Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle

Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddle
Genre: Fairytale, fictional revisionism
My Rating: ★★★★(4 of 5 stars)

Sleeper and Spindle

With today’s unending slew of accounts that unhook many fairytale characters from their more familiar (and often ‘sanitized’) bedtime storybook versions—like those featuring a thrice-divorced Prince Charming, a one-foot cyborg Cinderella, and a rifle-wielding Red Riding Hood who collects wolfskin coats—it is safe to say that revisionism, indeed, is the new black. Many authors and moviemakers are jumping on the bandwagon but only a handful can deftly play around in the genre. One of them is Neil Gaiman, and he has once again proved this in one of his most recent works, The Sleeper and the Spindle.

The novella is both a retelling and a mash-up of two beloved fairytales. When a “sleeping plague” spreads from a nearby kingdom, the unnamed Queen knows she has to do something. Stripping off her wedding dress to don her chain mail and sword, she travels to the kingdom with her three friend dwarfs and tries to stop the curse by the “usual way”: a kiss on the lips of the root of it all, the fair princess in her seemingly eternal slumber. Unbeknown to many, though, the princess is not who they think she is…

Long before its ‘picture-book’ release, The Sleeper and the Spindle has already caused a rather controversial buzz in the Internet. It was when one of its beautiful full-spread illustrations, the one showing Snow White and Sleeping Beauty kissing, surfaced in various social media. There were scattered homophobic bashings but after people got a hold of the tale, some are now complaining why there isn’t an actual inkling of lesbianism in it! That’s the hard-to-please audience for you, but I think Gaiman, being the playful prosemeister that he is, does this on purpose.

So yes, despite what it looked like, The Sleeper and the Spindle did not really cross into the LGBTQ territory. What Gaiman did is swerve into another path to underscore the will and power of women. Gaiman made her Snow White wear the Lady-in-Shining-Armor trope but with a twist; she wakes the princess from the witch-sleep, and the motive is to save her kingdom from the plague. Here, romance is pushed in the backburner; here, masculine roles are taken by the female characters.

More important than that, the women in the story—both the good and the bad—got to showcase individuality and the strength to stand by their own decisions. Yes, there is the overt problem of enchanted sleep, but the undercurrents of internal battles constantly pop up. Even in the beginning Snow White is shown as somewhat dreadful of the future. She has doubts, she wrestles with her conscience, and she wants to hold tightly to her freedom. Who says you should always stick to what is expected of you? Who says other people’s standards officially dictate what would become of you in the future? Gaiman concludes the book with an answer to that.

Typical of Gaiman, the story takes a flavor so dark, but one that does not quite cross the spine-tingling darkness of his other revisionist stories like Snow, Glass, and Apples. Good humor is thrown in there, too, the kind that could be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

And let us not forget to mention Chris Riddell’s gorgeous black-and-white art! These certainly added to the beauty of this little gem. Inlaid with metallic gold ink, the detailed, wispy illustrations give a modern gothic feel to the whole book. Seeing them made me want to check out other Riddell’s works, and I totally will.

Packaged altogether, this one deserves four stars.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Books that rocked my 2014

The bulks of offline commitments I had in 2014 proved a lot of things, and one of them is this: they may turn me into an online Janey-Come-Lately by divorcing me from my laptop, but they could never really tear me off the books I wanted to read. ;)

However, I must admit that the number of books I read last year had dropped a  few notches from the number of novels I flipped through in 2013 (needless to say, I failed to complete my GoodReads challenge). I’m just so glad that most of what I decided to pick turned out to be paperback jackpots, thanks to some of my bibliophile-friends’ recommendations.

Before I move on to new novels this year, I present here some of my favorite 2014 reads  in no particular order:

Check out my lists of top lit picks for the previous years:
*reviews to follow

Happy new year, booknuts! I hope you find lots and lots of amazing novels this year, and I hope you get to spread the love by telling other people about them. :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Adieu, 2014!

And the clock struck twelve. When our ears catch its chime, when we hear the first sweet notes of “Auld Lang Syne” mixing with the screams of fireworks, we take it all as our signal to nosedive to our new beginnings. We’re always excited for a new start, yes?

But before we rush to create rosters of new resolutions, why don’t we take a last glimpse at the previous year’s happy highlights and carry them like a lucky keepsake for 2015? Per my blog’s annual tradition, I’m recounting here some of the reasons why my 2014 has been a reasonably good year.

The Year that Was

Wicked in Manila.
It was around mid-February when we got to cross out a big item in our bucket list. Why, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) just saved us the airfare to Broadway when it became home to the megamusical Wicked! Just thinking about it again brings back the magic of the night. If you wish to go through my extensive (though rather fangirl-y) account of the experience, you may read it here.

