Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: Behemoth

Re-imagined stories have always arrested my attention—a bunch of retold fairytales, revamped legends, or alternate histories have become surprisingly refreshing all because modern authors discovered new formulas to put a wild spin on them. In my book, writers who can create new masterpieces with just the use of old material and excellent storytelling strategies receive two thumbs up. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan takes the cake in my list of alternate histories, and so when I got my hands on its sequel, Behemoth, I’m really hoping that it will meet my high expectations set by Leviathan. And it did.



Behemoth picks up where Leviathan left off: World War I is brewing, and the Darwinist airship Leviathan is heading towards Constantinople (Istanbul) to finally deliver Dr. Nora Barlow’s cargo to the Sultan. Our main characters still struggle to protect their own identities from the world: Deryn/Dylan Sharp, a young and courageous girl posing as a boy in the British Air Force, tries hard to keep her male façade, which is slowly disintegrating; Aleksandar Ferdinand, son of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Princess Sophie Chotek, poses as a commoner as he is still on the run from the Germans who want to kill him. When the ship’s peacekeeping mission goes awry, Deryn takes a perilous mission to bring the Behemoth— the newest kraken-like beastie that the Darwinists created to bring triumph to the British camp—through the Dardanelles strait. Alek, meanwhile, escapes the airship after knowing that he and his men will be treated as prisoners of war after proven worthless. In Istanbul he bumps into and joins a paramilitary group with an aim to overthrow the incumbent Sultan. Deryn and Alek reunite in the City, and together they try to bring the war to a halt.

Once again, I’d like to commend Westerfeld’s skill in world-building. From a plunge into the Dardanelles to a frolic around the lively streets of Istanbul, Westerfeld effortlessly creates an intricate world that the readers can readily be drawn into. His descriptive prose is never flowery, but a concrete image of the setting would pop out immediately after you’ve read the words. Istanbul comes alive before your eyes, vividly festooned with a hodgepodge of different cultures and carefully strewn with new interesting characters.  The steampunk technologies and Darwinist creations introduced are pretty awe-inspiring too: the elephantine Dauntless, the turtle-legged Clanker bed, the goddess walker Sahmeran, the fearsome barnacles, the cute and shrewd Bovril, and of course, the enormous Behemoth. Like in Leviathan, you flip through a few pages of this and you’ll finally feel like you belong in this history.

As for the characters, there is a lot of growing up that happened. Deryn proves to be worthy of the trophy as my favorite character, with all her flaws finally becoming clearer—a remarkable percentage of it caused by her hormones alone. For a very tomboyish lassie she seems to be a little too girly when it comes to her puppy love sort of feelings for Alek, which has developed after an awkard, brotherly hug back in Leviathan. Be that as it may, she’s still the tough girl that we see in the prequel. Alek on the other hand doesn’t think about his love life at all; he is set to bring peace to Europe and Asia as soon as possible. I like Alek’s new attitude—it’s like he’s writing his own bildungsroman, and he knows it. What I’m a little peeved and amused about is Alek’s blind faith in the Providence. I hope this--and something more about religion--will be addressed further in the third installment. All in all, both the characters are slowly being emotionally attaching to the readers, though more fleshing out (at least in Alek's case) wouldn't hurt.

The pace is as always fast and action-filled, though I think people who don’t like anything much about mechas (of the steampunk sort especially) would find the action scenes a little dragging. I’ve read about them before so I enjoyed every battle scene—my favorite would have to be when the Committee and our duo try to bring down the gigantic Tesla cannon that’s about to annihilate the Leviathan. Everything is just made of awesome. :3 (Whoops, I fell in a fangirly pit! Sorry!)

I’d be patiently waiting for the third installment, Goliath.

PS: How could I forget the cool illustrations of Keith Thompson? They are as beautiful and intricate as the ones in Leviathan, and they make me more engaged in reading. :3

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Zombies Vs. Unicorns (Round One)

ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS ROUND ONE!
Story Reviews for Nix and Johnson
from Zombies Vs. Unicorns Anthology 


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The Highest Justice
by Garth Nix  


Flipping the first pages of this anthology brought nostalgia in the air—Garth Nix, one of my favorite fantasy writers, is the first to tell a story supposedly for Holly Black’s side. But I refuse to consider “The Highest Justice” defending Team Unicorns since it contains both a unicorn and a zombie, which in my opinion breaks the rules. Anyway, I think this is an enthralling opener for the collection and I instantly felt the same magic Nix’s pen always does in world-building—I felt like being transported back to his other worlds, particularly the medieval-esque Old Kingdom (which kind of made me miss the early 20th century Ancelstierre, the city that is put in juxtaposition with it). There’s some sort of unconventional necromancy involved so it isn’t that hard to connect it to Sabriel.

“The Highest Justice” is the story of a grief-stricken princess who brings her dead Queen mother back to life—zombify is the correct term—with an aid of a unicorn. She seeks for justice, knowing that her mother is poisoned by the latest mistress of her womanizing father.

This is a rather old tale, at least something with an ending that you would’ve expected from the start. Be that as it may, I liked it because it felt so…inspired, and is utterly poignant. There’s also this little trick that Nix always used, one that I personally call the “teensy jot of romance”. Nix writes YA, but he doesn’t bask entirely in romance; he provides little teasing bits of it, and he would let the readers decide if there’s going to happen to that little spark or it will simply die out in the end. A definitely good read!
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Love Will Tear Us Apart
by Alaya Dawn Johnson 


I know that gushing is not appropriate here unless I want to make this a faux review, but whatever! I loved this story so much it isn’t even funny. I was a bit unconvinced that this zombie story will click with my taste when I read the introductory post—Justine Larbalestier said bluntly that this is unique, because the next author had created a breed of zombies that can fall in love. After that, I was like rolling my eyes and shrugging, muttering something about the insane idea of brainless shambling creatures having emotions--but I want to go on with it anyway because it has been ages since I read a proper zombie tale. And you know what? I read the first paragraph and knew in an instant that I’m a goner.

Initially, I was fairly astonished. From Garth Nix’s familiarly tranquil flow of storytelling, I was catapulted—without any warning—into a crassly comedic writing of Alaya Dawn Johnson…and I liked it. It’s so contrasting, how they treat both their stories, and it almost felt I was trying a couple of gourmet dishes from different countries.

Speaking of food analogies, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is chock-full of them. The story is told from the point of view of Grayson, a homosexual boy infected with ZSE (Zombie Spongiform Encephalopathy), a rare disease akin to MCD that makes him want to eat humans. I got excited when I read that part—Larbalestier wasn’t kidding when she said this isn’t about the voudin-possessed or the Romero flick zombies! It's refreshing to know that there’s a science fiction-ish element being involved, making Grayson more like a half-zombie of some sort.

Grayson is extremely fond of the sexually (and gustatorily) attractive lacrosse player and son of ex-CIA agent, Jack. The rather complicated harmony of their friendship is sent haywire when Jack sets off reluctantly to kill Grayson. This is a rollercoaster ride of sarcasm, love, hatred and lust, accompanied by a head-bopping soundtrack that you’d truly appreciate if you’re a music lover.

The story felt like a novella for me, and it helps that it is actually divided into mini-chapters—some of which contains Grayson’s flashbacks or just some funny asides. Admittedly, some of these felt like commercials, killing the build-up of the story for a while and then throwing you back to it without any caution (a zombifying technique of storytelling, anyone?). Nevertheless, the story is still amazing for me. Johnson managed to create characters that the readers would care about in just a few pages.

An amazing read! :D
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MY VERDICT:
Team Unicorns- 0
Team Zombies- 1

Note: because, again, I don't consider Nix's story to be defending Team Unicorns, and the Queen zombie in his tale is creepily remarkable too. :) I love both the stories above. :P
SEE YOU IN ROUND TWO!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I am not Peter Pan

That's what I have to tell myself repeatedly. I grow up, and so does everyone.

I'm not the only one who felt this way when the Christmas season tumbled on our busy paths, dropping there like a small blockade to make us stop--to make the whirlwinds of activities that make us forget stop--and to make us ponder. We're old now, and the simplest things that used to paint smile on our faces when we were just wee things can't do their magic anymore. These are the thoughts that I ploughed out of my in-denial-brain after reading this post by a friend.

