rules summaries, to advice on card sleeve brands and sizes, to foam core insert schematics, they have got you covered.

Yearly, BGG holds a Secret Santa event, where thousands of board gamers from around the world exchange gifts. Board game gifts, of course!

img_20161120_181606Mechanics are simple:

  • Register for the event
  • Choose countries you are willing to ship gifts to
  • Receive a target board gamer from one of the countries you have chosen
  • Ship your target one or more board games from his or her wishlist (here is a sample BGG wishlist)

The total cost of the game/s you send (including shipping) must be at least USD 50.

In Cebu, avid…

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Community Season 1 – TV Series Review

It was the tail end of a Friday board game night at Bubble Bee Tea Tea House. We were packing up our last board game (I can’t remember its name, but it was a Japanese-themed game of bluffing and assassination), when we began talking about television series.

Dan Harmon was mentioned, followed by Community, a television show he created and produced. The show had an amazing ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ episode that everyone in the group had watched and loved. Everyone except me.

I felt so left out, that I immediately Googled the show upon getting home that night. Fast forward a month or so later: and I’m now enjoying Season 2 of Community. It’s one of the funniest television series I’ve ever watched. Thank you, board game friends!

Community is an American sitcom about a group of students and teachers enrolled in Greendale Community College. The show is inspired by Harmon’s own experiences as a community college student. It frequently parodies move and TV tropes and clichés, by making use of meta-humor ad pop culture references.

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Central characters include Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a sarcastic, manipulative, and self-confident former lawyer booted from his law firm for having a fake bachelor’s degree; Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), a high school dropout and self-proclaimed anarchist, atheist, and activist who often comes across as hypocritical and pretentious.

There’s also Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), a socially-awkward film student with uncanny knowledge of movies and TV series; and Annie Edison (Alison Brie), a compulsively overachieving former Adderall addict who was unpopular in high school, but is actually seen as extremely attractive and intelligent.

And that’s not even half the band of misfits in Community‘s ensemble cast of characters.

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The Community cast as X-Men

I love Community! Watching the show makes me wish I studied in community college back in the day. I think Jeff Winger and his group are the best. I like how they are all odd and awkward in their own ways because these quirks are what make them so amazing.

Among the characters, I connect with Annie the most. Like her, I am an overachiever. In my case, it’s because I didn’t apply myself back in my elementary and high school years, leading to poor grades and summer school.

Back in college, I’d join so many organizations, participate in one extracurricular activity after the next, run for class president and student council, and volunteer to be group leader whenever I got the chance—while studying my ass off in the pursuit of academic excellence.

I never did get those A’s. But B’s are definitely much better than F’s!

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I obsess over things I am passionate about to the point of being-off putting especially to non-geeks/nerds and people who don’t know me well. And I can be passionate about a lot of things, often simultaneously.

It’s this connection I—and many others—have with the show that allowed it to run for six seasons despite its low viewership. News is Netflix is producing a Community feature film, which will allow Dan Harmon to give his beloved TV series an epic end.

I loved season 1 of Community and I’m loving season 2 even more. The show’s meta-humor and endless stream of pop culture references is a joy to watch, and I’m looking forward to more.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5

5 Beans out of 5