Book: Vintage Love

"Vintage Love"

26-year-old Crissy Lopez’s life is in dire need of a makeover. Her wardrobe revolves around ratty shirts and beat-up sneaks; her grueling schedule as a TV Executive leaves no room for a social life; and worst of all, she’s hung up on the Evil Ex who left her five years ago.

When her fashionable grand-aunt passes away and leaves behind a roomful of vintage stuff, the Shy Stylista inside Crissy gradually resurfaces. Soon, she feels like she’s making progress–with a budding lovelife to boot! But the grim ghost of her past catches up with her, threatening to push her back into depression. To finally move on, Crissy learns that walking away is not enough. This time, she needs to take a leap of faith.

If you come to Vintage Love looking for romance, you’d best look elsewhere. The love story told within the pages of this book is paint-by-numbers, and the male characters we are given don’t ever feel like real people. That said, if you do decide not to pick this book up, it’ll be a loss. Because Vintage Love, I feel, is a great love story–about loving one’s self.

I’ve learned to manage my expectations when it comes to local romance novels. Especially since they seem to be restricted to a certain number of pages. You can’t make a love story epic in 147 pages. That’s just the number of pages it takes to fall in love, and to get swept by the romance of it all. By the 147th page, you’re only getting to the meat of a love story: the conflicts. Because unlike other works of fiction where you can get invested in the main character within the first chapter, while you’re building your world and your conflict, love stories have to hook you in first with why you want to root for a certain couple to stay together–

Vintage Love does hook readers quickly, but you don’t root for the love story. Within the first chapter, you want Crissy Lopez to succeed–not at finding love, but at finding herself. Because, unlike in Save the Cake where we are forced to endure the mystery of what happened in the main character’s past, Vintage Love drops you right in the middle of the main character’s passion: film-making. Agay Llanera presents us a strong, independent woman who clearly isn’t happy with her life, but is making everyone else think she is.

Taking out the romance aspect of the book, I’m impressed with Llanera’s structuring of the plot. She makes a different use of death as a plot point, and uses examples instead of dialogue of how close the character is to the dead. The anecdotes and the way the character talks about the dead is a great way of establishing their relatioship without having to do extensive character-building. And while this particular relationship already ended in the first chapter, it clearly defines what happens in the main character’s life going forward.

Now, if we put the romance aspect back into the book, I’m not as impressed with the structure. We don’t get to know the male lead as well as we do Crissy, and it affects my need to root for their relationship. Bottom line: I didn’t care if they get together in the end. This is mostly because, as I mentioned earlier, the male lead doesn’t feel real. He’s not the end goal. He’s a plot device to get our main character to her actual goal: choosing to make herself happy. So when the inevitable relationship conflict happens, near the end of the book, I didn’t really care if the male lead goes. He’s served his purpose.

I can go on and on about what can make Vintage Love work better as a romance novel, but there’s really no need, is there? It’s already a good book. Just as long as you’re not here for the romance.

Book: Backpack, Southeast Asia and China

"Backpack" by Robert AlejandroFreelance graphic designer / artist / TV reporter Robert A. Alejandro travels to Southeast Asia and parts of China. This is his journal of sketches and photos of some of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Here’s how Robert visits these countries BACKPACK style – the most inexpensive and fun way to travel!

I first found out about this book from Artseblis, and I immediately thought it was awesome. And so started my hunt for a copy of the book. Funny thing: I went to far flung branches of Papemelroti and was always told that they’ve run out of copies; until one branch offered to call up other branches to see if they had any copies left. And we found one in the SM North EDSA branch—the one that’s closest to where I live and work.

That was an adventure in itself.

While reading Backpack—or rather, while perusing through the book—I kept thinking about my own travel experiences. I’ve only been to three countries that aren’t the Philippines, and I’ve only actually done to tourist stuff twice. During the last trip I took, to Beijing and Shanghai, I had a small notebook with me where I started detailing things about my trip: interesting things I saw and heard.

Going through Backpack, I thought that maybe I could do the same. Not the sketching, of course, I’m a horrible artist. But I could always supplement it with photos or other knickknacks I’ll find during my travels. I’m going to start a travel journal!

Of course, the problem now is… where do I get the money for travel? I’m not like the book’s author Robert Alejandro. I doubt I can live in hostels and backpacker’s inns. Not that I’m picky with accommodations—just the toilets.

Backpack: Southeast Asia, Parts of China is a fun little book of adventure and trivia. Sure, I could do with more trivia, or more accounts of the author’s travels—but the thing is, I don’t think the book was published with the intent of being a travelogue. It’s a companion, something to take with you when you do go to the countries mentioned in the book. It’s to supplement a person’s travels.

I only bought this book late last year. I haven’t traveled since then. But when I do find myself in Thailand, or Malaysia, or Singapore—I’ll be sure to bring this book along.

Robert Alejandro’s Backpack: Southeast Asia, Parts of China is available in Papemelroti outlets. I’m not sure where else you can find it though.

And check out what other people have said about the book:
Ferdinand Decena