The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: A Book Review

secretIt is now one of my most favorite books, along with A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Frank McCourt’s trilogy ( Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man) , and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  ( I have just realized that most of the books above have something to do with children. Eureka!  ^_^ )

Its major theme about gardening excited me so much that I  slept  through  it  for one night  ;horticultural skills run in my blood . I love planting and gardening.

When I was in my   kindergarten, I did build my own little  garden behind our nipa hut in our province. I planted different invasive and flowering plants . So,   my neighbors were all amazed   at me because I was still too young to build one. However, I can no longer build a garden since my family and I live here in Manila. I did one when I was  in elementary but failed because the soil here  is not as arable as in our province. Besides, I don’t have time to do so.

If  gardening  were such a highly paid job, I would surely grab it and devote my life to it and at the same time read a book surrounded by the plants and flowers. Presto, it would be  beautiful and enchanting ambiance.

Like in the story how Frances Hodgson Burnett describes the ambiance, I am familiar with the smell of leaves after pouring down in torrents,  of the river  which  water smells  brackish wafting up in the air,  with the warm welcome of the sunshine in the breaking dawn, the marvelous blossoms of flowers in a garden, the  canopies of the huge trees in a forest. Also, I experienced to climb   the trees and trying to reach   the end parts of their  boughs laden with  clusters of enchanting fruits. But the more thrilling one  was  that I tried to bother the nests of birds laid  up  on  the trees. I was a naughty and pesky boy too. ^^  I miss my provincial life!

It may   not be  beautifully-written but if you read it in hindsight, you will realize that  it  is really  meaningful, intended to inculcate good virtues in readers.

  1. Hope

In the story, Mary Lennox   hopes that the garden has the big potential to revive its spirit. With her  great effort , she will  plant some  sorts of flowers again with the help of of her newly-met friend  , Dickon, whom she is very fond of. Also,   with the great impact of the Secret Garden upon Mary, she will help her mysterious cousin, Colin Craven , to be positive in life. He was born bed-ridden in the assumption that he is an invalid.

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

2. Love and Loyalty

This virtue is  illustrated by Ben Weatherstaff, the  gruff elderly gardener who introduces Mary to the robin redbreast. He clandestinely tended the garden during the ten years in which it was locked, out of love and loyalty for the Mistress Craven.

“To speak robin to a robin is like speaking French to a Frenchman”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

3. Secrecy

 Since the title of the book is The Secret Garden, no matter what your   ideology about  honesty, you will learn  more the importance of secrecy.  This principle reminded me of a famous etiquette writer’s question that, “ When someone let you her/ into her world, would you tell the other people outside what you saw inside?” My reply to it, however, is ,” It depends on the situation.”

4. Friendship

Mary’s friendship with Dickon and Colin Craven teaches me to be congenial toward other people as well as love my best friends.

“You can lose a friend in springtime easier than any other season if you’re too curious.”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

5. Positive Attitude

I liked Mrs. Snowby’s  , Martha’s mother, positive attitude. She influences all the main characters.  For instance, she sends a skipping rope for Mary because she is aware of the fact that  Mary   has   poor health. Also, she sends her healthy milk to put on weight. In fact,  Mr. Craven and Mrs. Medlock both look up to her wisdom despite her poor and austere way of life.

“Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us.”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The story is also interesting to ponder over in the context of psychology, religion, sociology, and philosophy.

In addition,  I was challenged by reading some dialogues with Yorkshire accent. I tried to turn over the contracted words in my mind until   my nose bled a great deal. But later on I learned to love and imitate it as did Mary Lennox.

However, I want to make a fuss over  three things :

  1. Where is Camilla? If you have seen its Japanese TV animation series,  you may know the fortuneteller and healer, Camilla. I can’t forget her  because  I liked the character she played in the story. She is also a symbol of a wise woman aside from Mrs. Sowerby, but scared because of her dour and somber aura.
  1. Also, I can’t forget the scene when Mr. Craven walks through the woods where he finds out that someone is hunting there without his permission. This scene gave me an idea then that he has  aristocratic authority.
  1. As far as I remember, Dr. Craven is a crafty character who intends to weaken Colin’s health since he knows that Archibald Craven has been crest-fallen since his wife died. When he dies, he will inherit all his wealth.However, in the story, he turns out to be an uncle who knows what ” flesh and blood “ means.