WickedThe Wickedest Night There Ever Was’ for the Oz-sessed trio

Baby Summer is born.
On February 18 our friend Debbie gave birth to her first baby, Summer. More than anything, the little angel is a blessing; the moment she became part of Debbie’s life, she has also indelibly imprinted herself on ours. She's the main reason now why the word "summer" brings us double-joy. Here's to hoping she grows up beautiful, healthy, and as (street-)wise as her mom. :)

 Summer, all grown up now! (Photo by Mommy Debbie)

The Great British Festival.
Our Britophile hearts were not able to contain our glee come March when the British Embassy mounted the first Great British Festival in Taguig City. It was a three-day celebration and although I attended for one day only, it became a memorable experience to me. Here’s an entry detailing my Very British Saturday.

Great British Fest Feeling tourist-y at the GBF 2014

Riggs Book-Signing.
In April, Ransom Riggs of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fame visited the Philippines for a book-signing event in Glorietta. I missed his book-signing in 2013 so I made sure not to commit the same mistake when National Book Store brought him back to the country. If you want to know how my encounter with Mr.Riggs went, you may read it here.

A visit to book-lovin’ places.
Around May, my friend MJ took me to two new places in the UP Village that are home to many secondhand tomes: Bookay-Ukay and Cool Beans cafe. You may check this blog entry to know more about our trip to these places.

Bookay-Ukay and Cool Beans Bookay-Ukay and Cool Beans Cafe

This 2015, I’ll make sure to visit places that not only promote literacy but also flag the pride of being bookworms.

Team Building and ‘Dog-Paddle’ Lessons.
Our office spent three June days for a planning cum teambuilding session in Bakasyunan, Tanay, Rizal. After the hard slogs of gearing up for the entrance of our new Director-in-Charge and preparing for the next projects, everything seemed to consist of unadulterated fun. We stayed up late for karaoke, munched on good food, and played games!

It was also hear that I learned the ABC’s of ‘squirming across the surface of the water to save my life’ (I myself can’t even consider it a decent form of swimming. How sad is that? Haha!) We were in the pool when my colleagues found out I don’t know how to swim, so they grabbed that opportunity to teach me the rudiments of the activity. Their efforts came into…slight fruition in the end. At least now I can dog-paddle my way to safety if ever the boat I’m riding on gets capsized or something. :p

TeamBuilding KMIS Planning/Team Building in Bakasyunan, Tanay, Rizal

The start of our  H&F routines.
It was in late June when I and my friend Eliza began our weekend jogging sessions. The suggestion came up when we were eating a not-so-small meal at an Italian restaurant one night. Feeling bloated at the end of dinner, Elai offhandedly remarked that she should start developing some kind of health and fitness routines to stay in shape. In jest, I suggested regular runs...and I ended up accompanying her when she took it seriously. I’m glad it happened, though. Since then there hasn’t been a week that passed without us doing various calorie-burning stuff. :)

JoggingFrom one of my morning jog sessions with Elai (Photo by Jeff, who used to be the masculine Hermione to our femme Harry-and-Ron fitness tag team)

Finally 23.
Various dust devils of workload came crashing on us on July and August, but there’s no stopping my getting a year older. On August 24, I turned 23.

IMG_20140922_232503Birthday surprise at the office

HuCap Season.
In the DTI, the HuCap or Human Capital Development seminar-workshop season commences in September. Aside from the various seminars under TalkShop, Dale Carnegie, and other training institutions that I attended, I also got to subscribe to one of their physical wellness programs! For the latter, I and my friend Joanna signed up for a four-month yoga class.

TALKSHOP That one time when my Draw-This-and-That-Without-Lifting-Your-Pen talent honed in childhood became actually useful. And it’s in a serious seminar, to boot. (Photos by

Yoga Thursdays with Jo at Big Shift Studios, A.Venue Mall, Makati City.

We missed about three or four yoga sessions because additional workloads made it so that our nine-to-five schedule suddenly became too short for us to finish many of our tasks. But we have free yoga mats and we could use them when we take yoga classes outside of the HuCap Dev. program, so I guess we still won at that. :)

Manila International Book Fair.
Need I say more?

Back to the Walled City.
October is the first month our office held an ‘organizational culture’ activity that aims to strengthen the bonds between officemates. Considering time-and-place economy (along with the HR’s guidelines in choosing the activities), the team opted for a whole-day trip to the planetarium and the historic Intramuros.

Revisiting the Walled City provided an instant throwback to me and Kit since our alma mater, The Lyceum of the Philippines University, is located there. We reminisced about trudging the cobblestones and drawbridges, asking directions from the guardia civil, climbing its “walls”, and eating on the cheap stalls we call KFC (aka kikiam-fishball-calamares) right beside our campus.

Back to Intramuros 
Revisiting Intramuros.