I took walks when I'm upset or when I need to think, usually during the early evening. Once, during one of these walks, I watched lively little children singing their hearts out in front of a small house, clanging their bottle cap-tambourines and hitting their spoons and forks together. Through their out-of-tune carols and unintelligible lyrics, you will see in their smiles that they're happy. Just a couple of coins, just a single toy or candy can make them giggle. You'll see it in their eyes. You'll see in them who you once were several years ago, where all the works and all the burdens you are bearing on your shoulders right now are non-existent.

And then I shook my head and chided myself: what the heck am I thinking? That I wish I'm in some kind of Neverland, that I wish I'm a kin of Peter Pan and I'll stay young forever? Screw this Dorian Gray Syndrome-y moment. I don't need this.

Not when I have a lot of responsibilities to perform, not when my to-do list is mile-long. Actually, not ever.

It's okay to reminisce the Christmases we spent as children, and I think so does wishing to be a kid again. After all, what we want is a few minutes of escape from the tedious and tiring world of adulthood. Away from the editing stuff, away from the unfinished thesis, away from all the brain-cracking problems that surround us when we wake up and go on with our lives.

But then we  resurface to our Now, and just chuckle and shake our heads because daydreaming time is over, and we had our share of escape already by just thinking about it.

When I was a kid I didn't believe that Christmas is just for children. Now that I'm a grown up, I still don't think Christmas is just for children.

Sure, we are not as easily pleased as before, but that doesn't mean we cannot enjoy our Christmases too. Today--wait, it's the twenty-sixth already--so yesterday, I found myself smiling at my throng of noisy nephews and nieces as they receive their aguinaldos and gifts from their godmoms and goddads. I found myself smiling at the complete home I have, with everyone inside busy preparing the food on the table. I found myself smiling because after all the toilsome months, here we are still, celebrating a special day together.

Christmas isn't just for kids--it's for everyone, and it's especially for Jesus Christ. Here's what I believe, in the words of Eric Sevareid: "Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No time for dilly-dallying

Unlike my Christmas vacations for the past few years, this year's wouldn't be much of a time for rest and dilly-dallying. We've got the Imaginaccion literary folio to work on, a few projects and assignments to finish (i.e. the miniature stage and love story scripts for our drama elective, reports in our minors JPL and Rizal, etc), and a bunch of books to read. Just thinking about the works to be done makes me feel the vacation is way too short. Classes will resume on January 3, which is made of fail if you think about it--so early! :( But we have no choice. Double time! }:(

I'm still not done with my Imaginaccion contributions, yet I dedicated this day to a lot of rest and sleep. I desperately needed to have a few hours in dreamland to restore the energy I've lost during the final Hell week for prelims. I'm feel a bit recharged now. Work work work!

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The photo above describes my life for a string of sleepless nights after the literary contest. The illustrations are  supposed to be for the inside cover of the Imaginaccion, but I have to repeat them because our graphics and layout artist had a new idea. :/ Anyway, having books near me like Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld is totally inspiring me, though sometimes they act like some sort of a double-edged sword. Sometimes I pick them up while I'm working, studying the illustrations....then after a few minutes I'll find myself continuing the novel. The work? Forever unfinished. Hahaha!

Oh well. I have to finish them by Monday because our G&L artist is going to lay out everything by then. I hope everything goes well. We're considering transferring from our current publishing house to Sir Eros Atalia's, which seems to be made of awesome. :D

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: Leviathan

The Great War of 1914: Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Princess Sophie Chotek were assassinated in Sarajevo, throwing the world in chaos—Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. But don’t yawn yet—this isn’t the same ho-hum story we students are required to read in our history books. Science fiction author Scott Westerfeld took this little chunk of World War I, threw it in a cauldron with juicy tidbits of steampunk, fantasy, and young adult literature, and let it bubble until the magic that was the Leviathan was born.



Leviathan kicks off at the cusp of the war between the Clankers (Central Powers), countries that use monstrous steam-powered machineries in battle; and the Darwinists (Entente Powers), countries that use creatures genetically engineered for combat. The main story revolves around two teenagers. Aleksandar Ferdinand runs away from the Germans who killed his parents, leaving Hapsburg with nothing but a battered Stormwalker and a crew of loyal men. Deryn Sharp, a Scottish girl, disguises as a boy to be accepted in the British Air Force. After a series of mishaps and misadventures, they cross paths and set off in a bigger voyage aboard the airship Leviathan, changing both their lives forever.

One thing that’s hard not to notice about Westerfeld is that he’s an amazing world-builder. In his Uglies series, the readers are taken into a post-scarcity dystopian realm and are introduced to wondrous technologies, i.e. the techno-version of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak (the sneak suits) or the floating skateboards we’ve loved from the Back to Future flicks (the hoverboards). Now, in Leviathan, he takes the readers to a breathtaking ride to a believable setting in the past, where eight-legged frigates and traveling ecosystems are part of the norm. The world just unfolds magically under his pen—everything is alive! That’s plus points in my book.

Leviathan is more plot-driven than character-driven, what with the historical bits that served as its main backbone. Its fast pace will keep you turning pages, and you’ll hunger for more development about the characters and their relationships. The characters need more fleshing out, but I think that’ll be left to the sequels; this is, after all, the “launching” point of the whole trilogy so the stage must be set properly before the actors can get in fully. Anyway, Deryn/Dylan is a rather likable heroine—she’s Mulan-ish, considering her daddy issues and her boy-disguise story—and she’s so far my favorite. About Prince Aleksandar, let’s see what he’ll be in the sequels. I can’t feel him that much, and that’s saying something because I’m supposed to at least empathize with him, being orphaned and all.

This is an astonishingly cool read. I half-expected it to be boring, since Uglies has its own dry moments and this book has historical basis. Westerfeld proved me wrong. XD I’m engrossed from the very first page. As I’ve said in my previous posts, I recommend this to people who don’t mind reading YA novels with small romance—anyone out there whose cup of tea is historical fiction will enjoy this. Anyway, for consolation, I’m seeing lots of puppy love hints in the sequel Behemoth, which I’ve started a couple of days ago. You romantic bookworms might enjoy this after all, but don’t expect too much.

PS: The story is enhanced by the Victorian manga-style illustrations of Keith Thompson. You wouldn’t regret buying this book for those precious pages—they make the reading experience more enjoyable!

The few words that made my day..or WEEK. :)

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Keith Thompson, artist of all the wonderful sketches in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and Behemoth, replied to my email and said he loves my blog (this tumblelog—which is full of childish doodles, hundred thousand notches below the caliber of his drawings).

LOL, I emailed while I was in a fangirl frenzy after leafing through his illustrations in Behemoth, and I didn’t expect him to answer or anything. It seems like not a very big deal, but I sort of need inspiration now—have to make illustrations for our literary folio. THIS is indeed an inspiration.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Victorian Manga: K.Thompson's Masterpieces

Traipsing around sci-fi author Scott Westerfeld's head is already a fun roller coaster ride in itself--the only requirement is good, wide imagination to bring his marvelous worlds to life. His groundbreaking Uglies series worked for me that way. Now, I was catapulted from the post-scarcity dystopian world of Uglies into the steampunk world of Leviathan in 1914, just on the cusp of World War I. I know that Leviathan can work like how the Uglies worked for me...my passport to new pretty town, after all, is just my creativity. But then there appeared several charcoal sketches as I go on with the novel, and I thought excitedly: "a boon for the hungry eyes and the tired mind! Just exactly what I need!"

They're very awe-inspiring, so intricate and yet so clean. I read somewhere before that Thompson's style is called "victorian manga". I think it's a perfect term for the illustrations: there's the blending of the old fashioned victorian style and that of modern Japanese anime drawings (minus the big puppy eyes and all)--very much like the concept of a steampunk story--blending the future and the past. Sometimes I study the illustrations, imagining how carefully Thompson must have been. Most of the time, though, I find myself stuck, not turning the pages and adoring the creative outputs as long as possible.