Anyway, I just guessed that the   story may have been added with some ideas  since it was adapted for  a Japanese TV  animation series .

Thanks to my student for this book present. Without my literary intercourse with her, I would not know that Frances Hodgson Burnnett is also the author of  the other  two famous children’s novels such as  A Little Princes, known as   Princess Sara and Little  Lord Fauntleroy.  So, I’m gonna read them too. ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )


Inner Simplicity (100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul) by ST. James Elaine, Elaine James: A Book Review


I want to read this book again and again; I will use it as my contemplative book, for it can help me discipline myself to live with inner peace and joy.I will cherish every page and, at the same time, apply them to my personal life. But I wonder if I could make it to the 93 ways because I found TAPPING INTO( as the author always puts the phrase bluntly )a few utterly ridiculous such as:

# 44 REDUCE YOUR NEED TO BE IN THE KNOW. I think it is still a matter of choice if one wants to be stressed out of keeping oneself posted with current news and events, for we have individual differences. Some people are born to be investigators, or sometimes people may get a thrill out of doing so.

# 59 LAUGH A LOT. Imagine that you fake laughing at yourself for 30 minutes. Uh-oh! I am afraid that I might wind up in delusional state.

# 61 FIND A BOX OF STARS. I tried experimenting this method when I was still in high school; however,doing so is just an example of operant conditioning. It is not a “permanent solution”.We can change the things by how we think of them. We should be more responsible for our decisions.

#84 CRY A LOT. We can cry since it is a normal defense mechanism. However, crying a lot for 30 minutes on your own is beyond the logic of psychology. We are just instilled in a “miseducated culture”.We should break our perception that “boys don’t cry”.

# 85 CONSULT A PSYCHIC. I am sorry but I find this tip laughable.

On the other hand, there are some tips I REALLY have to TAP INTO such as:

#18 SLEEP A LOT. I am a night owl. I love staying up late because of studying my butt off as well as reading my favorite books.

# 40 BREAK YOUR ROUTINE ONCE IN A WHILE. Old die habits die hard.

To achieve the said inner peace of mind and soul, I need , at the very least, rigorous SELF-DISCIPLINE.

Rating : 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

A Widow for One Year by John Irving: A Book Review

widowI regret to say that this is one of the books I will NEVER ever read. I will just display it on my shelf along with the other author’s works. I will just read over the quotes marked my mind as though I were traumatic for this; it took me a long time to finish it. I did not even wink a night to finish it, but I failed.

I may not be good at literary analysis, but in my humble opinion, this book has a lot of padding or stuff which undermines the real concept of the story and caused me to lose my interest and get impatient. Do I have to read the scenes which appear not have to do with the other stories? Do I have to give a hoot about the summaries of the main character’s novels? The stories are beyond me. I could just tolerate with A Sound Like Someone Trying Not To Make A Sound which gave me thrills because this real children’s tale story is the linchpin of the real story. Yada yada yada Enough said! I just fast-read them.

I understand that John Irving is known for his remarkable skills in writing ambitious novels. No doubt because I still have his three works more in my storage box of knowledge; they are so wide-thick. In fact, it had taken me a few months  before I got around to his  A Son of the Circus which, eventually, I gave 1 star , for I found it awfully annoying too. I know it is a good read though. However, I doubt it; I don’t want to knock any books around collecting dust as if they ‘re trash any more.

What I liked about J. Irving is that he is indeed honest and independent. Had books just the like of this, even his wonderful The World  According to Garp, which I gave 4 stars , been read in an ingrained conventional society in the past, it would have been expunged and expurgated. John Irving would have outwitted D.H. Lawrence’s Lady  Chatterley’s Man. But still. I will never ever read it.

