Book Review: Dearly Devoted Dexter

The beauty of a book series is being unable to put each part down, and itching to move on to the next. I haven’t run into a series that I couldn’t put down, and I’m grateful. The latest on my completion list is Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series. It’s more known in popular culture from the TV series starring Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, which is what brought me to read the original work in the first place.

Posing with the once newly wrapped book

Followers of the TV series will find themselves in familiar territory with Dearly Devoted Dexter. The TV adaptation is faithful to supporting characters’ developments and personalities, particularly with Dexter’s darling sister Deborah and his ‘arch nemesis’ Sergeant Doakes. But unlike the ‘more human’ version of Dexter on TV, the book’s anti-hero is cold–cold as a cold blooded killer should be. His friendliness, social charms, relationship, et al, are all parts of a disguise–the disguise that his father Harry told him to have so his true nature would not get caught. He is a sociopath with a need to murder, and Lindsay does not back down in executing this trait. Dexter is not a character you’re supposed to sympathize with; he fascinates the reader – readers like me, who at first want to understand this nature, but in the end, stay for the gripping murder mystery.

The second part of the series begins with Dexter dealing with the suspicions of his co-worker, Sergeant Doakes. These suspicions continue from the first book, but grow to a larger scale as Doakes decides to stalk Dexter to observe for any incriminating acts. Dexter, ever vigilant in maintaining his disguise, decides to lie low by living the domesticated life. He visits his girlfriend Rita more often, which leads to an accidental engagement. Along the way, a new serial killer comes to challenge the Miami PD. His sister Deborah is ever determined to catch him, and enlists his brother for an extra hand. The case brings about an unprecedented partnership between Doakes and Dexter, as both need to catch this killer before they find themselves on the murderous end.

Similar to the first book, Dearly Devoted Dexter hooks readers with Dexter’s clever cold-blooded quips and     a layer-after-layer murderer chase. The details are vivid and the characters consistent. Thankfully, unlike the first book, the mystery wasn’t concluded in a rush. It was as if Lindsay was making up for this previous rushed ending, as he made sure all the relevant plot points and solved mysteries were written into the right moments. You also see Dexter ‘grow’ as a ‘person,’ as his seemingly nonexistent sympathetic side goes to Rita’s children and towards pleasing his sister. Rita, Deborah, and Vince Masuka have stronger presences within the plot–a plus for those who enjoyed their roles on the TV show.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read–but not much else. Not that I was expecting mind blogging surrealism or a new insight into my existence. The book’s entertainment value is not to be taken for granted, and definitely makes the hours spent worth the page turning. Fans of the TV series will appreciate the cold contrast between seriously-serial-killer book Dexter and sympathetic-turning-human TV Dexter. Which one do I enjoy reading/watching more? I’ve always said I can’t enjoy a book if I don’t like a character. Lindsay’s books have changed that attitude. I cannot ever like a psycho serial killer–but I can definitely enjoy reading about his twisted pursuits and see if he manages to escape the universe’s moral compass.

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Dedication!

I’m still floating in awe from the interview I did the other day. I can’t reveal much details as to who and for what, but I can discuss the more safe to disclose points that inspired me.

A few things this mysterious business manager revealed:
1. G O Y A! Get of your ass. A helpful piece of advised she learned from a motivational speaker.
2. Upon turning on her Macbook air (was also drooling internally at the sexiness of the piece), she showed that the “first things that my computer feeds me are my goals.” What a way to keep track of your life!

These small but incredibly helpful acts really inspired me “to get my act together.” I write this in pursuit of another goal she inspired during the interview: write in my blog every day or every other day. I’ve chosen the difficult path of a writer, and as I read one day in Tumblr, creativity comes through habit and not sudden dawns of inspiration. So here’s to feeding that inspiration and keeping myself dedicated.

….

An unfortunate thing happened to me yesterday. I woke up at 1am with the most awful pain in my stomach. It was as if my intestines were being pulled in all directions. The most disgusting direction was upwards, which led to several trips to the bathroom. After disposing of the indigestible, my stomach felt slightly relieved but painfully empty. My mother even called my sister for an overseas consult. She put me on a Gatorade and crackers diet that day. After a sleepless and painful early morning, I went to work thinking I could survive a half day time in, but upon arrival, I was already sporting a fever. Thankfully my dad came to pick me up and dropped me off at home. The fever went away with enough rest, a few crackers, and gulps of Gatorade. My stomach is back in fighting form, but I’m keeping it safe by not eating oily foods–the perfect excuse to have sashimi for lunch! I’m looking forward to having some healthy food in the next few weeks. And it’s perfect timing since the coming Holy Week requires a seafood diet for us Catholics. More of a diet really than a sacrifice, as I embrace the deliciousness of fresh fish.