And because I consider myself one of Thompson's fangirls now, there's no harm in giving him a space in my blog. Here are some of his works from the books Leviathan and Behemoth:


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I'll be rewarded with more Thompson drawings when the third book in the series, Goliath, is released. Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

*breathe*

For me, the worst thing that I'll ever have in my bed is this thing:

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Sleeping with it by your side, waking up and it's the first thing you see... Sigh. I don't hate it--in fact it has been my "best friend" for almost a week now, and I know I'm good as dead without it by my side. Every 2 to 3 hours I need to face it, savor the bitterness also known as "dinikdik-na-paracetamol" taste of Combivent, and ignore the numbing feeling it leaves in my limbs (Marc: wag ka mag-alala, side effects lang yan, natry ko yan). What I hate is that it reminds me of the thing I really hate: asthma.

That traitor illness who comes when you least expect it. Or in times where I really need to stay up late because of school stuff, or in times when I really need to WORK and WORK. Hello, Imagi? :(

Sorry. Just escaped from bed because I need to pour this all out.
Will rest now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bubblewrap

My muse had been avoiding me since I learned of the first topic in our school paper’s “weekly blog project”. Not that I need a muse of any sort for the first topic—all I need to do is rummage in the drawers of the “Memorable Life Experiences So Far” cabinet in my head and look under the “scary ones” section. Unfortunately, there isn’t a section of that kind.

So what do I talk about? I have my own share of so-called ‘ghost stories’. Doppelgangers, perfume or candle scent defusing in the air, white figures darting along my peripheral vision…or that time when I’m home alone and typing away at my laptop and then I heard rustling pages behind me, like someone is reading…or that time when I heard my alarm clock going off when it hasn’t any battery. I do have them, but I’m not extremely creeped out by them—I just always shrug and dismiss them either as products of my hyperactive imagination.
Anyway, who said a “creepy” moment always has to deal with paranormal abnormalities (ahaha)? It can be associated with..some other disabilities too.

I’m not a very healthy person, especially back in high school. For a hobbit-sized creature like me, three illnesses is a tad too many—and the bottles of capsules and tablets and the inhalers and nebulizer are just…well, too much. Back during those times, I feel like a very fragile thing that may break into million pieces at the slightest pressure. I’m in need of some kind of a bubblewrap, and I find it in whispered prayers and poetry.

But what the doctor told my mother one afternoon we went for a checkup really scared the hell out of me. He said—my mom said he said—that I may go blind because of meds overdose or something along that line. I didn’t zero in so much about the cause--meds, or previous illness or somehting--because the only thing that I can focus on is what is going to happen to me:

I’ll go blind.

No words in the dictionary can rightly explain how terrified I was back then, and I cried for some time. All that I ever think about is: I'll go blind and I won’t be able to enjoy reading books ever again. Never will I be able to draw or paint again. Never will I be normally typing away at my laptop making stories and poems. Never will I see the stars and the moon, my favorite objects in the sky. Never will I see the whole earth itself--or what's left of it. It’s still beautiful for me anyway, and my failing eyesight will not be able to witness it until I breathed my last. It’s like my whole world is revolving around the things I see…and taking away my sight is like taking the world from me. It’s so depressing I almost lost hope—I didn’t sleep for nights for the fear of waking up and not seeing sunshine anymore.

And then suddenly, the real sunshine fell on face: have I forgotten about my bubblewrap? The prayers? How could I.

So I prayed to God, and I wore glasses and visited other ophthalmologists and doctors. The whole thing was a painfully expensive process, but my parents will do anything for me. So I did what they told me: stop being a wuss and believe I can pass this.

And pass this I did. I can still see while I’m typing this.

This may not be the best ‘creepy’ story out there, especially that it’s nothing paranormal. I cannot say it’s not haunting me anymore, because there are mornings when I freak out because my eyesight dims for a while, then go back to normal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Extras

Think of an ultramodern city where everything that matters is fame and reputation. Think about a society where everyone can be “kickers” or journalists, where everyone can be “tech-heads” or inventors, where everyone can be “surge-monkeys” and undergo as many surgeries as they can in the name of fashion. Think of a city swathed in big futuristic bubble, eyed 24/7 by a mechanical Big Brother.

Sounds like the world just became a blown-up version of American Idol, eh?



Extras, the fourth installment in the Uglies trilogy-plus-one, kicks off with this new setting and a couple of new plot devices, blowing my mind completely. Our protagonist this time is a wee bit like our Ugly-verse Tally Youngblood: just a confused, fame-hungry fifteen-year-old Japanese girl named Aya Fuse. She’s more than determined to gain celebrity status and her way to do this is to follow her brother's steps: be a kicker. With the help of her hovercam (a floating camera the size of a halved soccer ball, programmed with some kind of Artificial Intelligence—for some weird reason I’m thinking of the Haro thingy from Gundam Seed), Aya records everything, hoping to “kick” an incredible story that can boost her face rank to the top one thousand. After a string of mixed adventures and misadventures, Aya finally stumbles upon a terrible secret, one that involves not only her future but also that of the whole world.

From the introduction of the “reputation economy” in modern Japan, you’ll easily get that Westerfeld has weaved a satire of sorts about our society today, which is obsessed with popularity shows and such. More importantly, the author shows us what will happen if everyone is equally given a chance to determine his individual value—in ranks—by excessive media exposure. I enjoyed this book immensely because as a journalist-in-training myself, it made me think more about media theories, the ethical dilemmas of citizen journalism and the same old arguments behind “bad” and “good” publicity. It's as if I was handed another case study, only this time I had extreme fun analyzing it.

I didn't ponder much about the new set of characters. In my honest opinion, they're not three-dimensional at all. I had trouble imagining them as real people in the beginning--seriously, how do you picture a person with "manga eyes" surge without initially thinking of him as an anime? Or a girl with a friendly hovercam without imagining her as Lacus Clyne (ALL RIGHT, maybe it's just the anime addict in me but still...)? They're almost like cardboard cutouts to me. I adjusted as the story progresses though, when I'm introduced to the characters' own quirks and imperfections. But like I said, there's not much time to develop them fully--the pace is quick as always. This time around Westerfeld really focused on the plot, and for that, I'm letting him off the hook (LOL). For the record, this is the first time I commend a book with not-so-developed characters--most of the books I really like have characters that propel the story into unfolding its glory. Well, you always have an exception. :)

A story of truth-slanting, betrayal, friendship, bravery, and human nature, Extras is one of the few young adult novels that is more than just what it seems. There was an anticlimactic element lodged near the ending (something I still consider awe-inspiring because it reminds me of one of my favorite mecha series, Gundam Wing), but the final chapter gives way to a more hopeful future for humanity.

I’m recommending this. :D

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Confessions of a Bookworm (at Tumblr)

Because I can't actually finish a meme someone else made at Tumblr, I decided to start my own. Haha. There are still only three confessions at the moment, but I'm quite enjoying it. :)

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This is so true. I always feel the need to bubblewrap my book-nerd heart whenever I get attached to a certain fictional character, especially when I know they're going to be hurt. I make all sorts of reactions when they're getting in trouble, when they just avoided a brush with death, or even when they're just contemplating about something. Being the only bookworm at home, all my family members think it's a rather amusing/adorable quirk of mine. Sometimes, though, I catch them throwing confused glances at my direction, their faces flashing why-the-heck-is-she-crying-now-she's-just-laughing-about-fifteen-minutes-ago expressions. Not that I can blame them...but still, I wish I can bring them to see the world these books are showing me. If only they're willing. *snorts*

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This is not the first time I wish there are more than 24 hours a day. Or that I have eight arms. Or four eyes. Not that I want to be a genetic freak or anything; it's just...a bookworm thing. *shrugs*. Having said that, books are not my whole life contrary to what many people believe. However, it is true that I don't think I can survive a day without reading even ten pages of a book. I'm serious. No matter how busy I am, I make it a point to squeeze even a thirty-minute time for a novel. It has become a necessity. I miss the days when I can sit or lie whole day, losing myself in a fictional world, but other important things tug at my attention. :/

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You can't get a plane ticket to Narnia (or kick open your wardrobe and pretend you're being sucked in a new world without feeling like a childish bubblehead), but you can sure get yourself comfy, grab some books, a mug of hot chocolate, and set your imagination in action. That's enough to get you wherever you want. No one can stop you from going to places one paragraph at a time, if you just do it the right way. Books can bring you anywhere, whether that certain place exists in the real world or not--they're your cheapest passport. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fic Fragment: Heels over Haloes

Note: this is only a fragment of a literary piece I submitted to The Sentinel last year, about a boy who can see auras :). I blew up the drabble-ish piece into short story size, then picked up this part. It's inspired by a real-life banter between me and a friend.