Now, to read or not to read.

Rating: 1/ 5 stars ( I didn’t like it. )

Deep Blue Night by Choe In -Ho : A Book Review

IMG_20130104_111035“Los Angeles is a fictitious place; it does not exist in this world.”

-In-ho Choe, Deep Blue Night-

This line caught my imagination, reminding me  of Carlos Bulosan’s poem, “I Want the Wide American Earth,”  in which he expressed his  Marxist  desires that the world be  like American, that all  countries had no abject poverty, that all were socially and economically equal . He had the perception that America had this prosperous life since   it was the  richest country in the world during  his generation, so the American Dream  came into existence.

Lost Angeles is  a melting pot  in the  US where you can meet  different races of the world. If you plan to migrate  to America, there is the best place you should choose for a greener  pasture. You are for sure secure from some problems because  you can turn to your “ kababayan”  ( countryman ) for help ( if you have this  bayanihan ( cooperative endeavor )  and damayan  ( mutual sympathy ) culture, typical of Filipinos overseas )  just like what happened to the story  of this book.

Jun-ho and Hyeong are both Koreans who ventured  to the US  to escape their  shady pasts.  Jun-Ho  was  a tourist  who  had the opportunity to travel to the US  to take his mind off the bitter experiences he had left behind  in Korea. He used to be a popular and successful  musician but  past his prime eventually due to taking  marijuana.  However, he ended up flat broke   for he had squandered all his money. To make ends meet, he tried to do the same job  in some States in the US  but backslid to his bad shadows . In the end, he became an exile from one  State to another. To survive, he needed to get to Los Angeles by   stolen car, believing that someone  or something there could help him back to Korea. Accidentally, on his way, he met Hyeong who has little description in the story.

It is now my second book of The Portable Library of Korean Literature translation. Comparatively, its prose and tone are heavier and more   emotionally indifferent than of the A Dwarf Launches a Ball by Cho Se-hui. The latter one, on the other hand, is lighter and more gently heartbreaking. In addition, the narration of the story is somehow misleading. You could have the idea that the  narrator is Hyeong,  but  there seems to be another unknown narrator, telling the other part of the story.

In a simpler perspective, you might take it literally that   the story has something to do with what an exiled tourist experiences in a country that is alienated to him. I could buy that way though. However, I want to put it on the fact that I liked the way Cho In-Ho used the persona of   Jun-ho  in the story ; he  embodies people who,  like him , are  unable to move up on to the next step of their life where they got in a conundrum- people ,who have been torn , unknowing where and how they should turn over a new leaf  with the fact that they have been bothered by a pang of conscience for the things they have committed, but in the end, with their heuristic moments, would realize that they have been taken possession of their  “ seven deadly sins”,  innocence, or ignorance.  The story, in the other words,  is an epitome of  the existential point of view that “ Life is a matter of moral choice.”

All the rage in the story is the car they rode on a journey  . For me it represents the vehicle of their life. No matter what happens , you can pull up along the road and chill out, then keep on driving. Moreover, in order to add fuel to the energy, you should make a fortune regardless of how much it could be. Otherwise, you would remain stagnant unless you choose it to be that way.

 In fact, reading it reminded me of the drop-out students in our village or somewhere   else where I usually meet around. I have this imaginary judgment that they must be prejudiced as shiftless or the dregs of humanity. But, Mac, do not judge such people. Like what I have put above: “ They  do not know HOW  and WHERE to begin.” Just like what happened to Jun-ho in the story.

I really liked the story because I can relate to it. Like both the main characters above, there are times that  I am in the  bad habit  of running away from my  bitter experience or from whatever a fait accompli I leave behind  that  I regret I should not have done . Rather, I  leave it unresolved ,  trying to keep up appearances until  I come to a standstill. Nevertheless, upon reading it, I have learned more that  the life I may be choosing is not optimal at all. (sighs!)