A blog a day keeps the stagnancy away

Today, at an interview for one of our magazines, I was reminded how important it is to write. Also, to read.

With the amount of reading and writing (and editing) my job demands, I have forgotten to sit down and enjoy a good book. But since the interview was scheduled in the morning, I was in no rush to get to Guadalupe (the interview venue was just 20 minutes away!). I was able to enjoy a complete breakfast and finish Jeff Lindsay’s Dearly Devoted Dexter.

Then I was off to meet another wonderful and inspiring person in the photography industry. She reminded why I shifted course and decided to write: meeting people like her is like reading a good book. I’m able to learn stories and nuggets of wisdom only age and experience can give. I wonder why people insist on staying young. Growing old opens more possibilities, letting you take risks and come out with lessons no book or teacher can ever give you. The experiences she had given me made me realize the beauty of age, and how living life with a dream can really inspire. I was again reminded why I love what I do, and the steps I have to take to get farther.

The rest of the day unfolded in smiles and the inevitable stress. Since last week, I have given more responsibilities at work, partly due to my seat mate’s departure and how ‘long’ I’ve been with the company. It’s a burden, should I see it more negatively. But I have to believe in my abilities, and forge on with making the most out of this opportunity. It’s also really awesome the people at work make the burdening parts worth fighting for.

I am looking forward to more days like this. Should the opposite happen, then I shall remember everything I learned and stay hopeful.

Taste Test

I am probably the LEAST ‘visual’ person you’d ever run into. I can describe something well with taste or words, but ask me to draw, paint, or compose a picture? Don’t bother. Just ask anyone who’s attempted to decipher my ‘drawings.’

Frustrated artist woes aside, I realized the age of digital cameras (and working for a digital photography magazine) lets me cheat this lack of talent. I should really use this to my advantage, as the house has been blessed with a Canon point-and-shoot. But for now, in my attempt to be more visual, I shall steal photos from my more equipped friends.

Last Saturday, my college friends and I hit the much talked about Mercato Centrale at the Fort.

Pan de bagnet from Bale Dutung’s booth 😀

Walking into Mercato felt like walking into Fully Booked High Street–I had no idea where to begin! Thankfully, the choice was obvious with Bale Dutung’s booth being the first one we saw at the entrance. I had read of Bale Dutung from Johna‘s Lonely Planet Philippine’s article on Pampanga, and finally, I got to taste its awesomeness without making the trip! Biting into this pork sandwich felt healthfully sinful! I loved the touch of vinagrette, which perfectly complemented the juicy, crispy pork slices. 
The meat fest did not end there. After walking four times around the vicinity, I finally decided on a roast duck meal for a reasonable Php150. The duck was plentiful, with two kinds of sauce included in the meal. The salty taste was rather strong, but bearable and deliciously savory towards the end. Having eaten the pan de bagnet, milk tea, kebab and suso (the local term for snails) before the duck, I needed a little help from my friends to finish it. But then again, isn’t that the point of having a foodie fest? Being able to taste different dishes at one go, letting your mouth explode in decadent flavors?
If I could not go home or had my dad along to drive me back, I would have chowed down on the Paella Negra or some ice cream. For another weekend, I guess. See you next time Mercato! My stomach is already oh-so-hungry for you.
Photos care of Sam Modina

Figuring it out Friday

Forgive me for being vague in this entry. I have this strange superstition that if I set things on a public medium, it would be disproved or made more uncertain the next day.

Jinx? Maybe.

It’s been a strange week. I’ve had to adjust a lot, professionally. The work life has been a lot lonelier, what with my partner/seatmate/shock absorber/editor/fellow writer/travel photographer (nacks!) moving on to the advertising world. The load is heavier, hence the responsibilities have grown and my focus split into three. Three magazines, to be exact. It’s what I’ve been doing technically, for the last nine months, but facing all of them alone has made me realize how much work we’ve been handling.

But I shouldn’t complain. I have a job, a great relationship with my officemates, and enough money to feed myself, buy basic needs, and purchase extra luxuries.

I have been complaining A LOT I’ve noticed. Well, I don’t blame myself sometimes. Had another person been put under the same conditions, then he/she would have little to look forward to. It came to a point when I was just desperate to get out because I felt all that nine months worth of work wasn’t appreciated. Things were simply done to ‘pay the rent’, as the saying goes, and live out of necessity. 

Then I guess the universe was tired of my whining and gave me a little appreciation. I have mixed feelings about this form of ‘appreciation.’ I know it makes me stay, makes the job less about getting through the day and paying for necessities, but I’m just not sure how long enough. I’ve heard positive feedback from telling a few people the news, saying they’re proud and they hope I can do better things with the responsibility. Then there are those who understand that ONE person can only do so much. One person, three magazines, just as I previously indicated. My OC nature and amazing powers with a “:)” in a text can only go so far in pulling things together.

So, for now, I can only hope that the opportunities grow and the challenges I can overcome. I’ll have to tread the waters a little more carefully, but still with that touch that got me there in the first place.

Here’s to a new chapter ahead. And to hoping I won’t be alone in the long run. 

Concrete Jungle vs Cleansed Suburbs

Since February of this year, I’ve been dividing my time between the cities of Manila and Makati and the quieter side of the South in Alabang. Both places have their pros and cons. City life is more expensive, but much more convenient. Convenient in a sense that stores selling basic needs and extra wants are just a ride away. Convenient and expensive since I am able to go out more often and until later times, thanks to my flat’s relatively close distance to places like Makati and BGC (aka Boni High or the Fort. They’ve rebranded with that acronym). For a while, I was hesitant in going out more often, despite the convenience of all these places worth exploring. But events like a batchmate’s sudden death and the devastating earthquake in Japan, made me realize that life is just too short to be way too kuripot (Filipino for ‘stingy’) on such moments. Like my friend Amanda told me a week after the death, “I didn’t even know she was sick. So we have to catch up with each other more often okay?” And she’s right. Here are all these people I live close to, along with these culinary delights, infectious DJ mixes, and other places that are begging to be visited. Each are feats of human intelligence and order, it would be a waste not to enjoy them with people we cherish.

The con of city life is the price of these forms of enjoyments. Living on your own has the perks of being able to move at your own time, but most definitely not within a limitless budget. There are things I’ve had to give up, but I’m blessed to still get a little help from the family. Although I’ll have to work on not getting to overwhelmed with everything that has to be done and the people that have to be seen. Spend wisely, save enough. Balance is forever the key.

Despite the need for balance, city life is busy. It never stops being busy, even at 3am (I wake up to karaoke at midnight, and I’m on the 25th floor). There is overpopulation all over the place, hours of traffic jams, trains stopping at rush hour, speeding cars on pedestrian lanes and strange scents along sidewalks. One cannot enjoy a breeze until night time, but that wind is mixed with the choking smell of smog. I consider the pollution a bigger con than the steep city prices. Which is why I’m always excited to go back to the South.

Down south, the air is cleaner, cars slow down to let people pass, and a calming silence abounds. The energy isn’t non-stop like the city, but it lets one sit back and relax. Back home, I can put my thoughts together without worrying about crossing a street or how long the traffic will last. It’s also where my parents are complete, and where the other half of my friends come home.

But the distinct difference between the city and suburban life was even more pronounced during the passage of Ayala Alabang’s Ordinance 01-2011. At first it was just a laughing matter in the media, then it turned into an ugly collision between people labeled as “anti-life” and “pro-life.” My stand deems me “anti-life.” The division is pronounced in the banners that state “Yes to Life, No to Ordinance 01-11” or “Support Life. Yes to Ordinance 01-11.” As my friend Kristine commented, it felt like walking into another world.And it certainly does, as I’ve been able to observe more banners in the last two days, and was surprised/glad to see residents in yellow at the gate on a Saturday morning. But how long will this last? Kristine’s joke on the banners says it all:  “so considering your stand, you can’t borrow sugar from no one?” The solution is simple: do not implement an ordinance that isn’t legally sound in the first place, and focus the barangay’s energies on more pressing problems (ie drug abuse among the youth residents).

City life may have no street decorum, but I would take its open mindedness any day. Because in the city, anyone is welcome, but it treats everyone equally…bitterly most of the time, especially for those in the more overpopulated areas. And in the crowded streets, there is no room for unnecessary statements supporting a bogus ordinance. Just a life to lead and opportunities to seek.