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“You should have at least brought an umbrella with you,” he said in greeting. “The sun can toast you alive.”

He chuckled when she gave him a mind-your-own-business glower. He shaded his eyes with the cup of his left hand, wondering how long she had been staying there. Beads of sweat glittered on her brow and her cheeks were suffused with a raw flush resembling the shade of her aura, but she did not look irritated or anything. She was too absorbed in sketching. He heaved a sigh and looked over the busy city.

“Sometimes I wonder what cities would be like if they were women,” he mused out loud. “I think Manila would be an intelligent but very exhausted mother, too exhausted to even notice she’s finally growing gray hair. Makati would be an elegant chick, probably having obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but that fact would be overlapped by the swing of her hips and her smooth, mile-long legs. Quezon would be the party girl, overly friendly and talkative and skimpily dressed. Caloocan…well, I’ve never been there, but based from what I heard, she’d be an obnoxious little girl. She’d haughtily try to be independent, but she couldn’t at the moment. She’d be a creature that a mother Manila would like to take care of.”

Of course, he did his research. He found out she was staying in Caloocan. Helena seemed to be aware of this. She looked up from her drawings and rolled her eyes. “There you go,” she said, feigning disinterest. “Do I need to remind you that I just met you the other night, Mr. Darcy? What do they always say---it’s just my name that you know, not my story.”

“I’m glad that you remembered my name, but it’s Caloocan that I described, not you,” he said calmly. “I figure that’s the kind of environment you’ll grow up in.”

She tossed a handful of hair behind her shoulder. “Don’t play your game with me and please, please stop reading Austen books. I guess you’re being too involved with them to a point that you’re introducing yourself as a fictional character.”

His head was thrown back with the force of his laugher. “You know, I told my mother almost the same thing when I finally got to read Pride and Prejudice. I said in jest that I’ll try not to hold a grudge against her when she named me after that Fitzwilliam Darcy. I don’t even like the character.”

He spied a ghost of a smile on her lips, but it did not develop into a full one. Not allowing the silence to stretch, he asked, “have you ever wondered what you would be like if you were a city?”

“Caloocan-ish?” she guessed mockingly.

“No. You’ll be like a very noisy city: all jeepneys and cabs caught in a traffic jam would be blowing their horns. What? Why are you glaring at me? That’s even so subtle, I would’ve said there were machine guns in the city hall just to describe how extremely harsh your mouth works. Hmm.  The houses would be huge and grotesque, masterpieces of one joke of an architect. There would be fleabags scampering after mice around the darkest alleys; large dogs would be chasing robbers and serial killers in the middle of the night. You'll be a city of your own, a city like no other. Helena City.”

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Specials

It's the classic mind-versus-heart tale with a rather high-tech twist.



After being captured again at the end of Pretties, Tally Youngblood has undergone another operation—this time she’s molded as a frighteningly beautiful cyborg-like creature called a Special. Her senses are razor-sharp, her muscles stocked with self-repairing microfilaments, her skeleton now as light and indestructible as aircraft ceramics, and most importantly, her brain functions to think she’s better than everyone else. She’s enlisted as a member of the Special Circumstance, the secret police force of the city programmed to keep the Uglies from doing out-of-hand capers and make the Pretties remain as the bubbleheads that they are. Her body is now set to preserve the world from destruction. But her humanity lives within her: there’s always a faint heartbeat from the past that keeps on pulsating its way to her present, driving her Special senses haywire. With the rebellion quickly spreading, Tally must choose what to follow: her brain engineered by the authorities, or her past memories that make her feel like a walking dichotomy. Whatever her decision will be, it will affect the new future that is just starting to rise…

Specials is a special book to me (lame pun not intended) because even if there are so many parts that I’m a tad unsatisfied with, it still made me love the entire Uglies series. I’m expecting it to be a mixed bag based on the reviews I’ve heard, and I proved it to myself when I ripped it open. I’ve given it a fair amount of thumbs up and head shakes.

So to start with the good points: the pacing is quick as always, the pages jam-packed with action and suspense. There’s less fluff here compared to the first two books, mainly because Tally’s got a dangerous job now and there’s a rebellion looming in the horizon. I love how the main characters are so flawed. In the first two books, Specials are thought as perfectly beautiful fighting machines, but Tally as one of them is still full of the same foibles that she has even as an ugly. It’s worse actually, considering that she was torn between what her system wants and what her heart whispers.

Westerfeld is a master at world-building—in a book that’s intended for young readers, at least. He makes the reader feel at home in the modern world he weaved. One subtle way he used to do this is the ‘pretty-speak’. The shallow conversations and vocabulary can be so annoying sometimes but it still separates the readers’ world from the Uglies universe; over time the reader can get used to it. The author also knows how it must feel like for a Rusty—obviously the reader—to read about the possible cause of his extinction and the existence of a society like the Pretty’s, because he handles the narration well. Thumb up for that.

This book also reminded me why I liked science fiction. I’m completely fascinated by the technology—from the simplest like toothbrush pills and bungee jackets, to more complicated like the Specials’ hoverboards and giant monster machines. My personal favorites are 1) the sneak suits, which I tagged as Westerfeld’s techno version of the Harry Potter series’ Invisibility Cloak and 2) the skintenna, obviously a portmanteau of “skin” and “antenna”, a communication network programmed in the brain and skin that lets you connect with newsfeeds and other networks.  They’re so cool! I have other sci-fi fandoms, and I think I’d be borrowing some of technologies introduced in this series.

There are portions where I wish I didn’t get attached to some of the characters that much—and this is still a good point for Westerfeld because that is obviously what he intended to happen. I admit that Zane’s death tore me. I’ve loved this character since Pretties, never fading even in Specials, when he’s half-brain dead and crippled and all that. The doctor’s revelation about his request for his old reflexes to be restored and amplified just so Tally wouldn’t be disgusted with his infirmity anymore was utterly heartbreaking. Westerfeld skipped the dramatic clichés; no words of good bye from Zane, who’s strapped on life-support machines. Tally even stayed just for a couple of seconds, her mind set to end the war even if her heart is heavy with remorse and despair. Wait, did I just say I liked a Gary Stu?

The latter part’s Tally reminded me so much of Mockingjay’s Katniss: laden with guilt, shame, and despair. Both heroines blame themselves for the war and deaths, except that Tally adjusted so quickly in the end, pulling off a Pollyannaish attitude as a savior of the world.

That’s where we go to the bad points: how do the characters change so quickly? I assessed the three books after reading Specials and I realized that most of the character developments are done rather bluntly through the operations and the cures. Westerfeld just polishes off the edges when a character is turned, and I have to admit that’s a pretty clever way to do it. Surgeries are a major plot device of the whole series so I can’t say I feel cheated. It’s just…clever.  I just wish he just gave more room for the characters to develop into three-dimensional fullness, it would have been better. However, seeing how fast the pace of Specials is, it’s almost impossible. It just proves that a fast pacing is not necessarily a good thing, if you don’t let the characters be tagged along with the current.

There are plot holes too. Seriously, Dr. Cable’s regime is not that easy to annihilate, right? I need a lot of detais for that, how it fell and what Dr. Cable did in attempts to prevent it. The ending note was kind of weak for me, and it did not answer the questions I have in mind. I wish that these will be answered in the next book, Extras, even if Tally is no longer the main character.

All in all, it’s still a wonderful read.

I think I may buy Leviathan series by the same author. I heard it's steampunk, and I love how Westerfeld works with machines and stuff.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book 2)

I've secured this second installment of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series--City of Ashes--ages ago. There are two reasons why I finished reading this just last Friday: one, because academics and the school paper kept me busy for the most part of the semester. Two, because it was really not engaging enough to keep me turning pages.



