The Near Witch by VE Schwab

Leave it to VE Schwab to come up with a strong female protagonist. Lexi Harris is adventurous, and, in skill and attitude, she takes after her father. I like her spirit, but, as a young person, she doesn’t seem to think of the consequences of her actions. Then again, we wouldn’t have this story if she actually thought things through…

The story is set in a small village, and I like the small-town dynamic. There’s a council of elders with an interesting origin story and a set of folk songs passed on from generation to generation—these are the little things make small towns unique, even if they share general characteristics. Knowing this, of course, something dark lurks nearby. We can’t live somewhere perfect, after all.

So yes, there’s a dark side to the story. And no—it’s not in the form of the mysterious male stranger that arrives in town. It’s more of an eerie type of darkness, one that reminded me of Coraline. I admit that I am quite easy to scare, which is why I avoid horror movies like the plague. But it was only at one point in the book anyway. (I was reading late at night and finally got creeped out, so put the book down and went to sleep instead. I finished the rest of the book in the morning—you know, while the sun was up.)

But my favorite part about The Near Witch is the magic. I loved that the magic is rooted in nature and that there was no need for wands, spells, or incantations. Verdict: I’m all about a nice community story. Yay, yay, I say read this book when you can!

Weekend in San Juan, La Union

A few weeks ago, my siblings and I went to La Union for the weekend. We booked night-time bus tickets from Pasay City to San Juan (and back), arriving at our destination(s) around 3 in the morning. It wasn’t too bad—at least we didn’t have to drive.

Our home base was Charlie’s Hangar, a hostel right by the water. It was my first time staying at a hostel, but I had a good experience there. The bedrooms and bathrooms were regularly cleaned, so my fears of sketchy hostels quickly went away.

They had an open space facing the ocean where they set out bean bags throughout the day. There was also a raised platform from which I watched the sunset. It was the most beautiful view.

We didn’t do much that weekend—not that we had planned any activities. We went to LU to eat and chill, so by my standards, it was a great trip. Here are my LU faves:

Makai Bowls

We were going for a healthy breakfast vibe, and we lucked out that (no one else seemed to be awake yet, so) Makai Bowls had a lot of tables open. Aside from the yummy refreshing food, I loved the interior of the shop. It gave off a relaxing vibe (maybe do a little yoga?), and it wasn’t too noisy (yet), so I was able to read a bit while I was there.

Curious Creatures Taproom

I love myself a good beer. Curious Creatures Taproom was such an unassuming little spot that I would have missed it if it were not for the fact that a friend had recommended this to us. Originally, we went there for their cider, but I fell in love with their beer on tap.

Saboroso

Perhaps I’m biased because I love chicken inasal, but I thought Saboroso was amazing. We had chicken inasal and liempo for dinner, but I didn’t get to take a picture of the liempo. The dishes were simple yet flavorful, and I kind of wish I had eaten more when I was there because here I am back home pining for their inasal.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a three-part letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes of his experience as a black man who grew up in America. He recognizes that although the times have changed (the election of the Barrack Obama), some things, most things, remain the same.

And he tells it like it is. There’s certainly a double standard in society, and, unfortunately, people still judge you by the color of your skin. While this certainly needs to change, this is a fact that people live with.

Between the World and Me was written beautifully. I could visualize the scenes Coates described, and I empathized with him. Minorities have to keep their guard up all the time, even when they are doing nothing wrong, and it is difficult to tell someone who believes that because there have been some progressive movements in history, things are truly different now.

But I didn’t need to read a 150-page book to get the point. I found myself glossing over some pages—what a waste because the writing was beautiful. I felt like an article would have had a similar if not stronger effect on audiences.

Verdict: It’s something I’d recommend people to read, but it’s also not something I need on my shelf. I’m happy to lend my copy out.