Tears of the Trufflepig by Fernando A. Flores

My sister brought me back Tears of the Trufflepig as pasalubong from when she visited Strand in New York. I’m proud to say that I did not wait more than a year to read this book—only five months. At least now I don’t feel like I missed out loving a book for so long. I’m also glad that it was this book she picked up; let’s face it: this isn’t the kind of book readily available in mainstream bookstores here in Metro Manila.

The story is divided into two (and a half-ish) parts. Part one mainly sets up the stage: sometime in the future, along the border of United States (Texas) and Mexico. The story moved at a slow pace at first, though, to be honest, I still had a little bit of a difficult time following the characters as I was getting to know the world Flores built. After everything sinks in, part two goes by quickly. It’s action-packed with some cringe-worthy scenes here and there. (Or maybe I’m just easily grossed out… Yeah, that could be it.)

While the story is meant to be set in the future (there are border walls in the story already), I felt that the depiction of business and politics in the story is characteristic of today (or it could be). I appreciated the blend of science and rituals; living in the Philippines, it’s not so strange to hear that people still take their sick to the abularyo (witch doctor) even if Metro Manila has hospitals and modern medicine available.

Sprinkled across the pages were Spanish words, sentences, and verses. I liked this touch. Sometimes some thoughts and emotions are best expressed in the language closest to home. (Surprise, surprise, the main character is Mexican-American.) Unfortunately for me, I don’t speak, read, nor write in Spanish, so most of the sentences and verses flew right past my head. I wish there were translations on a footnote or in parentheses, so that I could know the characters’ thoughts and memories and connect with them more. Ah, well. Maybe it’s time to learn Spanish.

Verdict: Loved it. I am already telling my friends to read it. I’m ready to lend my copy out.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Let me start off by saying how much I love having friends who also love reading. I love looking at my friends’ bookshelves whenever I visit their places, and I’ve found that some of my favorite books have been recommendations from friends. Such was the case for The Name of the Wind: I heard about the book from a few of my friends, so I’d been curious about the book for a while. However, I’d never purchased a copy of the book because I had too many unread new books on my shelf, and I couldn’t in good conscience buy another book to add to that pile.

Thankfully, a friend gave me his copy of The Name of the Wind a few weeks ago—good timing, too, because I was in the mood for fantasy. Since I’d only ever heard great things about The Name of the Wind, I was a little scared I wouldn’t love the book. It didn’t help that the book had ~660 pages; its length was a little intimidating. But I need not have worried. I enjoyed the book.

It started off a little slowly for me. I was less than a fifth through the book, and I was already getting anxious that it was just hyped up to me. I was a little confused with the storytelling and wasn’t sure what the story was supposed to be about. (Does this happen to anyone else?) In any case, I read on and finally connected the dots. And then I became a fan.

Essentially, the first few chapters laid the foundation for the rest of the book. Unassuming little details were dropped here and there, ready to pounce and slap the reader in the face with their importance to the story. When those realizations hit, I was hooked. I kept my copy on my bed and read a few chapters before sleeping each night. By the end of the book, 660-ish pages didn’t feel long enough, and I wanted to know more.

Truth be told, the end felt rushed. It’s funny to think that a book of that length could possibly be rushed, but the end was so abrupt that I felt a little cheated when I reached the last page. Clearly the book was meant to be part of a series, and I was a little disappointed by that. To me, books should be able to stand alone whether or not they are part of a series, and I did not feel this was the case for The Name of the Wind.

Regardless, I still want to know what happens next. I already have a copy of The Wise Man’s Fear (my friend was feeling generous with his old copies), and it’s another long one. I have a feeling it will also feel incomplete to me, but I bet I will enjoy it as much as I did the first. I am itching to know how things turn out, and I’m incredibly disappointed that the final book has not yet even been published. I do hope Rothfuss publishes soon—preferably by the time I finish the second book, but that doesn’t seem likely at this time.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

This one is another book from the pile of unread books I’d accumulated over the years. I bought Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries in New York back in 2017 and finally read this at the end of 2019. So here’s a familiar sounding remark about my latest read: I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. (I am currently on a book-buying ban—I make exceptions here and there, particularly for nonfiction—so I can focus on reading the books I already have.)

Reading this was fun. Like the dictionary, it wasn’t instructive (or meant to be); it was descriptive. I wasn’t expecting to bookmark anything on this book, but there were some anecdotes that jived with my humor that I wanted to make sure I could easily find them in the future. Here are two fun pages: 133 and 199—check them out.

Perhaps another reason I am partial to this book is that I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I also used to have very strong opinions about grammar, but I eventually grew to appreciate how language evolves and with it its words and grammar. (Although I have finally accepted the existence of “irregardless,” I still avoid using it like the plague.) It was interesting to read about how the evolution of a word’s definition is captured by lexicographers. In a way, they’re historians.

Something that took me by surprise was that people actually take the time to write to dictionary editors to express their opinions. Wow, people read the dictionary? As it turns out, the answer is yes, and these people’s opinions must be heard. Even lexicographers must read and address angry emails. Imagine that. But there were some friendly neighborhood emails, too (there were a bunch of interesting comments about “irregardless”). As with every industry, there are a handful of thoughtful people that write in out of goodwill. (To these people—thank you. Your words are always a breath of fresh air.)

Finally, there was something about Kory Stamper’s writing style that captured my heart. I found it quite charming, as if I was reading a fairy tale or something. Everything flowed so well that I found myself reading through the night, and let me emphasize that this is the only nonfiction book (by far) that I have chosen to read over sleep. I enjoyed it that much. Eventually sleep got in the way, but don’t let that invalidate my praise.