Not that I didn't like City of Ashes. I enjoyed a lot of parts, especially the action-packed battle between the main characters and the demons near the end of the book. Somehow, though, a large chunk of this story didn't satisfy me. I liked City of Bones more.

City of Ashes starts right after the events in City of Bones. Clary Fray's wish to live a normal life is impossible after she discovers she is a Shadowhunter. However, it's not only her life that is changed forever--Jace Wayland discovers that he is the son of Valentine, and is actually Clary's brother. With their budding love now forbidden, both of them must try to clamp down their feelings and zero in on the problem at hand: Valentine is on the loose and is summoning a large army of demons using another Mortal instrument, the Soul Sword.

The story's plot is okay, a lot of the dialogues still brilliant (thank you Jace Wayland for your ever-so-witty one-liners), and a lot of characters from the first book has been "inflated" more. I'm liking Magnus and Alec now--especially that I'm finally seeing their chemistry--but they've just created more complications in an already complex love polygon. There's so many sides forming, and I have to admit that it's sometimes cloying to find these tumbling over the storyline where they're not actually needed. They don't actually ruin a scene or anything, but there's so much...love (of the main characters, of minor characters, of parents of the major characters, of minor antagonists, etc). Like it's become a story with 65% romance and 35% fantasy/action...but hey, maybe it's just me. *and here's the part where I smack and remind myself that it's a YA novel. Romance sells, end of story.*

I like how Clare put some references to pop culture. Anime (including Naruto, dudes!), the Harry Potter books, you name it. It's one good way to pull young readers in.

Moving on, I think it's really not Clare's style to produce a very powerful page-turner. Maybe it's not in her mind after all--maybe she's all for the world-building and character development, which are obviously her forte. There are just certain authors who do not aim to weave a story that makes the reader sit with it in just one night--Neil Gaiman admitted he's one of those writers.

Perhaps this is not the best book in the Mortal Instruments, but I've become fond of some of the characters that I'm determined to read the entire series. I've heard a lot of good things about City of Glass. Let's see if it's not really overhyped.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Pretties

A trilogy or a book series where the sequels turn out better than the first installment is a rather rare treat for readers; almost always, the first book is the best. After reading the second book of the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, I believe that this trilogy-plus-one is going to be classified in that category. :)



Pretties picks up where Uglies left off--Tally Youngblood has finally become a new Pretty and has joined her other friends in the city to live a not-so-bubbly life. The most important thing a Pretty can do is to party, and you are required to do nothing (until you become a middle Pretty, when you finally have to find a job) but to be lazy, vain, and vapid. Tally seems to be content with her Pretty life until a message from the past brings back Ugly memories. With vague flashbacks surging in her head, she remembers why she has agreed to be surgically altered, and now she and some members of her Pretty clique--the Crims--embark on a journey to escape from the controlling city....and to be cured.

Apparently I enjoyed Pretties more than Uglies for several reasons.

The themes that are explored in book 1 are continuously revisited, sometimes providing additional information that gives more light to the topics, answering questions I haven't even formed when I was reading Uglies.
Also, this time, I felt the characters more. Tally as a Pretty is something more palpable than her Ugly self, where it's supposed to be the other way around (maybe it's only just me, though). It must be noted, however, that Tally still has this 'Ugly' heart and mind, and she hasn't really changed completely. So what's done here's her character is given more weight for being a Pretty on the surface and still a real Ugly on the inside. There are times where she treads lightly on the Mary Sue grounds, but maybe only it's because she and a majority of characters in the book are beautiful--I've been a bit wary of very pretty characters since the first time I wrote fanfiction. Mary Sue is a big no-no. Still, I liked Tally-wa. :p

Zane is a good character as well. It's a shame that I liked him more than David.

What I liked the most about this book? The twists. The latter part, where Tally finally arrives to the New Smoke, contains a chock-full of those. The twist about the cure, the location of the transmitter, Shay's and the Cutters' fates, you name them. I loved being surprised.

A good read all in all--I'm glad I decided to continue with this series. It's still a YA book, but a good one at that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Uglies

After suffering from a "withdrawal syndrome" of some sort after finishing Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, I asked for recommendations around Tumblr--specifically for books or series that have the same feel or fall in the same genre as The Hunger Games. Almost 90% of the Tumblr bookworms I asked told me to secure copies of the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. And I did, after checking out various spolier-free reviews in the internet.


The series starts with the book Uglies. In a post-scarcity dystopian society that is obsessed with physical appearance, people undergo cosmetic surgery at the age of sixteen so that they can be turned “Pretty”. Teenager Tally Youngblood has spent most of her Ugly life waiting and wanting to be Pretty. But a few months before her sixteenth birthday she meets up with fellow Ugly Shay, who does not want to be turned at all. Shay shows Tally some of the ugly truths about being Pretty, about conforming to the rules set by the society. When Shay runs away to live with the Smokies—people who rebelled and kept their Ugly faces—Tally has to make a choice: go bring back her friend, or don’t turn Pretty at all.

The verdict? For me, this book is a mixed bag.

Let’s start with the good points. I commend this book for deftly discussing deep, thought-provoking themes that most young adult books don’t have nowadays. While the story revolves around topics like the price of beauty and the physical and emotional changes that a teenager experiences, several other significant subjects are touched, ones that made this book a not-so-subtle social commentary. Environmental issues are raised when characters think of the past, often including how these modern people think of the foolishness of the Rusties (what they call people from the past, which is us, people who live today). It is blatant that the book is anti-war too, especially when you read the last parts of the book. The most important theme however, is maintaining your individuality in a world where you are expected to follow every rule set for you, where Big Brother watches you wherever you go. As what the cliché goes: the hardest battle is to be yourself in a world that wants you to be somebody else.

Now on with the not-so-pretty points. I have to say that I didn’t feel the characters that much. While they are nowhere far from being three-dimensional, there is something that doesn’t cling with me as I read. I did not like any character that much, but I did not hate anyone—that’s not necessarily a good thing though. I’m hoping that the next installments will make up for this. Also, while there is action, it was not kept constant through the whole book. Some parts are pretty predictable as well. It is easy to find out that this book is really written for young adults. The pacing is quite good, but it’s not so much of a page-turner for me.

There are scenes that remind me so much of The Hunger Games and I admit that there's a moment that wondered if Collins read the series long ago. The city of Pretties itself is like the Capitol in THG—remember how almost everyone there are surgically altered? Authorities are strict and controlling too. Also, the parts where Tally is travelling to the Rusty Ruins remind me of Katniss Everdeen’s time in the arena where she’s still roughing it out alone. There’s even this one scene where Tally wakes up and finds her world “on fire”, and she spends the next chapter (Firestorm) dodging the flames. In a scene in THG, Katniss wakes up to find a “wall of fire” descending on her, and she spends the next chapter dodging fireballs.  There are still a lot of similar tidbits, but I won’t go into that anymore. Pretties, the second book, have more important similarities with THG and I’ll discuss that when I make a review for that.

All in all, this is still a good read, though there are parts that can be shallow at times (or maybe it’s really supposed to be that way, because of some of the shallow characters?). I enjoyed it for the most part. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To-Reads! :)

I'm seriously having a 'withdrawal syndrome' of some sort after reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I need to find more books of the same caliber (or better), and after rummaging all good book sites across the net as well as chatting with peeps whose taste in literature I trust, here's what I got. It's not the complete list, but these are on the top of my to-reads. :)

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The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. I don't dare go to Wiki to check on this--gosh the frustration of spoiling onself-- so here's a blurb I got from Shelfari: "This arc of Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES trilogy follows the high-tech adventures of Tally Youngblood. As an ugly, then a pretty, and finally a special, Tally works to take down a society created to function with perfect-looking people who never have a chance to think for themselves." As for the fourth book, I think it's a spin-off, because it's told from a different POV.

