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

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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!