Mystery Manila and Haunted Hunt.
The days approaching Halloween became extra-exciting as we tried the first live escape room game in the country, Mystery Manila. We were with our former professor and ‘office dad’ Sir Vic when we attempted to solve the mystery of Rebecca’s Room; we were with neighboring office friends Liah and Elca when we signed up for Mystery Manila’s Halloween offering called Haunted Hunt. Both games were fun, and we’ll make sure to play the other games Mystery Manila will offer.

MysteryManila Joining Mystery Manila as part of ‘Fat@Team’ and Team Pola B*tch.
(Excuse the latter name. It’s a long story.)

Pink Punch Sundays.
Determined to amp up our fitness routines during weekends and holidays,  Elai and I applied for memberships at the Elorde Boxing Gym in November. Here we’re currently undergoing a training program that gives our muscles the kind of soreness we haven’t experienced before—the kind of pain that tells us our bodies are alive. Also, ever since I started runs and exercises, I’ve spent months not seeing the need for my good ol’ friend Salbutamol. This, of course, means that I’m on the right track.

Boxing at Elorde GymBoxing Sundays with le fitness buddy :)

More runs and relaxation.
Knowing we’re into fun runs, my father invited me and Elai to participate in Tarlac’s Magic Star Color Run. As a sponsor under San Miguel, he’s got free race kits for the three of us. The event is not as big as Manila Color Run but it was as fun! The race proper was sandwiched between two rounds of zumba (one for warm-up and one for cool-down). There was also a brief color-powder festival at the finish line, and scattered mini-feasts all around thanks to San Miguel’s free drinks and snacks.

Color Run Magic Star Color Run in Tarlac City with Papa and Elai

After getting color- and sweat-drenched at the end of the run, we headed home for breakfast and prepared to visit one of the places in San Jose that gets flocked by pilgrims every Holy Week, the Monasterio de Tarlac. Perched atop the hillside retreat of the Monasterio is the thirty-foot statue of Jesus Christ, which is a dead ringer for the popular Rio de Janeiro image in Brazil. Its humble church, we were told, houses one of the sacred relics of the True Cross.

A Visit to Monasterio de Tarlac At the Monasterio de Tarlac in San Jose

A Very Retro Office Christmas.

Stress clung to us with a viselike grip that we barely noticed yuletide season creeping up slowly on the calendar. It was only on 18 December—a day after the very crucial first-stage ISO Audit for our office—that we took a real break. With a retro theme, our Christmas Party was all guffaws, games, and gifts!

Christmas Party 
The KMIS Retro Christmas Party 2014

It’s as if all our ‘beleaguered’ mode were switched off for a while; paperwork and assignments were traded for dances (courtesy of Tita Baby’s last-minute dance instructions on a 60s medley number), songs (courtesy of Sir Ren’s and Sir Resty’s last-minute invitation to join a John Legend number), and photo ops (courtesy of…everyone. Everyone is a camera freak!). Every member of the KMIS family was giving off childlike joy that time.

Dance When You Don't Need ToDoing impromptu “body wiggles” that I hoped passed as proper dancing…or not.
To be honest, I didn’t really care.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I used to be a true-blue member of the proverbial ‘So Timid I’m Almost Antisocial’ Club, but my membership got voided right after I found out that wiggling around (read as: dancing) to coax out adrenaline rush is an effective de-stressor. Trust me on this. Once upon a time, someone would need to pull a gun on me to actually get me to the dance floor. Now, upbeat music would automatically make me sway. What can I say, times are a-changing!

Jackstone Five The ‘Jackstone Five’ singing John Legend’s “All of Me” semi-disastrously.
No one memorized the lyrics.

Tagaytay trips.
Have I mentioned that my fitness BFF Elai is also Little Miss Wanderlust? Whenever she feels like leaving the city for a while, she’ll book tickets without second thoughts, grab her backpack, and go on her merry adventures. She invited me a handful of times to accompany her on her trips, but I only agreed to places that were at most three hours away from the metropolis (yes, sometimes I’m a clingy wife to my husband named Work). We went twice to Tagaytay this year. You may read about one of these here.

Tagaytay Trip Loving the verdant and cold Tagaytay.

Ther's a whole batch of other reasons why I should be appreciative of this year—passing the Civil Service Examination, receiving my appointment papers for regularization at work, watching musicals like The Last Five Years, witnessing my grand-nieces growing up (!), and even the littlest of things like tasting an array of different types of teas, getting a new hanging bookshelf on my bedroom, and, well, reading amazing novels.

But most of all, I’m grateful for all the people that helped make this year worthwhile. 2014 was akin to a reasonable dealer: while he made sure he released a substantial amount of good things, he balanced it out with rounds of a handful of bumps and misfortunes. I managed to go through the latter with the aid of my friends (both new and old) and my ever-supportive family (both blood-related and otherwise). I hope you’ll still be with me the same way I’ll be with you this 2015.

Cheers for a new start! :)