Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hunger Games Official Teaser-Trailer: A Threefold Treat



I'm not certain if this video would still be up by morning (there's a lot of banned/removed vids due to copyright blahs regarding this) but I'm going to blabber anyway. In this one-minute, six-second teaser-trailer of The Hunger Games as shown in this year's VMA, the viewers were given three treats:
  1. The badass-ness of Jennifer Lawrence as she played Katniss Everdeen spot-on, dashing across the arena and hopping over flaming logs.
  2. Gale Hawthorne's voice in Katniss' head, saying something along the lines of "Listen to me: You’re stronger than they are. You are. They just want a good show. That’s all they want. You know how to hunt. Show them how good you are.”
  3. A four-note tune at the end of the video, which may or may not be a part of Rue's salute song....
There's the tiny rant of it being so short, but that's why it's called a "teaser." But if you come to think of it, it has actually given the audience a lot! Peeta fans may not be happy with this trailer, but I guess that's just expected...I even think the creators did it on purpose, the boy with the bread being absent from it. :) Great job at "teasing," guys.

Needless to say, we're all waiting for the official trailer, and of course, the movie. Here's to hoping it would do justice to Suzanne Collins' trilogy!

Review: Blood Red Road

Review: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, dystopian, young adult
My Rating: ★★★★

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If you’re one of those readers still ensnared with The Hunger Games virus and still hungry for more quality YA dystopian lit, I advise you to check out Blood Red Road, Canadian author Moira Young’s novel that’s still piping hot from the post-apocalyptic oven.

With the sudden flurry of dystopian-themed books hitting the shelves in the wake of The Hunger Games’ success, I became a little wary about picking titles under the said genre. While I have a weakness for rebellious characters, I can’t help but to shun books that have the this-girl-stands-up-and-pops-the-bubble-of-tyranny-in-their-futuristic-world kind of formula, with blurbs at the back that don’t even effort to not sound like a rip-off from the trilogy I love. But what the heck, I thought. It will be harmless to try another one. I pick up Blood Red Road because the society there seems more like anarchy than tyranny (interesting break, if you ask me), and from what I heard it has a bunch of butt-kicking heroines that I shouldn’t miss.

The story revolves around Saba, an eighteen-year-old girl who lives contentedly with her family in a desert-like wasteland called Silverlake. Sandstorms are a commonplace there, but a giant dust storm arrives one day bearing four armed horsemen to abduct Saba’s twin brother, Lugh. They are certainly not the horsemen who we know would signal the start of the Apocalypse (if they are, someone needs to tell them they’re too late) but they sure seem to be harbingers of doom for our heroine. Knowing that there’s no turning back, Saba embarks on a quest to rescue her brother, meeting friends and enemies along the way, and fighting her inner demons that she has shunned her whole life.

The first thing readers will notice about this book is that it’s written in dialect, in Saba’s POV. It’s a pain to read at first, but after twenty pages or so I think readers will easily adjust to Saba’s narrative voice. I realized Young pretty much hit two birds with one stone when she chose this prose because it (1) helped in molding Saba into a more fleshed out character and (2) it aided greatly in the world-building. Since the world has just risen up from the ashes of the “wrecking,” the civilization also reboots. Saba cannot read or write and her family is isolated, and this is reflected in her language.

As a character, Saba has shades of Katniss Everdeen in her: the feistiness, the stubbornness, the instinct for survival, and of course the selfishness. Saba’s got more of the last than Katniss, too much of it that sometimes it’s very infuriating. It’s not the best fuel around, but it is enough to drive Saba to complete her mission, even if it means resorting to bloodthirsty methods or abandoning the people who helped her in the past. But as she goes through her quest, she eventually softens, and over time she let people around her help her grow out of the hard, savage shell she’s contained herself in. She becomes more mature, and she learns how to love sincerely.

My damsel-in-distress alarm didn’t go off: from the female cagefighters in Hopetown’s gladiatorial games to the girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, you can be assured that everybody is ready to kick some behinds whenever needed. Even Emmi, Saba’s nine-year-old sister, refuses to be tied down as a child that needs protection and chooses to fight alongside her sister. The great thing is, Young serves these characters in a silver platter. She doesn’t try so hard to make them loom larger than the masculine characters in the story; instead she focuses on shaping them as real albeit flawed fighters that adapt to their dangerous surroundings.

It is also nice to see how the romantic subplot slowly unfolds, although I think it’s nothing new…the hate-becomes-love type of romances, you know. Except that the boy lead is completely awesome, the type that can go cheeseballs all he wants without diminishing his badass attitude or sounding like Edward Cullen. :P

The narration makes this book more character-centric than plot-centric, and the world-building bit is not exactly sterling. There are some questions left at the end, but I guess that’s what the sequels are for.

But all in all, this is a fantastic read! Almost on par with The Hunger Games I dare say. I can’t wait for the next installment!

___

random announcement: Yes! My camera's repaired already! :) I seldom do reviews without photos of books to go with them. Hee!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Always an Equal Reaction

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In short, it states that in order for one to attain a state of happiness, another must become unhappy. Here’s a few common examples:
  • Your favorite basketball team won in the championship. This made you happy, but a fan of the opposing basketball team is of course sad.
  • Your co-worker got a promotion. He’s happy, and you tell him that you are happy for him, but deep inside there’s a part of you that’s a little upset about it. That little part of you is saying that you’ll be happier if it’s you who got promoted and not him.
  • When you stole money and bought whatever you want with it, your level of happiness will go up. Needless to say, the person whom you stole from will have his level of happiness going down.
You know, I can’t wrap my head around the idea that someone else needs to be distressed when you’re happy. I understand the concept of balance, but seriously, even in happiness? :( How about the parents’ joy when a new babe is born? Unless there’s a soap opera-ish twist in there, I guess it’s all just happiness. Or how about when you discover that the person you love returns your affection? Or when your sick mother wakes up from a month-long coma? Or that feeling you get when you just freaking buy the latest issue of your favorite comic book?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not born yesterday nor am I blinded by looking too long through rose-colored spectacles. I'm well aware that when some people are basking themselves in bliss here, there's always a chance that another set of people elsewhere are all feeling blue. That's the law of balance and all, the same way Christians believe that Hell exists because Heaven is nothing without it.  But the thought that my own happiness can directly cause someone distresseven if unintentionally? I don't know, it kind of screams Schandefreud to me. A very subtle, "unconscious" version of it, I may say.

Someone told me this isn’t absolutely true. "It’s true in the sense that to know happiness one must know sadness, but, as you show, this “law” isn’t definite. It’s just an interesting play on the law of conversation of energy." 

But I got to admit it this "law" has me pondering, too.

Like leafing through the pages of a personal mini-history book...

...or like one bobbin of a small feat spinning threads of memories back to its center. There's a bunch of similes I can use to describe it, but this is what I know for sure: one of its many rewards is letting people from my past get through to my present and possibly my future.

I know I should have merged this entry with my post about the Philippine Star article, but it seems like even blogger have character limits. Without further ado, the "people from my past" that I'm talking about:

The Role Players

This is another evidence of my geekdom-filled mini-history. Not everyone knows this, but I have been a part of a roleplaying community back when the website Friendster is still at its prime. If you want to know what RP-ing is, think of Cosplaying, except that it's done in the internet. It's a bit easier (cheaper too, sans the costume) but you have to actually sound like the character you're playingbeing OOC is a no-no. It's like writing a story in collaboration with other geeky players. Before you make posts, there is already is a plotline to be followed. It's easier than it sounds!

Anyway--sorry for digressing--Kuya Justin is playing lots of characters, but for me, he's most remarkable as the roleplayer for Quatre Winner from Gundam Wing. Boss Leonard plays Duo Maxwell. I was playing Catherine Bloom and Dorothy Catalonia then, but I was always too spontaneous and would always spoil or ruin somebody else's plot by jutting in. Haha. My greatest "misdeed" was actually going AWOL until Friendster was eradicated in the face of the internet. Ahem.

Nevertheless, they're very nice to me and they're always happy for everything that I'm doing I-R-L. They know I studied journalism and I do fanfiction, so they're aware of my hunger for writing. Even if they don't always show it, they're always supportive in all my writing endeavors. ;)

The Valedictorian

John Paul, our valedictorian, has always been a good friend of mine. From serious lesson sessions to just plain goofing around about anything we could lay our eyes on, he's always there, never making himself a wet blanket. He's responsible for giving me the most ridiculous of nicknames (i.e. "Maliz", combo of Amalia and Airiz, and "Malius," a Latinized version of Maliz according to him). He's good in English, Math, Science--you name it. He's practically the perfect genius kid.

But here's the thing about Paul: he's one of the earliest believers of my 'literary potential'. In our high school newspaper and journalism classes, even if I wanted to write, I've always been assigned the cartoonist position because I was the only one in our class who can draw something a tad more complicated than stick figures. It kind of sucked, not being able to write what you want on the organ. So to take the edge off, I kept a personal writer's notebook where I penned my stories and poems. Once, I wrote a fantasy novelette on a stapled-together yellow pad. It was inspired by the book Sabriel, and guess who's one of the first readers? Yes, it's him. I think that's one perk of having an intelligent and overly curious seatmate ever since the ancient freshie days: you have one sure customer...

...in this case, one that actually trusted that I can be a good writer. After all these years, he's  always asking me if I already have a book or just prodding me to write one. I really appreciate it. He's never changed. :)

The Khunat Crackers

All IV-1, one for all! We christened ourselves "The Khunat Crackers" because no one in our class ever denied the fact that they're miserly. Our batch is that self-deprecatingeven our adviser didn't make any disagreements! We're one big, happy family. 

When they heard that my article got published, they immediately texted me, sent me messages on FB, and posted on my Wall to send their congratulations (screenshot above is the easiest I can get, I'm too sleepy to find the others as they're buried way below the layers of birthday greetings). Support poured in like rushing water from broken floodgates. Come to think of it, it's just a small wineverybody can join! But they told me how proud they were, and it's enough to make me blush. It almost felt like a reunion because to be honest, I haven't talked to some of them for quite a long time. After handing them my thank-yous, I made time to catch up and they gave me some condensed editions of their histories that I wasn't a part of. 

Just for the curious, the screenshot above features Jasmine, the Ultimate Math Wizard; Geszille, Paul the Valedictorian's girlfriend; and Bernard, my cartoonist counterpart in Pamamahayag (Tagalog journalism is a separate subject).

Khunats engaging in convos give me extreme cases of nostalgia kicks-in-the-gut, but of the good kind. That said, you should be able to tell that high school days are one of the most precious gems in my memory treasure box. :)

The English Trainor (with a cameo by a stray Khunat)

Ma'am Rye was one of my high school trainors for English-related competitions (reading proficiency, spelling contest, essay contest, etc). I felt happier when she heard the news because in a way, I know I haven't failed her. She believed in me, too; she's also one of the reasons why I got this insatiable hunger for fiction and writing.

And then it struck me. I wrote something not-so-good in the essay about my high school math teachers! *gasp* Yes, dude. The "witches" part. Well in my defense, it's more than true, but I know hell hath no fury than a coven of math hags scorned! Haha, okay, that's too much. There's 99.99% Ma'am Rye would tell my math teachers that "witches" detailthe world of LDHS's faculties are smaller than you can imagine. Ah, well. Cheers for not being a Lakan Dulanian anymore! I guess I'll pay my alma mater a visit when the ripples of this LIBEL (they will call them that, I know them hahahaha) faded to nothing. Few years from now, perhaps. 

****
The Grade School Classmates

One small fact about my FB account: there's only a handful of elementary classmates that are on my friend's list. My Friendster's full of them, but now that it's gone, I wasn't able to keep tabs on them anymore. But the world is small and everyone's interconnected. My elementary school classmates who happened to be college classmates with my high school classmates heard bat-squeak echoes of the news, and voila! We're connected again. :) Talking with them made me feel like a kid again. I miss those days.

****
My College Family

Okay. I've typed and retyped this part so that there's no hint of going cheeseballs here. These people have always been the eyes that witnessed how much I wanted to write,  the eyes that saw how high the star of becoming a writer hung in my dream's sky. Four yearsand counting. I love them. They know who they are. 

****

My essay winning the contest was no big feat, but it's a stepping stone to reach my dreams. :) It's like looking into the future and into the past both at the same time. And for thisas well as for all the love of my family and all the blessings I'll receiveI thank God.



Review: Up All Night

Review: Up All Night
Authors: Peter Abrahams, Libba Bray, David Levithan, Sarah Weeks, Patricia McCormick, Gene Luen Yang, and Lara Geringer
Genre: Supernatural, Drama, Horror, Young Adult, LGBTQ (Anthology)
My Rating: ★★★★



Heaps upon heaps of schoolwork. Thesis project. A meteor shower as announced in the evening news. A phone call from a friend. Whatever it may be, there must be something that kept you up all night at least once in your life, a night that made you feel as if you’re drifting betwixt wakefulness and sleep, a night that shot a different kind of energy up your veins and made you witness how it melted into sunrise, how the city lifts its eyelids again…

This is the theme of the Lara Geringer anthology Up All Night, featuring six best-selling young adult authors and their bite-sized tales about a single night that mattered in the lives of their characters. Although not everyone may be successful in leaving memorable dents on the hearts of the readers, all of them are able to convey the very feeling—the high spirits—that only defying a human’s diurnal body clock could give.

For me, the story that took the cake is Libba Bray’s “Not Just for Breakfast Anymore,” which is about a group of girls attending a rock concert in Dallas in the 1980’s. Following the group’s attempts to hang out with the Cheap Trick is fun, but what I enjoyed the most is the exploration of Maggie’s—the main character’s—big secret: her father is homosexual, and she is trying to hide it from her friends. Maggie’s parents have divorced after her dad’s revelation. After being too drunk and wasted to drive themselves home, the group doesn’t have any closer place to stay except Maggie’s dad’s apartment (whom her father is now sharing with his lover). This is not an extremely emotional ride, but that’s what’s ironic about it: its subtlety cuts like a knife. In only a few pages I learned to love Maggie. Her constant thoughts about her father and homosexuality are cleverly interspersed with the group’s stereotypical antics.

My second favorite is Sarah Weeks’ “Superman is Dead”, which is one tangle of a tale about a death of a pet, divorce of parents, birth of a stepbrother, and an English assignment that becomes the main character’s symbolic pool of kept emotions as he deals with his inner demons. I also loved David Levithan’s “The Vulnerable Hours,” an angsty albeit thought-provoking tale that tackles the usual answers to the question “what’s up?”

Those are my top three. The others are pretty alright: Peter Abrahams’ “Phase Two” reminds me of R.L. Stine’s stories and Patricia McCormick’s “Orange Alert” is a good tale of reversal of powers (though I expected more from the girl protagonist). I didn’t really enjoy Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel-style story though. It seems too short to give off a lasting effect.

Over all this is a good read.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Favorite Book Year 11: An Advance Birthday Gift

(thanks for the scan, Jerick!)

Just three days shy of my twentieth birthday, my essay about the book The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano was published in the Sunday issue of The Philippine Star. If that’s not one of God’s best advance birthday gifts for me, I don’t know what is.

I didn’t expect it to be published at all. Last Friday, my only goal was to find newspaper companies online that accept fresh graduates. Magazine work on foreign soil is my last resort (courtesy of my father). I'm still not that keen on the idea, so I'm seeking for similar jobs here. I checked Jobstreet, deposited a couple of resumes, and wandered around the info superhighway to find an ad or announcement. When I got to The Philippine Star’s website, I stumbled upon this page and I thought, “Why not?” It's the National Book Store-Globe-The Philippine Star essay competition, and all that I have to do is talk about my favorite book. I have everything I need for that: a multitude of books to blather about and way too much time on my hands.

“Heavy emotional punch” was the needle to my book-choosing compass—a necessity because if you really know me, you’ll have a 20-20 hindsight that my favorites are more than the number of your fingers and toes combined—and it’s pointing straight at Giordano’s debut novel. So I penned an article about it, checked some facts online, submitted the essay with crossed fingers…and practically forgot about it the day after. With reckless abandon, I went to my usual (bum) business: reading, catching up on White Collar’s third season, reading again, texting and group-messaging some of my friends about my latest read. The article didn’t cross my mind that lazy Saturday.

I was dumbfounded Sunday morning when I found out my article’s published (on paper and here on their website). So far, this is the best gift I received this year. God is so generous. I’m also overwhelmed and touched by the endless support of my family and friends! On days like this, I feel like I’m the farthest person from “solitude.” Thank you, everyone!
____

edit: The Philippine Daily Inquirer just texted. I got an exam tomorrow! Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The littlest things

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“It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh—I think that requires spirit.” 
-Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster)


It's a little ironic, isn't it? But it's true--sometimes it's the littlest things in life that are hardest to deal with. Face everyday with a smile, a prayer, and a belief that everything will be okay. Everybody knows that the world is cruel; moping about it won't change this fact. Be strong. Seize the day. Appreciate the littlest things that may come your way. 

Review: Tell-All

I would like to think of Chuck Palahniuk as a demented cook. He takes pleasure in extracting the glitz and grit of ordinary human lives and mixing them with the most vulgar, most risqué ingredients he could come up with. He is obsessed with the presentation of his work—sometimes he would mold it into a ‘coma’ diary form, sometimes into an interview form, sometimes into that frenzied Engrish A-Clock-Work-Orangesque form. He would set this on a silver tray, plaster an innocent smile on his face, and bask himself in the enjoyment of watching his readers flinch and get queasy after taking a bite of his new, experimental cuisine. The best drink to have on the table when you’re helping yourself to a Palahniuk dish is a cupful of antidote.



Tell-All is Palahniuk’s latest gourmet creation. Presented in the style of a screenplay (with “acts” and “scenes” instead of chapters), it tells the story of Hazie Coogan, personal assistant/adviser/creator of the aging Hollywood actress Katherine Kenton. For decades, Hazie has been a crutch to Miss Kathie, always helping the star to get up and romp after a collection of multiple cosmetic surgeries and a string of failed marriages. When danger comes in the form of the handsome young man Webster Carlton Westward III, Hazie must do everything to save Miss Kathie from him—especially when they discover he is plotting to kill Miss Kathie for the completion of the actress’ “lie-ography” or a tell-all memoir.

I find the premise intriguing. As expected, the book has twisted and bizarre elements of the usual Palahniuk fare; also hard to miss is how dark humor and seriousness constantly eclipse each other in almost every scene. However, unlike Choke or Diary or Rant, this does not begin with a spark that will snag your interest from the very start. I find the first eighty pages a tad slow and monotonous. It sounds like a too-long introduction to me, and the story only started to charge along at a gallop upon the discovery of the sleazy, self-authored tell-all of Webster. I couldn’t put the book down when I reached that point.

The format is enjoyable at first, but the constant name-dropping—mostly of vintage Hollywood stars and gossip columnists—made me lose interest in it for quite a while. I mean, if I have to look up every unfamiliar name I see there just so I’d be able to get the joke, where’s the fun in that? I’m not very well-versed in show biz, to be honest.

I think the true genius of this book lies in how well Palahniuk makes a puppet of one character to make puppets of other characters—and in doing so he’s making a puppet of the reader's mind, too. It’s all about manipulation. In a world shaped by this author’s hands, it’s hard to pinpoint who the real psychopaths and villains are, with everyone posessing extremely peculiar thought processes and actions. By the time you have made up your mind who you are going to hate, Palahniuk will take off the veil and you’ll be surprised to know who’s pulling the strings. The whole novel is all about “perfuming” this character’s name, after all.

That said, I think this is a good read. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Choke or Diary, but it did leave some mark in me. (Pygmy’s still on the shelf and I’m going to pick it up when I think my mind’s ready for some brain-torture. THE ENGRISH!)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ow. I got a letter.

Dear Self,

Please, please try to control yourself. You said you're going to save money for MIBF, but what are you doing? How many books have you purchased this month alone? Splurging is never an option (at least now). That's one disadvantage of Tumblr, you get to meet awesome bookworms and you ask for recs and you go searching the bookstorelandia to get the titles.

What? You consider it a perk? Financially it's not. Okay? If you can't stop reading, go re-read some books you already have! Like The Kite Runner or 1984 or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. They're awesome, anyway! And if I remember correctly, you still have an "unread" haul for this month on your bedside table. How about changing the tag to "currently reading?" You have to give those books back to their mommies sooner or later, mind you.

I hope I have your word.

Sincerely yours,
Metaphorical Piggy Bank

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fifteen Portraits of Despair

Brevity is a thing Neil Gaiman can juggle deftly with the other magic diabolos of effective writing. Less is more, they always say. Endless Nights, a sevenfold spin-off of The Sandman series featuring each of the Endless, contains a chapter that exhibits brevity at its finest. Despair's chapter is called "Fifteen Portraits of Despair," a mini-compendium of fifteen vignettes that depict the Endless herself or the exact and literal meaning of the emotion.


Coupled with the amazing art (courtesy of Dave McKean and Barron Storey), the micro-fic gives off an atmosphere of true depression. The page above contains one of the shortest vignette in the chapter, depicting an image of sadness and the spark of hope hissing into nothingness when "it begins to get dark." The words, to me, feel like a veil, and you have to flick it away with your mind in order to see a clearer image of what you've just formed.

Another portrait goes like this:
It wasn't the loving each other or the knowing they could never be together.
It wasn't the wind in the eaves of the empty house, or the bone-dry rattle of the pills in the brown-glass bottle. 
It wasn't the bitter taste, with only a stale box of red wine to wash it away.
It wasn't waking, with her dead and you all too alive. 
It was the way your fingers shook. It was a stammer, and the thickness of your tongue as you tried to speak. It was the sound of the sirens, coming closer.
It was knowing that you would never get another chance.

Do you see the genius in that? A seven-sentence story that can shake you once you understand it. Notice how the images paint the essence and emotion of this little portrait. A man wakes up to find her lover dead, apparently because of suicide (giveaways: pills, wine drank to wash away bitter taste, death). What exactly, in such a scene, would make a man's heart be a bait to Despair's snagging hook? Perhaps not everyone can appreciate it, but anyone who is hungry for fiction that shrouds itself with  mystery in the simplest way possible would say this is a precious piece of gem. I loved this to bits.

I'd like to follow this lead. When I saw this chapter from Endless Nights for the first time I was like, "Dang! This would be a rad layout for our Imaginaccion! I wish I read this before we made the book!" But after I calmed down a bit, I thought I found myself a new writing exercise....uh, not exactly new, because I've been doing a lot of prompt-microfics and flash fics not so long ago. I decided that when I'm going to do this again, I should put some spice and grit to it. Somewhere along the lines of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary (with main entry words as prompts!) and Gaiman's signature gritty portrayal of most of his characters.

Reading does motivate me to write more. Now I found a muse and there's no stopping me. :)

World Masterpiece Theater: Targeting the Source Materials

It has been eons since I last saw a re-run of one of those shows.

I am a member of that Pinoy generation whose mornings were not complete without an episode of the Tagalized versions of the ‘World Masterpiece Theatre,’ a special Japanese cartoon staple in the 90’s. I was a flighty little schoolgirl then, and having good series to partner with breakfast was enough to keep me feeling all sunny and happy throughout the day.

The morning routine made me a wee multitasking machine: making sure I have finished all homework, shoveling spoonfuls of milked champorado into my mouth, cramming placemats and shoe-rags and multi-layered pencil cases into my knapsack, tying my hair into pigtails—all the while keeping my eyes glued to the idiot box. ABS-CBN channel 2 would be airing shows like Sarah, Ang Munting Prinsesa (Princess Sarah); Cedie, Ang Munting Prinsipe (Little Lord Fauntleroy); Mga Munting Pangarap ni Romeo (Romeo’s Blue Skies); A Dog of Flanders; Remi, Nobody’s Girl, etc. Except for the stories of Cinderella, Little Women, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the preteen me was not aware that almost all those shows were based on books.

Nostalgia kicked in hard upon recollection, and I had this urge to search the dubbed versions at Youtube and rewatch them all. But then I realized that my 2011 readings lacked a lot of classics, especially the source materials of the cartoons I mentioned above. That’s why I made a mental note on adding some vintage lit gems to my to-read list. Here’s a few:

1. WMT title: Mga Munting Pangarap ni Romeo/ Romeo's Blue Skies
Book title: The Black Brothers (Die Schwarzen Brüder) by Lisa Tetzner and Kurt Held

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Who can forget those little chimney sweeps frequenting the streets of Milan? This is the story of Romeo, a kind-hearted kid who offers himself as a payment to Luini when his sick father cannot provide money for medicine. At that time, children are sold to strangers to be slaves. Romeo becomes a chimney sweep and meets up with a group of kids expert in the trade, the Black Brothers. In the book, I think the protagonist is named Giorgio. I'm trying to secure a copy of the original manuscript online, but it seems like the new graphic novel edition is the only version available.  :(  But, no matter! It's a graphic novel anyway and I'm actually on a GN binge right now.


2. WMT title: Remi, Nobody's Girl
Book title: Sans Famille/ Nobody's Boy by Hector Malot

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That's right: the original protagonist is a he. I know there's another cartoon that's more faithful to the book, but I've grown way too fond of this French girl Remi. I don't remember much about this anime, except that she's looking for her real mother after she finds out that she's only adopted, she meets a group of kids that are coerced to work by a bad guy (I find this quite similar to Romeo's Blue Skies), and then...I don't know, there's some kind of love story there with the boy named Mattia. I have the Ebook version of the novel but I haven't  finished it yet; reading the friendship between Remi and Mattia in it made me think that the Japanese desperately wanted to insert some romantic subplot into the story. Anyhoo, Fullybooked doesn't have a copy of this, so maybe I'll just be content with the electronic version.

3. WMT title: My Daddy Long Legs/ Judy Abbott
Book title: Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

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This is one of my favorites because it has a character I can truly resonate with (seconding only to Jo March of Little Women). Our common denominator is the desire to be a writer someday. :) I've already read the book and I think the cartoon is very faithful to it. It's a little more detailed because the book's content are only Judy's letters, but overall they have the same feel. My Daddy Long Legs is the story of an orphan girl who's granted a scholarship to an exclusive girl's college after a mysterious benefactor sees a potential in her of being a writer.

4. WMT title: A Dog of Flanders
Book title: A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramée

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Nello and Patrashe's story is perhaps one of the saddest among the WMT titles. Just thinking about the ending reminds me how I wept loudly as a kid before going to school, ruining my well-powdered face with tears while watching the last episode. It's so heartbreaking. :( A Dog of Flanders is about Nello, a young boy who helps his grandfather sell milk in town in order to earn money. Patrashe pulls the dogcart of milk to assist Nello.


4. WMT title: The Trapp Family Story
Book title: The Story of the Trapp Family Singerrs by Maria Augusta Trapp


Photobucket

Who doesn't know what this story is all about? Anyone who's heard of The Sound of Music would be familiar with the Trapp family. I didn't know that the book is a memoir until I saw the name of the author, but a friend who already read this said it was a bit fictionalized. That didn't diminish my excitement, though. I stumbled upon a copy of this in the Tutuban branch of National Book Store recently. I'll definitely come back to purchase it, I know it will be worth it. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Gingerbread

After reading the Cohn-Levithan collabs Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List, I developed some sort of thirst for reading something that is written solo by Rachel Cohn. I'm no stranger to David Levithan's solo books (Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, The Lover’s Dictionary, etc) so I recognize his distinctive writing prowess even if he's working with partners.

Gingerbread is the first book that quenched the said thirst. After finishing it, I think it’s safe to conclude that the best thing about Cohn is that she has a special way of molding unforgettable main characters that resonate with many young readers.



Meet Cyd Charisse: a ragdoll-toting, ex-shoplifting, and well-caffeinated sixteen-year-old girl fresh from being kicked out of her posh boarding school. She’s that lovely but spunky punk next door who has a penchant for carving patterns on her skin with a razor and an innate need to go wild. When her rebelliousness gets seriously out of hand, her parents have no other choice but to send her off to New York City and spend three weeks there with her biological dad, Frank. Cyd’s perfect image of a fantasy relationship with her bio-dad and half-sibs starts to crumble when the real thing is thrown to her face…

Plot-wise, there isn’t much that happened in the book. It reads like an informal journal of a very snarky antiheroine who’s dealing with commonplace teen problems. Honestly, I find the first half of this book a tad slow. I’m trying to figure out if Cohn is setting up a wiggle room for character development or she’s just letting the readers delve deeper into Cyd Charisse’s cranium of not-so-clean-but-honest thoughts. I learned by the end of the novel that it’s both, since the readers can easily tell how Cyd has grown a lot after she comes back from New York.

Readers who are familiar with Norah Silverberg (from N&NIP) will notice that her traits are somewhat channeled to Cyd Charisse, though the latter is not a music geek and her potty mouth is sealed with a filter. There’s a lot that she bellyaches about, her hormones meter usually explodes under the slightest “hunk” pressure, and most of her thoughts are extremely obnoxious. Then here comes the dichotomy factor: there is something in her that will magnetize a portion of the readers’ hearts—especially if they are young girls. I think it’s the same way a lot of readers don’t like Holden Caulfield yet there are still legions who can relate to him in a deeper level: they are recognizing something in that character that reminds them of themselves. Usually, this “something” is not nice, and characters that mirror such things are commonly tagged as unlikable.

The supporting characters, like the plot, are generic. The clichéd portrait of a dysfunctional family is there, with each member not inflated into weighty fullness. They’re not exactly cardboard cutouts, but they’re still shy of a couple of big steps from being considered well-fleshed out.

As for the themes, it’s all about the teenage life. Family misunderstandings, peer pressure, romance, and serious repercussions of being careless in sexual relationships are touched. But since this is a coming-of-age novel, finding one’s true self and growing up are at the apex of it all.

I did not enjoy this as much as I did Nick and Norah’s, but it’s entertaining enough to make me want to grab the next book in the series, Shrimp. :)

The Rose Walker Speech


“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up a whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. 
Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ or ‘how very perceptive’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.” 
-Rose Walker (The Sandman #65: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman)

This is one of the most memorable quotes from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman graphic novels, where Rose Walker is talking to Desire of the Endless after she realizes that the man whom she slept with the night before is actually married. Somehow it reminds me of a quote from another Gaiman work, where a character says that love will inspire and ruin you in equal measure.

Love is such a powerful thing, isn't it? Its effects can sit at the two opposite sides of spectrum at the same time. It makes a walking dichotomy in all of us. Falling in love demands a lot of requirements, and obviously the top two of these are (1) to allow yourself to be weak and (2) to put all your trust to the one who have stolen your heart. You wager your bottom penny because that's how much it costs...and sometimes, in the end, you end up empty and cracked.

/musings

10 Syndromes that are named after literary works/characters

  1. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Unlike the namesake of this disorder, sufferers of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome perceive their body parts and other objects in altered sizes even if they don’t consume weird things with “Drink Me!” or “Eat Me!” on their labels. :P AIWS is commonly associated with migraines, brain tumors, use of psychoactive drugs, and signs of epilepsy and mononucleosis. This is also called Todd’s Syndrome.
  2. Rapunzel Syndrome. This syndrome is named after the fairy tale princess with beautiful and astonishingly long hair in one of Brothers Grimm’s bedtime stories. The Rapunzel Syndrome is a rare intestinal condition in humans resulting from tricophagia, or the abnormal urge to eat one’s hair. This diagnosis is medically referred to as trichobezoar. In ancient times, the hair found in intestinal tracks are believed to be an elixir of some sort, able to cure lots of diseases.
  3. Cinderella Syndrome. Named after the main character in one of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, this syndrome refers to the common phenomenon in kids where they make exaggerated stories about how they are abused, mistreated, or neglected by adoptive/step-parents. This is different from ‘Cinderella Complex’, which is said to be women’s fear of independence and an unconscious desire to be taken care of by ‘stronger’ others (like metaphorical Fairy God moms or Princes Charming).
  4. Peter Pan Syndrome. “I don’t want to grow up!” says J.M. Barrie’s popular character from Neverland. According to pop-psychology, sufferers of Peter Pan Syndrome are adults who are socially immature. They tend to avoid responsibilities and often feel the need to be mothered.
  5. Dorian Gray Syndrome. This syndrome is named after the handsome main character of Oscar Wilde’s book The Picture of Dorian Gray who sells his soul so that his portrait will age instead of himself. Sufferers of DGS are characterized by an excessive preoccupation with their physical appearances and youth, thus having problems in terms of coping with aging. Often, people with DGS have narcissistic traits and are heavily reliant on cosmetic procedures and products.
  6. Othello Syndrome. Sufferers of Othello syndrome, very much like the namesake of this disorder from one of Shakespeare’s works, are characterized by intense and often delusional distrust of their partners. This syndrome is also called morbid jealousy and is often associated with alcoholism and sexual dysfunction. It can also be found in the context of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  7. Pollyanna Syndrome. Named after Eleanor Porter’s protagonist in her best-selling children’s book, Pollyanna Syndrome is the psychological phenomenon wherein a person becomes blindly or foolishly optimistic to a point that it’s almost delusional.
  8. Emperor’s Clothes Syndrome. The Emperor’s Clothes Syndrome is more like a mentality than a disorder. It got its name from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale where no one in town—until the kid speaks—is pointing out that the Emperor is naked because no one wants to be called ‘stupid’ or ‘unfit’ for their positions. People who have ECS claim that they know something even if they don’t, in order to avoid being judged as stupid or intellectually inferior to others.
  9. Mowgli Syndrome. This syndrome is named after the beloved main character of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli. Mowgli is a boy who is raised by animals. Kids with this syndrome are said to have weak mental and/or physical traits, especially those who have suffered tremendous emotional stress due to parental neglect and abuse.
  10. Huckleberry Finn Syndrome. This is named after one of Mark Twain’s boy characters that became darlings to the readers, Huck Finn. It’s a psychodynamic complex in which the obligations and responsibilities avoided as a child, eventuate into frequent job changes and absenteeism as an adult. The HFS may be a defense mechanism linked to parental rejection, low self-esteem and depression in an intelligent person.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

She's Caught in the Rye

My little sister Aila has never been a fan of English novels, and I'm suspecting it's either because (1) reading something that is more than ten pages long is the same to her as listening to someone talk about electronics in monotone or (2) the English language is not her forte. Or maybe both, I can't be sure. I'm always trying to bring her into the world of bookwormism, but she won't even let me get her past the threshold of  eye-rolls and long-books-bore-me gestures.

About a couple of weeks ago, her classmates went over to finish a group assignment. One of them inspected my bookshelf and recognized a novel: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. She told Aila that it's a good story, and as quick as lightning my sister decided she's going to read it. I teased about it being induced by peer pressure, but deep inside I was sort of glad and excited. At least she's going to try, I thought.

One of those nights. 

Holden became Aila's frequent company during her free time. When she read, she brought along with her our almost-spineless thesaurus in case she encounter unfamiliar words (apparently she gave up the search for our ancient dictionary). There were some nights when I found her asleep, with Catcher and the thesaurus lying not so far from her. She didn't finish it in one sitting--three or four nights maybe, which is understandable considering the heap of schoolwork on her study table.

After that, she's asking for recommendations. I think she's sort of amazed about the amount of YA books that have Holden Caulfield references in them, and that fact alone is an effective bait to get her to read more...at least for now. I'm coaxing her to read a Levithan and an Asher novel. She said something to the effect that she would put it on her mental to-read list since she couldn't read them right away because of prelims and yadda-yadda, but I think she's serious because she has that certain look in her that only appears when she's really interested. 

I'm excited. A new bookworm that's finally ploughed herself out of the barren earth. *glee* And for this, I thank you Salinger. And Holden of course, because you're the primary magnet that drew Aila completely into your story.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A few leaves from Tuck

I'm always on a cross-posting spree, so if you've wandered from my Tumblr and made your way here, please pardon the redundancy. The following are scanned pages of my Yeah! journal I've posted about before, the one I call Tuck (part of my freakishness, naming inanimate objects like they're babes). These are fragments of books I've read, but they somehow struck a chord with lots of my RL current events so they made it to the pages of my private journal...things I wouldn't disclose here, anyway. Without further ado, here are the pages:
 
2. Paper Towns quote
“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
-Paper Towns (John Green)

Margo
You get all of the quote there, no point in repeating it. But I'll take advantage of the space here to say Margo Roth Spiegelman is one of the spunkiest and most selfish heroines in YA literature. You got to pick up Paper Towns by John Green to find it out firsthand.

13
“If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore. But you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head.”
-Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Goya Monster on the Walls (picture quote)
“I write because the words pack themselves so tightly inside my head—with all their energy, dread, joy, hope, and abject misery—that if I cannot get them out, they will consume me."
-Why Write? (Camille Moffat)

I Ship Toast
Not a quote or anything touching, but a glimpse of fangirlism about The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are my OTP forever in this fandom. So the Girl on Fire + Boy with the Bread= Toast. Get it? Get it? Or if you don't want, you can ship them as PeeKat, KatPee...or PeeNiss. Your choice.

Lucifer Morningstar
"They die, and they come here – having transgressed against what they believed to be right – and expect us to fulfill their desire for pain and retribution. I don’t make them come here… I need no souls. And how can anyone own a soul? No, they belong to themselves. They just hate to have to face up to it."

First official stills: Hunger Games

So they've finally released HD versions of official stills from The Hunger Games movie a couple of days ago. I'm not the first one to say this I think, but it really doesn't keep the needle on my excitement meter from getting all crazy! I can't wait. There's a screencap of Peeta Mellark standing outside their bakery, holding a burnt bread that he's supposed to toss at Katniss; and then there's a still which I think is from the beginning of the book, where Katniss and Gale are hunting outside the fence.



Apparently they've taken some liberties, at least on Peeta's scene. In the book, he's supposed to be a kid when the "burnt bread" scene happened. Most of the time I'm a purist when it comes to these kinds of stuff, but I'm trusting the movie maker's own interpretation of the book. Please don't let me down!

Prologue: Cutting Maps

First draft of the prologue of the novelette I'm writing. :) Wish me luck on this endeavor!
___

When he looked at the big picture, he realized it was all tantamount to ‘cutting maps’, a little personal project he had when he was in high school.

The class was studying Alfred Wegener's theories then. He wasn’t much of a studious kid, but the continental drift intrigued him so much to a point he decided to do a hands-on experiment on it. He took a world map, cut the continents and countries, and attempted to fit the arches and gaps so that they would form a single whole. There were little chips and gaps here and there, but the little pieces fit, like interlaced fingers of destined lovers, like the curves of a woman and canyons of a man…

Sometimes he would cut a Philippine map, but would easily give up when the little paper isles would be blown away by even his softest breath. Needless to say he preferred scissoring bigger islands. He made it a habit to buy world maps in different colors and to kill time by cutting and then pasting them together. He used to tape them up to his bedroom wall, the paper continents as Pangaea; he used to look up at them at night, subtly illuminated by the glow-in-the-dark stickers of constellations near the ceiling. He remembered musing about how even the biggest land formations could have their own partners, albeit ones—in the present—they couldn’t truly hold again the way they used to. At least according to Wegener.

He took down the map fragments when he had his heart broken for the first time. He cursed Wegener, cursed the supercontinent, cursed himself for comparing the land forms to soulmates. He thought about those times and couldn’t help but smile a little, thinking how silly he had acted.

Now, he wondered if it would be a good idea to buy a new map and cut it again. In such a short span of time he could confidently say he’d grown as a person, as a real man. He could try to put the continents together again, this time appreciating the gaps in between because perhaps those are the spaces they needed so they could grow more…perhaps those are not variants of hellholes at all, like he used to believe years ago.

He stopped when he realized he was comparing the continents to soulmates again.

But does it really matter? For all he knew his life has been and always will be this one big Panthalassa and all the people that have come to his life is but a shard of his broken Pangaea. No matter how close he thinks he is to a person, there would always be a hairsbreadth of distance between them. They need to breathe. They need to fill out more by themselves.

Yes. Tonight, he’d buy a couple of world maps and cut them. He wouldn’t pin the pieces on the wall; he would keep them between the pages of a favorite dog-eared book the same way a woman would keep a rose in her diary until it all dry up, petals and memories…

Friday, August 5, 2011

10 Awesome Literary Tumblrs

This list is created by Megster12. I'm glad to be included in it. :)

1.) I Heart Classics
written by Sterling Publishing- They curate the classics so you don’t have to…mixing modern culture and classic lit. The classics are more relevant than you think!

2.) Iris Blasi
written by Iris Blasi- Coordinator of Digital Media for literary public relations firm Hilsinger-Mendelson East. Formerly an editor. Forever a reader.

3.) Literary Nerd
written by Kylie- Literature. Reading. Writing. Films. Craft. Design. Fashion. Travel. Adventure. Joy. Life.

4.) Vintage Anchor
written by Vintage/Anchor (Knopf Doubleday)- From Classic to Contemporary—The Best Books in Paperback.

5.) Book Mania
written by Archie- Book Mania is an inspirational blog celebrating the amazing power of reading. It mainly features books & excerpts of various masterpieces published around the world. Aside from those, it likewise posts images of the world’s most beautiful premiere libraries, bookshelves, bookshops & cool book stuff.

6.) Pretty Books
written by Stacey- The Pretty Books blog mainly involves sharing photos of beautiful books but I also frequently post book reviews, quotations, recommendations, discussions, and articles.

7.) Bookshelf Porn
written by Anthony Dever- Porn for book lovers. A photo blog collection of all the best bookshelf photos from around the world for people who *heart* bookshelves.

8.) Cinderella in Rubber Shoes
(Love the background and all the added features- good use of “ask me anything” and she connects her other sites, goodreads, etc to her page) written by just another girl who successfully wriggles out of the rabbit hole of college and is now trekking the Wonderland of literature and journalism.

9.) Somewhere Over the Sun
 (Good use of tabs at the top linking to places to purchase the book, and includes some customer reviews as posts)
written by Adi Alsaid- Thoughts about writing.

10.) Better Book Titles
written by Dan Wilbur- This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

Minimalist Fairytale Posters

LESS IS MORE--so goes the mantra of visual arts minimalists across the information superhighway. I've always admired how art with sheer simplicity can tell a long story in itself (Cue: a certain line from the song "If" by Bread). Clever minimalism executed in flick posters are common, but ones that portray literature are rare. I chanced upon a website called My Modern Met while searching for a Red Riding Hood artwork--something to randomly post on Tumblr--and...tadaa! Serendipity. I found this bunch of amazing fairytale posters.































All of them are exceptional, but the Wizard of Oz is the most hilarious of all: the Tin Man needs a heart, the Scarecrow needs brains, and the Lion needs....balls. Freaking spot-on!