I heard it has the same premise as The Hunger Games, as both series are set in a post-apocalyptic society with oppressive leaders; both also have rebellious young heroines. When I ask around Tumblr about books that are quite similar to HG, this is what they're recommending me. It's sci-fi and dystopian too, which is my type of lit, and there are a lot of positive reviews about it. This is the next series I'm going to start after I finish reading the heap I have on my bed. XD

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Scott Westerfeld again! Leviathan sounds like a very promising book. They said it's steampunk and tells an alternate history of World War 1. Shelfari blurb says:

"It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever."

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The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I've actually started this; I've already reviewed City of Bones and I'm currently reading City of Ashes. Quite awesome, but I'm not really pulled in; the soap opera-ish plot device at the end of the first book had my eyes rolling. There are some very interesting parts though, and I'll keep reading. The characters are drool-worthy anyways. *snorts* This series also has a companion trilogy called Infernal Devices. I'm still not sure if I'm going to invest on that. I think it'll depend on what I will think of the series.

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Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. Yeah, it's about werewolves. Here's the blurb from the series' official site: "For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever."

It doesn't sound like something I might enjoy but then again, when I first heard what Hunger Games is all about I'm not initially interested. I think I'll try this. A lot of people have been shoving this to my face, insisting that I read it...so yeah, there's no harm in giving it a try. I just hope it will not revolve solely on the romance...but seriously that blurb....

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The Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. THIS, I wanted tho read this series before I even heard of HG. A Shelfari friend assures me that I'll like this, especially that there's a journalist character in it and it's a crime series. There's no decent blurb on Shelfari so I'll just steal the one from Wiki: "The primary characters in the series are Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Lisbeth is an intelligent, eccentric woman in her twenties with a photographic memory whose social skills are rather poor. Blomkvist is an investigative journalist, a celebrity in his own right, and has a history not totally dissimilar to Larsson's own."

All right, that's not a bad blurb. Yeah? It sounds intriguing.



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Reading this because I love Looking for Alaska and I'm loving An Abundance of Katherines. John Green really is something. XD He writes the usual YA stuff, yet after reading you'll feel it's a little different from the others. I don't even know the story of this book. XD

_______________


tata for now, puter.
My eyelids are drooping. T___T

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instuments Book 1)

With all the flurry of vampire-werewolf literature at present, I made it a point to steer clear of the almost sickening wave, knowing the books will be falling under the umbrella genre that Twilight had set. This is true for the most part. I was kind of cynical when someone recommended me The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, especially when I found out it has vampires and werewolves and romance in it. But I’m glad I still gave it a chance; it proved to me that not all YA books with the abovementioned fantasy elements are hopeless lit written for heartsick teens.



City of Bones (Book One) kicks off with a murder of a teenager in a club, witnessed by 15-year-old Clary. She’s perplexed as to why her best friend, Simon, and other people in the bar can’t see the murderers at all. The culprits are the Shadowhunters or the Nephilim, also known as the police force of sorts that takes down Downworlders (human-demon hybrids). Three of them are present at the bar: Jace Wayland, Isabelle Lightwood, and Alec Lightwood. Jace explains that what they killed is a demon in disguise. Curious as to why a mundane—an ordinary human—can see them, Jace pulls Clary into his extraordinary world, causing a domino effect on her life… as well as on his.

I liked this book, but not to a very high degree. Plotting and pacing are well-executed, but I hardly find myself on the edge of my seat. I particularly like the world-building…which I think is Clare’s forte. Most of the characters are well fleshed out, too. Clary Fray is a freckled redhead, stubborn and determined, an ordinary girl at the start and turns out to be someone of great importance. I think this kind of hero is becoming generic nowadays…like the Harry Potter way, yeah? I have this little voice inside me saying that Clary is a May Sue but whatever—I liked her for the most part. Jace Wayland is who I definitely cared for, even if I’m certain he’s an example of a Gary Stu, with all the pretty boy thingy and tragic past. He’s a beautiful boy, I get that, but that’s not the main reason I liked him. It’s his LINES. His sarcastic one-liners are simply the best I’ve ever read, and I found his innocence about stuff an ordinary person knows (like what E-bay is, how to play Dungeons and Dragons, how heroes and sidekicks stand back to back in a fight scene in movies, etc.) so adorable. He’s smart, but only Shadowhunter-smart. Place him next to Clary and you get the most awesome banters ever. I hope I get more dialogues of this caliber in the next installments.

And oh, Alec’s character is interesting too. I’m keeping an eye on him. :D I need to see more of Simon…because I think it’s weird that I have my focus not on the supposedly main Simon-Clary-Jace triangle but on the Alec-Jace-Clary one. :3 Perhaps the next books will give me that.

(Side note: I think I know why the fandom sees Alex Pettyfer as Jace. I stumbled upon the trailer of Beastly and the Kyle character does remind me of Jace. Pettyfer does have the looks, and I think he can be vain enough… Haha. Oh well. Moving on…)

It’s a good read, that’s why I have the second book with me now. I sort of did not like the ending of the first book though—not because I’m a Clary-Jace shipper, but because I think it’s a tad too soap opera-ish for my taste. I’ve seen a lot of local romance TV shows where the main characters turn out to be siblings and all that blahs. Nevertheless I’m still picking up the whole series, because I know Clare has something up her sleeve. I can see that she’s a very talented author so I know she’s got some surprises for her readers.

Thumb up for this!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A not-so-bleak hospital stay

I hate hospitals. The very smell, the very boredom, and the feeling that there’s weakness and sickness and death all around you...who would want to stay there? I’ve been confined a multiple times before and that’s all I felt. Except for my most recent stay.

I’ve been confined in the UST Hospital for a night and a day. I didn’t want to go—it’s just flu, I swear! Uh, yeah maybe I needed the nebulizer once, but that’s all. Nothing serious. My mother was worried it was dengue, but seriously even if she knows all its symptoms (and she knows I don’t have them) she still wanted me to go to the hospital. Well, what do you get from the most stubborn person in the planet I know—also known as ME? A big NO. My mother couldn’t convince me, so next thing she did was phone my father.

I was sick then, but there’s a petty argument on the phone. Making me choose what’s more important, my health or one whole day of absence at school. I have to assure him I’m okay, but next thing I knew, he had taken a two-day leave at work and he’s going to take me to the hospital. I was gnashing my teeth then. They’re always overreacting when I’m sick, but then again, given what had happened to me in the past, I couldn’t exactly blame them.

So there, I was confined. We soon found out that—guess what, I’m right—it’s just FLU. But I needed to stay until my temperature goes down. I’m feeling pretty okay, and knowing the high degree of boredom this institution brings, I brought The Hunger Games and reread it. Finished it in six hours, until I was told to rest my eyes and body.

The next morning, my temperature had gone down considerably yet not to a normal level. So I had to stay for a few hours more. I didn’t get bored because my parents are there. Only one person can accompany the patient at a time, so ma and pa took turns. The other waited outside. Sometimes my mother will go inside when it’s still not her turn, and my father will point it out. Oh yeah, bantering. I joked that they can both stay there and I’m going to be the one outside. I’m not sure if they saw that I said it in jest, but my mother slipped out of the room. Got a hint of smile on my father’s face, and that’s when I knew they got it. Really, parents are interesting creatures. :3 Haha, kidding! Love 'em! :D

Hours passed and we tried all we can to not get bored. My father continuously mimicked the voice of the super meek nurse in the next station and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Then, he noticed a Japanese doctor (I said he looked Korean but my father brushed me off) and formulated a string of complicated Japanese names for him. I swear I heard Akihiro Sato in the middle of that. I laughed, and that’s when the doctors came to check my temperature. The female doctor hasn’t touched the thermometer yet and concluded that I’m already really well (“Tumatawa na siya,” she whispered to the male doctor, “Wala na ‘tong sakit). She pulled the instrument and of course, I’m well.

My mother came in for her turn and she noticed the Japanese doctor too, who seemed to be doing nothing at the counter since we arrived there. I told her that pa guessed he’s Japanese, and being the hilarious woman that she is, my mother whispered in a low, Japanese accented voice: “Oi doktoru! Kamu heeru! (Hey doctor, come here!). We laughed then, the way I laughed with my father, and I knew the hospital wasn’t the right place for people like us. Crazy, happy family. :D

After getting the results of my CBC (where I found out that the Japanese doctor isn’t Japanese or Korean at all, but Chinese—he’s doctor Lim), I requested for a medical certificate. My father said the certificate should be paid too—one hundred pesos. He shook his head and commented something about people making business out of helpless papers.

I was released at five. We stayed and ate in McDonalds. Because of number coding, we still can’t drive home so we hang out around the UST campus. It was a wonderful feeling, walking like that, as if my parents were just my teenage friends. Sit there, buy sago’t gulaman, point at a cool edifice and whatnot. It seems so normal and yet bizarre, but it felt really good.

Soon, we have to go to the car. We stood by for a while, listening to the radio for updates about the hostage taking in Quirino Grandstand. My parents discussed the topic as they would when we are on the dining table and I threw in some comments. My mother said something to the effect that the handcuffs couldn’t be broken by just a small nail clipper. My father disagreed because he said he tried that once with his brother’s cuffs and it worked. He even showed me other techniques, like using a broken frame of an eyeglass to pick the lock of the cuff. Of course the cuff is imaginary, but it’s really believable. I was waiting expectantly for him to add more. What he said is that the easiest way is to just pull it broken with your bare hands. I looked at him quizzically. He shrugged and said, “I’m superman,” and I laughed away.

The journey home was quite quiet then…or maybe I just fell asleep? I was not fully aware. Next thing I remember is that I’m trying to locate the laptop because I still have a lot of work to do. :)

Ok blog, here's what your writer sounds like after she's gone from the hospital bed. Crazy.

And I have all the rights to be crazy because all I've finished is my short story for the literary page. :O Boo me for not putting the thesis stuff on the top of my list. :'(

Byez! Off to get some zzz's! :D
Procrastination at its finest. Woot. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Mockingjay


Real or not real?

Last night, I finally finished Mockingjay, the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I didn’t write a review immediately after that, because it’s been one heck of an emotional rollercoaster ride and my thoughts are quite cluttered then. After spending the night mulling over the trilogy (then slipping to dreamland for a few hours where I’m being chased by tracker jackers—oh, this series, the effect it can have), I finally organized my thoughts about the book, and it all boils down to this sentence: I loved it, despite its obvious shortcomings.



First things first. The content: the book commences from where Catching Fire left off. District 12 has been destroyed. Peeta Mellark, along with a couple of other tributes, is captured by the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen has been fished out of the barbaric Quarter Quell and is transported to District 13, where she is convinced to stand up to be the face of rebellion as the Mockingjay. Filled with doubts and distrust after what happened, she struggles with indecision. If she accepts it, there’s no turning back—her life, as well as that of every human being in Panem, will never be the same again.

Mockingjay retains a lot of the action and suspense from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but its approach is entirely different. Aside from being the bleakest and most depressing, it tackles more important moral issues. The horrors of war, the insatiable hunger for power, the fickleness of human beings, government issues, rebellion…all those topics strewn like seeds across the first two bestsellers are now slowly sprouting out, growing, inching up to the eye level of our heroine. More than once, though, Katniss’ moral compass goes haywire causing her to be pushed a notch lower of being a heroine. Perhaps it was the author’s way to keep Katniss from being a stereotype protagonist, but it somewhat rubbed me the wrong way. Just a little.
I enjoyed the book for the most part, but I’ll be honest and say there are sections that could have been written in a better way. There are some chapters that are, while could be viewed as significant parts of the book, so dry I was tempted to skip them. I did not because I don’t want to miss a word in this series I already love. Good thing those were sandwiched between the suspenseful parts. It is still amazing though, because it was able to make me feel different kinds of emotions and I was speechless about it after I turned the last page. I even had a nightmare about it, yeah? T____T

Now here are the parts that Collins won me over. I wasn’t able to keep the tears at bay when characters that have planted bits of themselves in my geek heart are killed. It was a bit brutal, how Collins will make you love a character so much and then let you watch them die. In the first few pages, there was Cinna’s death. I believed he lived in Catching Fire but it turned out I was wrong. Well, what do I know? I shouldn’t have expected everyone would make it to the end. Then comes Finnick’s death—that one really tore me up. He’s the character I liked the most outside Peeta and Katniss, and I’m not sure I cried whether because he’s already gone after he’s just been married or because his death is written in an almost…heartless way. The book was written in Katniss’ POV, and for all I know Katniss has cared a lot about Finnick too, after all they’ve gone through. But she was cold and there were no tears. For some reason my little anger went not to Katniss, but to Collins’ writing. But then again, maybe it’s just me because I loved Finnick to itty bitty pieces, and I thought so much about Annie’s future with her baby boy. That’s when I reminded myself this was a dystopian story, not a fairytale. People who deserve a happy ending usually don’t get one.

There were several other deaths, the highlighted ones from Squad Four-Five-One. After a few pages when I decided I like Boggs, he was killed. Characters that met gruesome deaths, like chewed and torn by lizard mutts, fell into a meat grinder, or melted…the whole thing was so sickening, and it didn't help that you know most of them already. Oh, and also Peeta’s prep team is dead, along with the Avoxes that served them before the Games. I tried to stifle my sobs while reading through their fates, and by that time I was already receiving lots of weird looks from everyone in the house. They never read the books, and I want to find someone to talk to about it. It was depressing enough to make me want to throw it across the room.

The death I minded the most is Prim’s. I adored Prim from the very start, probably because Katniss loved her the same way I love my little sister. It started everything with Prim—if it were not for her name being picked up in the 74th reaping day, Katniss wouldn’t have joined the Hunger Games. It was all for that little girl, and everything—almost everything—came to waste when she died. When I became so affected by it, as much as affected as Katniss, I knew Collins succeeded in what she’s trying to achieve. I know it’s still one of the guilt trips for Katniss, but it has the desired effect.

I see people ranting about these deaths, and when I see myself on the verge of becoming one of them, I mused about the book for a jiffy. It became clear to me that these deaths played significant roles. People die—that’s not news, right? And it’s war, anyone in the way of a flying bullet would be shot. I think Collins wants the readers to know that while she’s writing fiction, it does not necessarily mean she must sugarcoat the dreadful things that can happen in real life. Most of the deaths are merely for the guilt trip for Katniss, but I realize they are significant, too. For instance, why did Prim die? Coin is using her against Katniss the way Snow is using Peeta, at least that’s what I understood. I could go on rambling about this, but I think I made my point. Sorry for those who want a colorful last installment for this trilogy, your hopes are going to be crushed.

Moving on, let’s take a look at other characters. Despite being a hardcore Peeta-Katniss shipper, I pretty much liked what Peeta became in this book. Physically and psychologically abused (read as: “hijacked”) by the Capitol, Peeta’s memories about Katniss and the rebellion were tampered with, and every now and then he would go berserk and try to kill Katniss. There were a lot of Peeta fans that became upset because of this, and I was like, oh, come on! Every moment between them doesn’t need to be a bittersweet, shipper-friendly chunk of that love triangle. But who am I to blame them? Maybe they got too attached to Peeta (or to the idea of Peeta being too in love with Katniss) that they can’t stand it. I don’t know, but I have a penchant for liking pure people that go damaged. :D

Katniss is a mental wreck, a human-shaped tangle of foggy logic and unstable emotions—and I liked her for the most part. For her flaws, for her imperfections, for her uncertainties. It was what made her more fleshed out as a damaged human who's gone through many hardships, but there are times when her cold and level-headedness seems to get on my nerves. Sometimes, those characteristics go extreme that she seems to be so numb. For some reason this makes her less of a star figure in my eyes. Didn't she just stand up as a figurehead? Page by page, you'll notice how she deteriorates from all her losses. Who is the real hero here? Almost the same as asking who’s the real enemy, it’s hard to figure out.

Random rant: Somehow, it's annoying how Katniss will pass out in the middle of a heated battle and would wake up in a hospital. It disrupts the narrative, in my opinion. :/ And it happened a lot.

My greatest rant about the book is how Collins did not successfully manage to tie the loose ends.  I think the ending is a bit rushed. Okay, so Gale is in District 2, “with a fancy job” and perhaps kissing “another pair of lips”. That’s it? After throwing him in a tangle of love triangle and troubles and whatnot with the main characters, that’s his fate? He did not even appear in the last chapter. I’m not rooting for Gale-Katniss by any means, but I think the guy deserved a more concrete ending. And what about the other tributes? Johanna Mason, Enobaria? Their fates aren’t mentioned, and I think I've somewhat grown fond of Johanna in this book so I really minded. Effie appeared briefly, but there are no further details. I’m happy that in the end, Peeta and Katniss are together—not enmeshed in a happily ever after, but in a real, human ending, still haunted by nightmares, still nursing wounds that would never heal. But I have this tingling feeling about the unanswered questions left by Collins. Almost like a hurried finish to a fanfiction, to be honest.

Reiterating what I said, I still love this book despites its flaws. It was definitely not my favorite among the three--The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are tied on the first place. LOL. Now I felt like I’ve lost a friend again, after turning that last page. Nevertheless, I’m glad to say that I now have a new favorite trilogy. <3

Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: Catching Fire

The Games maybe over, but the Capitol wants revenge.

After winning the seventy fourth Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark go back to District 12, expecting to finally live a peaceful life. However, their last act in the arena—the very cause why both of them are declared winners—was done against the harsh rules of the Capitol. Katniss and Peeta discovered that because of this, they have unwittingly helped to create a spark of rebellion among the districts. Our protagonists must again strive to survive—not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well.



Much like its predecessor, Catching Fire did not let me down. It is certainly a great read; spellbinding reads like an understatement, but for the lack of a better term, let’s just leave it like that. The insane amount of action is still there as well as the right dash of drama…and now, a lot of politics too! It contains less fluff, not because “romantic” moments are decreased, but because those bits are a lot deeper than just pure giddiness. It pulled me in, though not as fast as I’m pulled in by The Hunger Games. The moment it did, the rest is history. Oh, when you encounter readers of The Hunger Games trilogy, take them seriously when they say they can’t put the series down and it keeps them up at night. They’re not kidding. XD

I have to say it’s a more intelligent book than The Hunger Games. There is a part that made me think it’s some sort of commentary on our global economy at present. It’s in the scene where Katniss and Peeta attended a ball in the Capitol during their Victory Tour. They want to taste all the foods on the table, but they easily became full. Someone approaches them and points out to them a vomiting closet, saying that they can keep on eating the whole night if they’re going to throw up. Katniss and Peeta go away, thinking that while these despicable people thrive on self-indulgence, most of the families in the districts are suffering from starvation. Not quite subtle, but not direct either.

The best thing about the books is that I can’t figure out what’s going to happen next, making me turn the page until I lose track of time. I don’t like my predictions about the next events coming true when it comes to reading--I've had enough of the cliches, thank you. And speaking of time, I was impressed about the thematic use of the clock in the new Quarter Quell arena. You know there is something going on the moment a Gamemaker pulls out that golden watch with the mockingjay on it. Our main protagonists’ return to the arena is a surprise to me, and so are the underlying plan of the other tributes about it. The seventy-fifth Hunger Games will be unforgettable—if not the last. I’m guessing that Katniss and the others will be able to stop this barbaric event by the end of Mockingjay. We’ll see soon.

As for the characters, they are, as in the first book, well-developed. The new tributes radiate more energy compared to the ones in the seventy fourth games, are given more life and identity. I immediately liked Johanna Manson and Finnick Odair. A few more steps and they are going to be fully three-dimensional. I’m so excited for Mockingjay!

Lastly, the cliffhanger. I hope anyone now invents a new word that is more intense than “cliffhanger”, something that would suit the ending of Catching Fire. *bites nails in anticipation*

I highly recommend this series! 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

Get a few fragments of Battle Royale and some from Survivor, weave them together, throw in a storyline that will keep you at the edge of your seat, add three-dimensional characters, a dash of drama, suspense, romance—and voila! You just have one awe-inspiring YA novel in your hand: The Hunger Games.



The Hunger Games
is the story of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl living with her mother and little sister in the 12th district of Panem, the remains of what used to be the North America. There was a rebellion a long time ago waged by the districts against the Capitol, but it did not become successful. The surrender terms require each district to send a boy and a girl tribute to a televised event called “the Hunger Games”, where all participants should kill one another until there is one survivor left. Katniss took the place of her younger sister in the games, and on she goes to the arena, fighting for survival not only for herself but also for the people she loves the most.

One thing about The Hunger Games: it lives up to all the hype.

I’ve never been this engrossed to a dystopian young adult novel before.  I always make it a point to be really careful before jumping to a certain bandwagon because I don’t want to be disappointed—I ask people who I trust to have sound judgment when it comes to literature, I read blurbs and reviews, listen to discussions about the book. I’m more than glad I gave The Hunger Games a try.

What I really liked about this story is that I did not catch myself yawning in ennui while reading the parts that do not have much action in them. Sure, the book is chock-full with a lot of suspenseful moments, but there are some rooms in the book that are definitely left uncharted by the author to let the characters grow, in a way that is never boring in the eyes of the reader.

With that said, I can say the book’s also teeming with characters that are sure to leave some kind of dent in your heart. I really admire how Collins molded the main characters: Katniss is this cynical but utterly determined girl, possessing a rather amusing case of candor and foibles. Peeta—Katniss’ co-tribute in the Games—is a kind, charismatic but a tad reticent young boy. I find it droll how Katniss seems to be so naïve about Peeta’s not-so-secret feelings for her; the readers will easily figure out that Peeta is not faking it. I have to admit it’s an endearing trait of our heroine, one that distinguishes her more from cliché protagonists of novels like this. I may even say it gives more depth to her role—anyone out there who heard how Katniss formulate her introspections will understand this.

As for relationship development, it is excellent. Collins takes her time building all the little bridges to create the connection, the relationship...it tags along the rhythm of the story's pace. There’s nothing too cloying or sappy, just enough to make a reader unconsciously raise a hand to push against his heart. It is intricately structured, much more of a foundation for something bigger. I’ll wait for Catching Fire and Mockingjay to confirm that.

Also, I thought Collins did a good job in shaping the brutal reality behind the televised event, because, well, that's what happens in real life. Romance does sell to huge audiences, that’s why there are so many “fake loveteams” in almost every reality show nowadays. Katniss, being the wise skeptic that she is, “plays along” with what she thinks is Peeta’s strategy to get more sponsors. My heart goes to Peeta. Poor boy.

Anyway, I loved this story to bits. Four out of five stars from me!
See you soon, Catching Fire! :D

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mumblings on Pride

Me: *out of nowhere* Dudette, when does pride become a virtue?
Dee: Where does that come from?
Me: ….come on.
Dee: Are we talking about the one in the seven deadly sins?
Me: No. Maybe. I’m not sure.
Dee: Haha. I know what that meant. LOL. Well, it depends on the context.
Me: Being proud as a Filipino…Hm. Pride as a product of something you’ve accomplished successfully, like in work…that’s not a sin.
Dee: No. Most world religions consider Pride as a sin, and that kind of Pride is often associated with sooper dooper high view on oneself. Narcissism, you may say, or superiority complex or whatever.
Me: That’s why modesty is its counterpart.
Dee: Yeah. If pride in the context you’re saying is a sin, then everyone in the Philippines after a successful Pacquiao fight is sinful. You freaking know what I’m talking about.
Me: I think it’s got something to do with honor, right? Pride that’s associated with honor is considered a virtue. Like when soldiers hold their heads up high, fiught for the pride of their country and whatnot…that’s a virtue.
Dee: Aristotle considered Pride as a virtue.
Me: *nods as if she can see me* Yeah. Hm. And then pride as in…not saying sorry and--
Dee: --yeah that’s a different kind of pride now. Kind of…yeah, sin. It really depends on the context.
Me: cultural context.
Dee: Yes. *pause* Ok, I have Episode Zero flashes in my head.
Me: Haha. IKR? The bratty Q changed into the fluffy piece of notorious sap that he is after he gained a higher self-esteem and took pride in himself. Nice one.

**GW stuff follows*


GAH. I'm going crazy with this Chem stuff so I have to distract myself with this. LOL. OMG CHEM I HATE YOU!