As far as I learned, the story is the author’s autobiography. In other words, this must be the product of his feelings he  must have had suppressed for a long time. As a result, it is a beautifully written masterpiece. ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

Genaro R. Gojo Cruz’s New Children Book

Photo from: Genaro Gojo Cruz’s Facebook account

Genaro R. Gojo Cruz , famous for his best-selling Connecting the Dots: Kung Paano ko Kinulayan ang Aking Buhay, announced on his official Facebook that he will be publishing his new children book, Pwede  Na Po Ba Akong Mag-alaga ng Kuting? in September .  I cannot wait  for it since I have been an avid fan of Genaro. As a matter of fact,  the illustrator of  his said book is the former matinee idol , Hero Angeles.

Although I haven’t read the book yet, we can for sure relate to the story   because it might have something to do with children’s desire to take care of a  kitten- typical of us when we were still young, but as a rule, our parents would be the miscreants for our innocent drama . They always complain that cats could be allergic to us as well as another mouth to feed.  Besides, I would love the story for sure since I am an ailurophile or cat lover.

I have read   some of Genaro’s children books  . I still have been looking for the others, but sometimes they are out of stock. Probably, they must be best-sellers. At this time, I won’t miss the opportunity .

If you  want to read his children books although you are no longer a child, I recommend you read his Connecting the Dots first as I always advise my friends on blog. You can understand why he wrote the stories. But if you want to buy them for your children or  young nephews or nieces, go for it! The books are suitable for the young modern generation.

Here are the books by Genaro Gojo Cruz:

  1. Mahabang-Mahabang-Mahaba ( 4/ 5 stars )
  2. Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas: Mang Tomas and His Jeep
  3. Ang Malaking Kahon ng Sorpresa
  4. Pitong Angel
  5. Ang Batang May Maraming Maraming Bahay( 4/ 5 stars )
  6. Tolits
  7. Anluwagi( 2/ 5 stars )
  8. Ang Bahaghari
  9. Saling Pusa ( 1 / 5 stars )
  10. Ang Aking Photo Album (3/ 5 stars )
  11. Noong Nakaraang Taon ( 2/ 5 stars )
  12. Ang Asul na Kariton
  13. Malaking Malaking Bahay
  14. Ang Kamisetang Dilaw
  15. Si Nanay Mining at ang Tatlong Kuting
  16. Ang Lumang Parador ni  ni Lola ( 3/ 5 stars )
  17. Bunsoy ( 1/ 5 stars )

Enjoy reading, buddies!

Big John: The Life Story of John Gokongwei Jr. : A Book Review

big-john1 I am glad that I have  found such a simple biography   which is supposed to be for children. Somehow I can read   little information on how  John  Gokongwei Jr.  succeeded in life . I still can’t afford to buy his  officially  thick biography; its price can break both of my pockets.

John  Gokongwei Jr. is the owner of Robinsons Malls , one of the largest shopping malls and retail operators  in the Philippines.  He is called the Big John because he owns many kinds of  businesses. He is the owner of Cebu Pacific Airlines, Yes! Magazine, the popular Filipino snacks such as Chippy, Cloud 9, Curls, and even of  the beverages  like C2 Tea  and Great  Taste Coffee. In fact, he is always included  on the list of richest men in the world by Forbes Magazine , ranking behind  Henry SyLucio Tan, Enrique Razon,  and Andrew Tan, another influential business tycoons in the Philippines .*

Despite that it is not a thick children book, it somehow  tells some important timelines for  how he began as a poor child and persevered in getting along in life. Originally, he was not born  as poor as a  church mouse . He grew up in a big house with a fountain and a personal nanny as described in the story .  It   just so happened that his father  had kicked the bucket and eventually lost  his business. To pay the big debt his father had owed,  his mother had to sell the house along with the fountain.  To help his mother, at young age, he was an entrepreneur for   different kinds of products  which he could sell from Cebu, where he grew up, to Manila. And most importantly, the book tells how Gokongwei Jr. showed determination and willingness to work and save money, an attitude which   his brothers and sister adapted. In the end, his siblings and he all worked together until they had reached the acme of their prosperity. Therefore, this book was written to teach children how to be  diligent in order to become rich. ^^

John Gokongwei Jr.  is now 89 years old. He has  now  42 Robinsons  Malls branches nationwide. He is now immortal, notably for the urban legend that one of  his malls is said to have a twin anthropomorphic serpent  brought up on the ground floor of a branch somewhere in Manila. The twin is said to be fed  with a beautiful woman. Until now this legend has still been a mystery. Pooh-bah!

John Gokongwei Jr.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

*Retrieved from :

Happy Na, Gay Pa by Danton Remoto : A Book Review

danton remotoIt is the newly-launched book written by Danton Remoto, one of the staunchly leading LGBT advocates in the Philippines.

Ever since,  I have always been watching   out for his new books to be published . I know he has something newer, wittier , and wackier  he will share with, particularly something  he wants to educate about among narrow-minded people- not to mention the Church and “moralist” politicians.

As usual, his new book has something to do with what is the real life of the LGBT community.  But there is something   new about the book. At this time, it is written with his Filipino prose. At my first glimpse of it, I thought it was  inferior to his other  award-winning books such as Gaydar,  and Bright, Catholic- and Gay which I gave  5  stars and 4 stars respectively.  Besides, I did not like its book cover; it is too jejune in appearance, appealing  only to   young readers. There  may be a pretext in it which  Danton Remoto , along with his publisher , must have intended.

Most of his  essays are autobiographical , have something to do with his life as a student, the time when he was still in the coffin, err closet as he put it. He wrote how he had a hard time coming out in the open to his family, particularly to his father who was fond of him. But it turned out to be  just the other way around; he was accepted as whoever he was as how he is cordially accepted by his circles of friends. Also, he wrote about his past boyfriends and how he managed to make his relationship with them long-lasting. But what I liked about him is his being a prodigious son, an epitome of a smart gay who can be as promising as men and women in society. In fact, he wrote these essays ingeniuosly and in fashion with the taste of the young readers. In other words, he did not forget to blend his prose with the napapanahong  ( timely )  pop culture. That is why I liked it and now I understood why the book cover seems to be  out of mode for me.

Other half of his essays   deals with the  common issues about gays such as how they are discriminated by society, what precautions  they should do when meeting other guys,  how they are asked derogatory   questions and above all what it is like to be gay in 30’s and 40’s  , elaborated by his own experiences .  He also included   a few essays about the typical  gay hobbies  such as reading men’s magazines and watching  beauty contests.  Furthermore, he discussed some literary writers whose works reflected in their being closet gays. ( So the famous writer  Ernest Hemmingway ‘s sexual orientation turned out to be true after all. ) All the rage to each essay is the related-to-the topic pictures inserted at the end of his essays .

As a matter of fact, I have read some  of the aforesaid essays  from his previous books and newspapers articles. He just edited  and translated some  into Filipino prose. Since he is a certified critically acclaimed writer, no doubt he is still good at writing Filipino essays.

I have noticed that when Danton Remoto publishes a newly  gay-themed book, he includes the articles which have been  featured in his previous books. So for an avid reader like me, I  cannot deny the fact that it let me down to some extent. Without his witty style, especially he wrote them in Filipino, I would not have enjoyed it. Thus, I am telling you, if you are gay who tends to cringe at its  book cover and you do not feel its font size , or you  have been an avid fan of his  that you are not used to its new book transformation, forget it. Buy and include it on your book collections, and most importantly , share it with your friends regardless of their sex and religion. This is what Dan Remoto  has always intended to do ever since he realized that he has what it takes to be a knight for the LGBT community. What are you waiting for? Get on with it! The more the merrier as  the title puts it, “ Happy na, Gay ka Pa.”

Congratulations on your  another new book, Professor Danton Remoto.

By the way, when are you going to finish your first novel? As far as I know  , you were supposed to publish it in March this year.  I cannot wait to read it soon.

The book  is 175 pesos and  available at all National Book Store branches nationwide.

Enjoy reading! ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )