Fiction Audiobook Review: Red Birds

Red Birds

Red Birds

Fans of the modern classic Catch-22 will be pleased to hear narrator David Bendena’s warm voice deliver this thought-provoking story, which explores the ugliness of war and U.S. meddling overseas. Told from several perspectives, the story kicks off when Major Ellie’s plane crashes in an unknown Middle Eastern desert he is supposed to bomb. Depleted and struggling to survive, he chances upon Momo and his dog, Mutt, and is taken to their camp. There, he becomes entangled in the struggles of people whose lives he is supposed to take. Bendena’s fluid voice and careful pacing bring the characters to life, especially Mutt, who speaks with a swaggering American accent. Bendena’s performance makes this otherwise challenging work interesting. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: AUGUST 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: Haunting Paris

Haunting Paris

Haunting Paris

Narrators Lisa Flanagan and Daniel Oreskes transport listeners to twentieth-century Paris in a haunting audiobook that infuses war and romance with magical realism. It’s 1989, and Sylvie is mourning the death of her husband, Julien. She accidentally finds an envelope that leads her on a search for Julien’s long-lost niece, who may or may not have survived the roundup of Jews in wartime Paris. What she discovers will change her life forever. Flanagan’s voice and tone faithfully capture the melancholy mood of the work. Oreskes, who portrays Julien, further elevates the production with his compelling wistful narration. Even though the narrators’ French accents and vocal characterizations falter, their perfectly paced storytelling brings Nazi-occupied Paris to life. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Young Adult Audiobook Review: We Are All That’s Left

We Are All That’s Left

We Are All That’s Left
Laura Knight Keating and Elisabeth Rodgers skillfully narrate the story of a mother and daughter who are both coping with the aftereffects of political tension, terrorism, and war. Zara’s relationship with her mother, a refugee, has always been discordant. When a terrorist attack in Rhode Island leaves her mother in a coma, Zara loses the chance to fix their strained relationship and must find another way to dig into her painful past before it’s too late. Both Keating and Rodgers are exceptional storytellers who make each scene vivid to the listener. Keating’s voice is silvery, while Rodgers’s is solemn. Together, they make this multigenerational novel about love, loss, and healing from Bosnia and Herzegovina to America even more affecting. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Sci-Fi Audiobook Review: Vessel



Lisa Flanagan and George Newbern’s dual narration underwhelms listeners in this sci-fi thriller. After a disastrous six-year space mission, Catherine Wells makes it back to Earth as the sole survivor onboard Sagittarius I. Without a single recollection of her nearly decade-long space expedition, Catherine doesn’t know what has become of her crew. Meanwhile, Sagittarius II embarks on a similar mission. Catherine must race against time to unlock her memory before it’s too late to warn the new crew of what lies ahead. Newbern’s lighthearted tone contrasts with Flanagan’s compelling one. The work itself is engrossing, but Flanagan is the only one who elevates it further. Those willing to ignore the lapses will be captivated by this sci-fi “fix.” A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
[Published: JUNE 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

How to Withdraw Your PayPal Funds in Real Time and without Fees



You’ve received $100.00 USD from Company X.”

Your face broke into a smile. You rushed to withdraw your PayPal funds to your bank account and realized it’s Saturday today. You felt defeated and demoralized because you can’t withdraw your hard-earned money as cold cash instantly. There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving your PayPal funds but can’t access them instantly because you withdrew them to your Philippine bank account.

Being a freelancer, the ability to access PayPal funds instantly is a life-saver. You are not a full-time employee anymore, and there’s no money waiting for you every two weeks. To receive your payments from clients, you either have to open a PayPal or Payoneer account. But since most clients use PayPal, you’re stuck with its slow process of clearing of funds to your bank account. Now, you’re just tired of how slow the banking system is in the Philippines and you want to speed things up. Luckily, this madness is going to end now.

Gone are the days when you have to wait for two to seven banking days before you can get ahold of your PayPal funds. Gone are those days when you can’t even cash out on holidays and weekends. Now, you can cash out anytime you want!

Here’s how to:

Open a GCash Account

GCash is one of the most innovative apps developed locally. Aside from the ability to send money to friends/family members, it also offers services such as buying load; paying bills; paying merchants with GCash, QR code, or GCash MasterCard; paying international merchants such as Amazon and eBay with the American Express virtual prepaid card; cashing in from variety of establishments; and sending funds to banks in real time with InstaPay. More on that later.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step instructions on how to open a GCash account, then you can find it here.

Take note that you can only do this method if you are a fully-verified user of GCash. That means you may have to snap a photo of one of your government IDs and submit it for approval.

Once registered and fully-verified, you can move on to the next step.

Link GCash to PayPal

On your GCash dashboard, tap on the toggle menu and click “My Linked Accounts.”


Click “PayPal” and type in your PayPal e-mail address. Then, click “Link.”

At this juncture, enter your PayPal login credentials and allow GCash (G-Xchange, Inc.) to access your account. This action will sign you up for preapproved payments plan to G-Xchange, Inc. with PayPal.

Move Funds from PayPal to GCash

At this point, you’re almost ready to withdraw your PayPal funds.

However, there’s one last thing to consider. GCash only accepts funds in PHP. If your PayPal funds are in USD or another currency, you won’t be able to withdraw them. You have to convert them first to PHP. Fortunately, doing so is very easy.

Now with your funds in PHP, click “Cash-in” on your GCash dashboard, tap “Remittance,” and click the PayPal logo.


GCash will show you your available PayPal balance. Enter the amount you need to withdraw (minimum is PHP500) and hit “Next.” Confirm your transaction. Usually when you withdraw funds to local banks, PayPal charges you PHP50 when the amount is less than PHP7000. However, GCash does not charge you anything as withdrawal of funds is completely free. Plus, the transfer happens real-time. You don’t need to wait for two to seven banking days.


There you go! Your funds are now on your GCash account. If you love GCash already and do not wish to cash out your funds, then you can perform the services aforementioned like paying bills, buying load, etc. If you have a GCash MasterCard, then you can withdraw the funds in any ATM. However, this is subjected to PHP20 per withdrawal. Details on how to order a GCash MasterCard can be found here.

You can also cash out your funds to any of these establishments: Villarica, Tambunting, RD Pawnshop, Puregold, Bayad Center, Expresspay, SM, and Robinsons.

Send Your Money to Your Bank Account with InstaPay (Recommended)

If you already have a bank account, then why bother ordering a GCash MasterCard? Why bother going to different establishments and suffer from bureaucracy when an ATM is just nearby?

With the GCash app, you can now transfer funds to your bank account with InstaPay for free!

Just in case you’re missing out, InstaPay is “an electronic fund transfer (EFT) service that allows customers to transfer PHP funds almost instantly between accounts of participating BSP-supervised banks and non-bank e-money issuers in the Philippines. The service is available 24×7, all year round.” There are currently around 30 banks enrolled in this service. Major banks such as BDO, BPI, UnionBank, RCBC, Metro Bank, etc. are included, so you can move your PayPal-GCash funds if you have accounts in these banks. You can read more about InstaPay here.

On your GCash dashboard, tap “Send Money” and then “Send to Bank.” Click on your chosen bank; enter the required fields such as name, account number, and amount; and confirm the transaction.


There you have it! A fast and easy way to access your PayPal funds. Say good-bye to long waiting times and hefty fees.

With the modern advancement in technology, it’s surprising that the Philippine banking system is so sluggish. Each bank has its own universe, and it’s very hard for each to collaborate. In the US, one can encash a check online or through retail stores. Can we say the same to the Philippines? I don’t think so. Thanks to some innovative apps like GCash—our lives become easier.

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t endorse GCash and PayPal. All thoughts and opinions herein are my own and not influenced by the aforementioned companies and/or their affiliates, in any way.

Poetry Audiobook Review: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

In a smooth voice and a measured tone, poet Terrance Hayes delivers 70 of his own sonnets condemning what he calls America’s assassins: racism, violence, and prejudice against black people. In this National Book Award-nominated collection, Hayes unflinchingly criticizes President Trump and decries hate crimes against blacks throughout history. Hayes’s political opinions are augmented by poems paying tribute to radical figures such as James Baldwin and Emily Dickinson. His steady cadence and warm tone blend well with both his politically charged and his tributary sonnets. However, because one title encompasses all of the poems, the audiobook can be challenging for multitasking listeners. Nonetheless, Hayes’s narration elevates this provocative, relevant, and timely collection. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Classics Audiobook Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

Juliet Stevenson provides a compelling narration of Henry James’s story about innocence, social class, and morality. The protagonist, Maisie, struggles to preserve her innocence when her parents divorce and her stepparents commit adultery. Seemingly effortlessly, Stevenson changes her voice to match her characters’ traits: Maisie’s innocent demeanor, her stepfather Sir Claude’s confident poise, her stepmother Ms. Overmore’s patronizing personality, her nanny Mrs. Wix’s didactic disposition, and her parents Ida’s and Beale’s narcissistic attitudes. Stevenson’s pace is slow and steady—in harmony with every moment. However, even with her elegant English accent, her performance is challenged by the author’s long sentences. Overall, though, Stevenson’s pleasant narration makes James’s complex and long-winded novel an auditory treat. A.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: Dawn



Narrators Baris Duyan and Ayse Eldek earnestly deliver 12 stories of love, despair, and hope in conflict-ravaged Turkey. In this debut collection by a Turkish political hostage, Duyan and Eldek recount the everyday lives of people affected by political chaos. Listeners may perceive this audiobook as highly political, but the foreword, narrated by Kate Reading, says that it “is not a political tract. It is a collection of short stories.” Duyan’s voice is warm, and his accent varied in the thought-provoking work “It’s Not What You Think,” among others. Eldek’s Turkish accent adds poignancy to stories such as the titular “Seher,” which translates to “Dawn,” and “As Lonely As History.” A fine narration of a provocative and important listen. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Free the Web: Three Ways to Access Internet for Free and Bypass Corporate Censorship

Access Denied

Access Denied

No Internet, no problem!

Internet has been a big part of our lives and we can’t imagine living without it anymore. From heavy tasks such as doing our work to simple errands like looking up for somewhere to eat, the Internet is to the rescue. In the Philippines, some would have a Wi-Fi connection at their homes. However, most Filipinos subscribe to a data plan in various forms. Even though most of us can definitely afford these data subscriptions, sometimes it can feel very expensive to pay for average services ISPs provide. Looking to save up money from Internet use? Read on.

The Internet connection that we will “take advantage of” here will not magically appear out of nowhere. It will come from the place we spend most of our time in—the office, of course! However, most IT departments of companies have draconian policies on Internet use of their employees. Some do not share the Wi-Fi passwords for your own use and even block mobile devices from connecting to their Wi-Fi network so that you won’t loiter on social media. Most companies also block social media altogether. Well, their policies make sense. They are not paying you to scroll your social media feeds at work or watch the latest Game of Thrones episode.

However, with the changing role of social media at the workplace, it has become vital for companies to use it to promote their business. Let’s say, you want to look up for prospective clients on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but your company’s Wi-Fi doesn’t allow you to do so. Moreover, what if there’s an important industry news that you have to read but your connection doesn’t allow you to go in? Everything is basically blocked. Don’t let antiquated policies hamper you from scoring a possible client and expanding your knowledge!

In this article, I will show you how to access your office’s Internet connection if rigid policies do not allow you to do so. Note that this is for educational purposes only, and I am not encouraging you to do this to download/stream heavy content using your office’s Wi-Fi nor encourage you to loiter on social media while working. To avoid getting fired, use one of these methods for business purposes only. If it can’t be helped, use them during lunch hour breaks.

Mobile Hotspot — Easy


We already know that we can create a mobile hotspot with our phones so that other devices can connect. But what if we can do that on our computer as well? If your work laptop or PC allows installation of programs, you can download OSToto Hotspot to create a portable hotspot.

Upon installation, all you have to do is to key in your preferred SSID as well as password and start broadcasting. Voila! You can now enjoy your own Wi-Fi connection. As usual, connect your personal mobile phone to your hotspot to access Internet for free.

OStoto Hotspot

But what if your work laptop or PC does not allow installation of programs? Thankfully, mobile hotspot has been added as one of the features of Windows 10. If you’re using Microsoft’s flagship OS, just click the balloon on the lower right side of your desktop and hit “Mobile Hotspot.” It will automatically turn on the hotspot for you; you don’t have to do anything! To reveal the password, right-click and hit “Go to Settings.”

Windows 10 Mobile Hotspot

Remember that this hotspot is dependent on your computer’s connection. If your computer’s connection is slow, your newly created hostpot will be slow as well. If social media is blocked on your PC, it will be blocked on your new hostpot as well. If you want unrestricted access to your connection, use a VPN. More on that in the next option.

It is also worth noting that some system administrators disable this feature on your PC. In that case, there’s nothing you can do about it but try other methods.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) — Intermediate


This might be a little complex for you because it might be your first time to encounter this acronym. A VPN is simply a private network that provides anonymity and safety when connecting to the Internet. When you’re using a VPN, all requests that come from your PC go through the VPN first and then to the Internet. Its primary function is to act as a mediator between your PC and the world beyond. Therefore, you’re always protected because your data/activities are not accessed directly. Your IP address will be the same as your VPN’s as well.

Now, how can you use it at the office?

There are a lot of VPN programs available on the Internet. If you do a simple Google search, you will be overwhelmed by a lot of choices. For this purpose, the VPN I will recommend to you is Windscribe because it’s absolutely free and safe. In reality, VPNs are paid programs. You pay by subscription—same thing when you pay for your Spotify or Netflix subscriptions. The best thing about Windscribe is that they give free accounts 50 GB of data allocation per month! I think that’s enough already if you’re just casually browsing. It might even be enough if you’re downloading movies or TV series, too. Other VPNs only offer a paltry 500 MB and some allocate a meager 15 GB per month. I know that this might be overwhelming for you. If you are not committed to pay for a VPN subscription for now, then I suggest that you try Windscribe. Of course if you want to use more than 50 GB per month, you will have to subscribe to one of their plans.

Go to Windscribe’s website and register for an account. The free account will initially give you 10 GB free of data allocation per month but if you help them by tweeting about their product, you will be automatically given an additional 40 GB.

You don’t need to install the software to access Windscribe on your office computer. All you need to do is to download their Chrome extension and login from there. Upon installation of the Chrome extension, key in your account credentials and activate the VPN. Lo and behold, you can now access anything on the Web WITHOUT restrictions.

Windscribe Chrome

Note that if you use the Chrome extension, the VPN only works within your browser. If you happen to use different programs on your office computer (Spotify, Viber, etc.), you won’t be able to use them if they are blocked. Just download the software—if your PC allows you to—and activate the VPN from there. Your whole connection will be protected by the VPN.

Windscribe Desktop

Reverse Tethering for Android (No Root) — Difficult


Now, if you 1) want a faster or direct connection, 2) want a more “clandestine” way of accessing Internet for free, 3) happen to have an operating system lower than Windows 10, then you can use this Android application.

Basically when we tether, our Android phones share Internet connection to our PC. This can be done by either Wi-Fi tethering or USB tethering. But what if it’s the other way around? The PC sharing the connection to our phones? This is the technology behind the Reverse Tethering app. This method is the most complex of all because it requires some programs installed on your PC.

First of all, you have to purchase a pro license to use the Reverse Tethering app on Android. It only costs PHP 305 so it won’t cost you a lot. The free app allows you only 20 minutes of use and then it will disconnect automatically. If you’re not that desperate yet, you can try the free app first before purchasing a license for the pro version.

Reverse Tethering 3

Second, you have to make sure that USB debugging is allowed on your Android phone. If this is your first time doing this, this functionality is available on the “Developer Options” of your Android phone.

Next, install Java Runtime Environment on your work computer. If your PC doesn’t allow installing of new programs, then there are ways around it. You can ask your IT department to install it for you. After all, it’s not a harmful software.

Fourth, make sure that your work computer has the appropriate ADB drivers when your phone is connected via USB. Don’t worry as these drivers are installed automatically when you connect your phone for the first time. However, when things don’t function as usual, identify the ADB driver for your device and install it on your computer.

Then, download a small program on your PC which is found here. It’s the desktop complement of the Reverse Tethering Android app. It’s not exe file so your PC will not probably flag it.

After making sure that all is accounted for, connect your Android phone to your computer using a USB cable. After that, click the RevTet server program on your PC. Wait for a few seconds and then run the app on your Android phone by clicking “Connect.” Bingo! You can now start accessing the Internet for free, “clandestinely” and innovatively.

Reverse Tethering Settings

Reverse Tethering Settings_2

Note that this is also dependent on your Internet connection. If you want to access everything without restriction, run the VPN alongside this method.

Those are proven ways to access the Internet for free right at your desk. Because you know, who doesn’t want free? I’m sure that if your workplace has lenient or even lax Internet and computer policies, you will be able to do one of the methods above.

I used to do the Reverse Tethering trick back when I was at my previous company. It worked all the time. As a heavy Internet user, I think that I saved up some few bucks from Internet use because of this. During break times, I used to access Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, and Duolingo—a proof that these methods work.

When all is said and done, there’s only one method that might or might not work. If you really want unrestricted access to your company’s Wi-Fi, all you have to do is ask. Ask nicely and professionally. Tell them that you need it for a project or a difficult task. Though when they turn a blind eye, you know what to do.

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t endorse OSToto and Reverse Tethering (FD Mobile Inventions). All thoughts and opinions herein are my own and not influenced by the aforementioned companies and/or their affiliates, in any way.

Memoir Audiobook Review: For All of Us, One Today

For All of Us One Today

For All of Us One Today

Poet Richard Blanco discusses important aspects of his life, commenting in particular on being an openly gay Latino immigrant and on having been named an inaugural poet by President Barack Obama. He also talks about struggling to find his place in America as a new immigrant. This short work features four poems, narrated in a haunting tone. “Where did I come from? Where do I belong?” he asks. The works include the 2013 inaugural poem, which, he says, made him feel “like part of America for real” when he read it during Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco’s earnest writing and accessible narration make up for the measured cadence of his delivery. Spanish versions of the poems are read by Eric Pollins. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine