Monday, November 26, 2012

An Assassin's Tale by Reev Robledo

An Assassin's Tale (A Short Story)
The Bible, a critically acclaimed book that is well-known throughout the world, actually makes good literature, especially for adults. You've got political intrigue, adultery, drama, love and a whole plethora of themes in just some 1,500 pages (average estimate). However, besides the well-known stories of its take on the creation & the end of the world and of a demi-god who walked the earth, this book has a number of characters that are rarely mentioned in the homilies of priests on Sundays.

Take, for example, Ehud.

Judges 3:15 (from Holy Bible: New International Version)
"Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite."

The story of Ehud, the hero of this short story's work, is condensed in 19 short verses in the Bible. It tells of his purpose, his actions, and how he carried on his task as “deliverer”. His story there is given as is – straightforward and simple. This book gives breath and form to this left-handed unsung hero.

I love how the first-person viewpoint of this story gives us so much more to work on than his 19-verses-of-fame. Through Ehud’s eyes we see not only his thoughts on his supposed role, but also his everyday life, his people, his land. He finds a tiny clover amongst the weeds. He feels awkward in his dignitary clothing. He is humbled by the touch of a man with the markings of the Men of Valor. These little things bring life to a faceless, unknown character, whose existence might have just been very important in the history of the Israelites as Jacob and David were.

The storytelling is spot on, although I felt overwhelmed by a number of seemingly unnecessary details here and there. (In particular, I’m talking about the scene with the Iron Forger. Although I had to admit that such details, such as that of the sycamore apple, did very much help in bringing a scene forward.) However, the pacing is balanced, driving us on with an upbeat take of a thrilling action scene, while quietly, furiously taking us through an unnecessary long talk with a foolish leader.

There is not much to say about a short story such as this, but I AM very interested in the book this story is allegedly to be a part of. The concept is definitely interesting, and well-executed. It’s a great read, while not exactly religious in nature.

(Outtake: After reading Ehud’s story as noted in the Bible, another faceless hero is mentioned. “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” That is all that Judges 3:31 has to say about him.)

An Assassin's Tale by Reev Robledo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide by Aaron Goldfarb

How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide
(This review has been spoiled by too many f-bombs. Religious tolerance is advised. Parental nonguidance is necessary and recommended.)

His name is known in every household. His face is on the covers of every magazine. Women constantly fawn over him, fighting to get his sole attention. Yep, Stuart Fish sure has got it all. In his head. While looking over his horrible apartment, lucking it out with unemployment pay, and lying post-coitus in bed with a terrible-looking hag.

This is pretty much the story-slash-guidebook of a bona fide failure in life. When Stu says he’s a failure, he notes it based on his firsthand (*laughs at inside joke, then laughs at inside-inside joke*) experiences – from How to Fail to Write a Cohesive Introduction, to How to Fail to Make Your Parents Proud of You, to How to Avoid Your Ex in a Small Town, and to the ever-popular How to Fail to be Normal. Oh, and you bet your How To Fail ale that Stu’s great at failing.

He’s also great at telling you his story at being a failure. He’s offensively humorous, sarcastically intelligent, and humbly arrogant. He’ll list down (in bullet points!) his failure-certified step-by-step tips (see How to Fail in Love, How to Acquire the STD that’s Right for You or How to Masturbate at Work). He’ll speak in the rare second person while penning a tale of erotica to give you a better *ahem* feel of How to Fail in Bed. Why, he’ll even leave you footchapters, instead of footnotes, so you don’t even have to glance at the bottom of the page or flip to the back of the book for additional information! (He happily advises you, though: “Don’t skim them, asshole.”) He’s the caring kind of narrator – hitting you in the face with his casual mention of books such as Catch-22, Grapes of Wrath and A Scanner Darkly, while cautiously serving you a creampie of horrible sex, Jewish slumlords and fake titties. He also uses big words (like “loquacious”) because he’s the type of guy to use words like “loquacious”.

(For those with Kindles – I heard that, at least for the Kindle e-book version, the author has even hightlighted/underlined his most important pieces of advice for the common non-failure. As I was reading this via Kindle App, I could see no such emphasis, although italics and emboldened text were here and there.)

As you probably guessed by now, this book is definitely not for the people who get shocked at politically incorrect sentence enhancers and herpes-laden pederasts. Heck, this may not even be a book for successful networkers, over-40 golf players, or married lesbian lovers who live in high-rises at Upper West side. This is a book that is written with the unemployed, alcoholic, drug addict, unemployed alcoholic drug addicts and other rock-bottom failures in mind.

This book is also quite a wild ride around Manhattan, though with a brief by succulent look at Hollywood too. Set in the heart (or posterior) of the Big Apple, the book shows us glimpses of Stu’s best-remembered (recommended?) places: cheap bars, sleazy apartments, crammed subway cars, and more cheap bars. Don’t expect that he’ll take you to a church though, considering his atheistic stance. Forget about marveling at the wonders of a government-related establishment (except maybe the courts or prison), since he’s got a ball to bat with all those entanglements political leaders seem to enjoy. (So with him, definitely forget the idea of bonding yourself in the eyes of the church and the government, i.e. marriage.)

At the end of all the crass, highly opinionated anecdotes, this book dwells on the ups and downs of a late-twenties/early-thirties man who tries to make it big in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Behind all the bravado of a seemingly failed life, Stu guides the audience into his morning rituals, his loves and losses, and his head and heart. Sure, it looks like a book written by the Rudest Person On Earth, but its brutal true-to-life stories mirror everyday annoyances that we all experience one time or another (maybe even everyday for some most of us). While nothing really seems pristine in Stu’s world, his imperfections and irritations are something akin to our own restlessness and wishes for better days.

All in all, the book is well-written, well-informed and charming in its roguish language. It’s got enough depth, useless information and timely advice that is quite interesting to chew upon (especially with a watermelon martini). There are life lessons to be learned here, although it will probably take a very open mind to absorb whatever those lessons may be. Great read, but try to leave your muddy self-righteous shoes next to the passive-aggressive junk pile while you’re reading this, all right?

PS: This is more like a 4.75 for me, so I'll leave this as a 4-star read.

How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide by Aaron Goldfarb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is the story of good versus evil.

It starts out quite simply enough - you hear of a man who was made to go to an obscure castle in an obscure land. He seems excited and quite jolly, all the while fondly remembering his lovely bride-to-be. A few letters later, however, he relates of the people whispering about an "evil one" and how they seem to pity him for his choice of destination.

For he is off to the castle of Dracula. Dracula, an unseen, unheard being, whose terrible ubiquity has brought fear into the hearts of the people -- as it may to yours as well.

If you've read modern vampire stories before reading this one (especially romance-related ones), prepare to set your expectations regarding them aside. Dracula will remind you of the "true original", and make you remember the beast behind the fangs.

This story, while relating of horrific events, did not strike me as utterly "scary". There are intelligent (not to mention valiant) men in this picture, and they help bring reason (and courage!) to such a superstitious story. Oh, and there's the lovely Mina too - she seems to me the epitome of what a woman/wife should be :)

The story-telling here is via letters, news clippings, transcripts, etc, and I find it very interesting that, as the story progresses, we find out why and how the book came to being. (Well, sort of.)

The people whose words helped shape this story are, in their own little ways, unique - and utterly human. How devastating it was to hear of poor Lucy's belabored breaths. How surprising it was to see Abraham Van Helsing allow himself moments of weakness. How romantic it was that Lord Goddaming did what he had to do to set her free. It was really quite amazing how these people persevered in attempting to destroy the evil that has plagued such land.

Still, while these souls were brave enough to attempt silencing the evil spirit, they were also lost, scared and faltered every now & then. I loved that they were very real to me. (It helps that we get snippets from their own respective diaries!) I even liked how Van Helsing remarked of Dracula that... [he was somewhat like a child, and although he was known to be incredibly smart while he was still walking the earth as a living man, his wisdom had not yet then fully developed.] (highlight for spoilers) Even a dark lord here has a twinge of reality in him!

There is indeed talk of "devils" and that of "holy". It doesn't exactly mean that this is religious (although there is constant reference to "His guiding power" or "His blessing"), but it did help in propagating the vileness of an "unclean spirit".

One point rather annoyed me, however: [Why did they stay in the Seward's house when they knew that Dracula had ready access to his dwelling? Couldn't they have thought of what it could mean for poor Mina?] (highlight for spoilers)

Overall, it was an exciting read, especially with its creeps, fog and trickles of blood. It really left me quite breathless. There's a note of joy to be found in the ending pages, by the way, but I had wondered whether Dracula might still actually out there somehow... Biding his time until he finds his next dark abode.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

BOOM by Michael Whetzel

We all have that something that just ticks us off. It could be bullying bosses, unattainable prospective lovers or lousy neighbors. Have you ever thought, however, about what would happen in case we allow all that anger to manifest and allow it to go BOOM?

This is a story of a man who is fed up with all the daily annoyances of his life. He has an education, he has interests & talents, and he is nice & congenial. For some reason, however, his life turns out in such a way that he is almost a walking time bomb due to how he's constantly ticked by how people (and life) treated him. [We would then come across the crazy rampage of a man who suddenly has the power that most of us probably desire, so we could finally get rid of those irritations.] (highlight for spoilers)

What interested me most about this short story is the fact that there seems to be a supernatural vibe here, but it comes across as rather, well, natural --- that is to say real. The line between fantasy and reality has been so cleverly blurred.

The story-telling is superb, too. (I enjoyed Whetzel's The Pied Piper of the Undead, and this story, while different in character, was still as interesting and well-written as the other.) There's gore here, but it somehow comes as a matter of consequence for poor Jeffrey.

Oh, and I love that last sentence, and how it seems to tie up the entire story. Will this have a sequeal? I'd clamor for it, if only to know what happened to the two principal characters of this novelette :D

This story, I believe, is somewhat an outlet for the author for the things we would love to change, but can't. (As a matter of fact, the author leaves a little note at the end saying something just like this.) It also reminded me of Alanguilan's Wasted :)

All in all, great show.

BOOM by Michael Whetzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Venus in Furs
This book is not exactly pornographic in nature, but I could say that it may be classified as erotica. It also has a dash of intellect, although I felt as if the entire BDSM thing was brushed off as a deviance in the end.

Because yes, this is a book about bondage / discipline / dominance / submission / sadism / masochism.

This book was written by (what I'd imagine to be) a smart man, using a rather intellectual way of writing. Sure, it's about a rather known-to-be-deviant subject, but he does it in such a rational and broad-minded way.

Indeed, the topic (BDSM) is something most people would consider odd. His characters themselves think it's odd, but you are led to understand that some behaviors may have stemmed from deep-rooted sources. You are led to understand that there are people out there with slightly different sources of pleasure. You are led to understand that as odd as it can be, that's just how some people work. (In this instance, there's a possibility of cure, but why cure something that may not exactly be bad, only misunderstood, in the first place?)

The plot is so-so, but I really stayed on this because I found the psychological look into the matter quite fascinating. I was surprised at the pseudo-dominatrix and how she acted about her slave. I was awed at how the sub would cry in anger but love in delight. I was shocked by the deserved (?) ill-treatment of the slave at the very end.

I was rather sad to see the book end so fast, but I was rather disappointed that it ended up almost saying that enjoying the BDSM thing is something an ass would do. I'm not sure how modern society will take this, but I'd guess that the more conservative people will be shocked by the thought, the more liberal will be angered by the seeming misconception, and the open-minded ones will shrug indifferently.

I liked the psychology in it. I thought it was a quick read. There isn't much graphic sexy time here. I was disappointed by the ending.

Oh, and I tried to look for a photo of the Venus in Furs painting that is described in the book. I think that this photo does it the most justice. (Pro-tip: A lot of NSFW pics come up if you search "venus in furs" in Google images >->)

Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ish - Getting the 'Ish Out in the Open by Regina Griffin

Ish - Getting the 'Ish Out in the Open (VOL I)
This could be read in one sitting, but this may be best read like a coffee table book, one page at a time.

The book presents simple enough advice, statements and general to-dos that are weird, wacky, and rather deep. They are presented one page at a time, one sentence at a time. The ideas are random, although I was pleasantly surprised at more than one page.

This would probably make a good coffee table book, because you could always pick it up, randomly open it to a page, and ponder the thought presented to you for the entire day. As I've read this on the Kindle App, it's hard to do such a thing.

Ish - Getting the 'Ish Out in the Open by Regina Griffin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

State of War by Ninotchka Rosca

State of War (Philippine Edition)
This is a book not to be taken lightly. This is a book that requires a steady head and deep thinking. This is a dangerous book.

It deals with the history of the Filipino people, from pre-Spanish (with the priestesses babaylan who wore gold trinkets & traded with the Chinese) to Spanish (with the friars and other foreigners, such as Germans, who come to this godforsaken land to grab something that is not theirs) to American (with Hey, Joe! and chocolates aplenty) to the current (with the beautiful wife of the Commander-President who wears the shirts of butterfly sleeves).

It also looks into the inner workings of society that is kept from the newspapers – it talks about rebellions, refugees, whores, politics, prophecies, poverty, religion, stupidity, rape, torture, death. It’s a neat view into the progressions of Philippine society from its very roots, and from all levels. (Note: Its setting is concentrated in the Luzon/Manila area, although I'd hazard a guess that K---- is located in The Visayas.)

This book, on the one hand, is beautiful. Its words are like waves crashing, plying the sand, creating beautiful music to the tune of silver bells. Its words are like the rugged drumbeats, playing its sound on rhythmic body movements. Its words are like whispers between lovers after their coupling, holding hands while looking at a future together. The storytelling is seemingly messed up, but calculated to be so. Each event, each leaf, each breath of air is so important to the overall development of the story. It’s breathtaking, just looking at the intricate web formed by the masterful hand of Rosca.

(I am somewhat reminded of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, although I think Rosca’s prose is a little more poignant. Reviewers mention that her work has the tones of Franz Kafka, but as I’ve only read The Metamorphosis, I feel I cannot be a good judge for this.)

This book, on the other hand, is horrendously ugly. It zooms into the sides of us we don’t wish to see. It zooms into the irk and evil in hearts of pristine-looking people. It zooms into the dirt and grime in your hair, on your cheeks, on your skin. It talks about the history of a people who seem to be trying to prove something, while not moving an inch at all. It’s horrifying, just looking at the web of violence within and without, the violence done with, by and for the people.

This is a great book for reminiscing, although try not to turn your head on the parts that could pain your soul (as there are many). If you are up for the challenge, come, let’s go hand-in-hand with Adrian, Eliza and Anna, as they look back into their pasts and dance their lives away in the present. The future can wait, at least until after the Festival.

State of War by Ninotchka Rosca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Beautiful and Damned
This review may contain spoilers. Caveat emptor.

What a lovely little novel this is, one beautifully dripping with sarcasm. (Oh, Fitzgerald.)

This book is simply about what the title states: it's about the beautiful and damned. It deals with the lives of two persons who make it a point to live as gorgeously as possible, with damning consequences.

(This book rather reminds me of Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair. The two ladies (Becky and Gloria) seem to live the same life, although the cunning Becky cannot compare to the lovely Gloria. Becky's more proactive, too. (highlight for spoilers))

The storytelling is incredibly sarcastic. It tickles my bones and touches my heart with its sadness all at once. (I suppose that's how it is, as there's comedy in tragedy.) What's interesting about the sarcasm and irony here is the fact that, I believe, this is STILL applicable of modern times. (As it is just like the railroads to come out with new schedules containing new mistakes, instead of the old ones that the commuters had grown used to.)

While it follows the lives of the angelic Gloria and the handsome Anthony, this story is also briefly about the people they meet, the people whose lives they touch. It would be funny to say that they are all in the same boat, but while this is true, the couple definitely outshines the rest in living as they do. (And they all do live quite fashionably and lavishly.)

Upon getting deep into this book, I got this feeling as if I definitely know where all this was headed. The placement of too much trust in "friends", the refusal to take on any job lower than being a diplomat or an accomplished author, the unending parties and overflowing wine, the arrogance without conceit and beauty with pride. There was something wrong with the picture, but the entire scene held on anyway. You caught your breath, seeing Gloria in a new dress, while waiting for Anthony to come home from peddling Heart Talks. You smiled at Dick's latest book, while listening with awe to the quiet but intelligent Maury. You looked over the brim of your wineglass to see Geraldine give her chaste kisses, and you chuckle at Bloekman's stare at the hostess. You hear the quiet sobs of Dorothy as you look over Muriel's sway of the hips. This house of cards will fall, this ticking bomb will go off, this wisp of smoke will vanish into thin air... But, for the moment, it doesn't.

There are so many issues here. You smell the stench of war, you see the lure of moving pictures, you hear the disdain for philantropists, you taste the bitterness of tired love, you feel the howl of wind in a house too expensive to be kept. There's a funny little Japanese here, who seems to be a spy for the enemy. There's a little southern girl here, whose reputation was compromised by sullied lips. There's a knowledgable attorney here, who worked for the cause of the undeserving. There's a worried-but-not-worried little lady here, who is excited about the baby but who could really not care less about motherhood. So many stories revolving around two persons without a care.

This is an enjoyable book. I particularly liked the intelligent (and sarcastic, of course) snippets here (and therefore adore Maury). The ending was surprising and, well, quite expected. The spiral of degradation was imminent, but the journey towards that was pleasant, albeit fraught with notices for unpaid rent.

This is probably a book not be taken too seriously, unless you can get used to the words I don't care. There are thoughts here that lie beneath the book's surface that are definitely worth reading. All in all, it's an interesting journey with an interesting ending. Great read.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Woman by David Bishop

The Woman
This novel is about a woman who only wanted to retire from the cares of the world, but was pushed to action and danger by a singular event that happened to the only friend she had left in the world, or so she thought.


Linda Darby just wished to retreat from everyday nuances after her divorce. All she wanted was to recuperate from her pain, enjoy her day trading, and live enjoyably as a single woman with nice beachfront property. Little does she know that in just one day, her life changes from a seemingly peaceful one to one fraught with danger, all because of a rich and powerful man who wants to tie up loose ends. It helps, I guess, that she has a lone ranger on her side... Or is he working for something - someone - else? (Not important.)

This story is intelligent, action-packed and very thrilling.

It's intelligent, since Linda isn't one to swoon due to a crisis. She's a mature woman who knows what she needs and what she wants, who plays on her strengths and acts accordingly, and who is not afraid to be afraid (because there's such a thing as good fear and bad fear). She knows she's in a frightening predicament, but uses her level-headedness to do what she thinks is best.

It's action-packed, because it involves a mystery, murders, car chases, and surveillance. The lone stranger who ends up stalking her (for good or for bad, it's difficult to say) definitely makes sure that things are complicated and surprisingly easy.

It's thrilling, because you're not quite sure what happens next. Step by step, a plan is formed, but, as one of the characters here observes, one should be quick to improvise if necessary.

You've got a string of murders happening in a quiet town, an underground kingpin who only does what he thinks is best for his country, and a woman who only wants to be left alone. Well, that's what she thinks she wants anyway.

The book's really quite enjoyable, although I had to fast-track the monologue regarding American politics. (It's actually very interesting, but I felt it was a little too much for the book itself.) I was also getting rather frustrated at Webster near the end of the book, because I was looking forward to an interesting plot twist somewhere, but it never came. The pages before the ending were rather simple for me, although the ending itself rather surprised me. In case you were wondering, there's sex here, but only a glimpse of a sex scene.

Quite exciting, but I felt felt this book could've packed a better punch. It's quite a page-turner though, and features a smart, strong woman (and interesting men). It's also enjoyable and hard to put down. A good read, overall.

The Woman by David Bishop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg

Lords of Dyscrasia
"Just be mindful to sacrifice your dark emotions whence you arrive. Your soul will pale. The hue of your memories will desaturate. You will be cleansed. Protected."

This is a story of a man who worked to free himself from a lineage of bondage. He starts with simply denying the Rite of Inheritance of his forefathers, and soon finds himself undead and clothed in the skin of his enemies.

For this is the land of the Lords of Dyscrasia, a land where blood and ichor color the landscape.

Reanimation, specters and murderers are ever-present here, as are the traces of insectan elders and terrible harpies. They battle for the supremacy of their masters, fueled by contempt and guilty memories. They fill your senses with sanguine touches, and they haunt your soul with unforgiving murmurs.

I would definitely say that this is unique. I haven't read a lot of this genre, of speculative/horror/gore, but I must say that I had quite an enjoyable ramble as I walked through a world where I could sink my feet in bloodied pools or rotten corpses.

While this is not a book for the sick of heart, it is a fairly great story told by quite a technical hand. You have to be rather good at context clues (but it wouldn't be a problem if you're paying enough attention), but the details are consistent, surprising, shocking. I had some problems with the storytelling (rather confusing at times), but I'm sure that some details may be bypassed while still enjoying the story. The unraveling of the plot itself, however, was pretty good. The little details were significant too, which surprised me as I went along.

(Oh, and just to add: I absolutely loved Dey's parts. I liked this young artist of a man, with his sketches and searches for pigment. Bonus points for Dey!)

If you have no qualms reading dark fantasy (and feeling as if you've bathed in blood), pick up this book and enjoy. Come, the Lords of Dyscrasia are beckoning, calling you to claim your nightmares.

[ Note: I think this is more of a 3.5-3.75 for me, really... So I'll peg this at 4, to be generous ;) ]

Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Friday, August 3, 2012

The Pied Piper of the Undead by Michael Whetzel

The Pied Piper of the Undead
Wow. How can a book of few pages sweep me off my feet so fast? Amazing, this novelette.

I like how simple the book is (although it is also very complex). I like how realistically fantastic and fantastically real it feels. I like how the character, the story and the setting has been placed in such a simple way, it’s almost too easy, it’s almost unbelievable (though also very believable at the same time). I like how easy it was for the storyteller to dip his hand into Peter’s past and shove it (or gently present it, when necessary) towards the reader’s silver plate. I like the ironies, the reminisces, the relationships, the parallelisms.

Of course, there are a number of unanswered questions here, but they are quite easy to brush aside when you catch Peter crying all of a sudden after playing a videogame, as you both listen to the undead howls in the night.

The title is apt (although at first I’ve been rather impatient to know why, the reason came soon enough), the story intense, the overall feel of the book great. Undoubtedly, there are some gross parts, but hey – it’s a book with zombies, for crying out loud. Nice take on the zombie apocalypse theme. Quite a “coming-of-age” story too, now that I think about it. Awesome read.

(I want to give it a 5, but I feel it’s more of a 4.8-4.9 for me. I’m leaving this at 4, then.)

The Pied Piper of the Undead by Michael Whetzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Clockwork Blue by Gloria Harchar

Clockwork Blue (The Lumière Chronicles)
I picked this book up because I was attracted by its steampunk lure. Little did I know that the steampunk essense is only some 10% of the book. The rest is of fantasy, drama, sex and colors.

This book starts with pixies. Pixies, of all things. Little flying creatures who possess the power to balance and unbalance things in this world. One wrong step, and they've brought on world war, have allowed freakish things into our dreams, and have let loose some of the greatest evils on Earth.

Oh, and let's not forget that they're about as small as your thumb.

Interestingly enough, this novel isn't necessarily about the pixies. It's about a lady who can see them, and who, by some odd luck, is to be manipulated helped by these creatures into changing the course of history.

But I digress. Nicola, in all her tomboyish ways, doesn't seem to fit the part. It helps that her adversary's the Black Falcon, known for his malice and lies. So we got an unladylike lady who's up against a dark, handsome, "dangerous" man, and she's the key to changing the world for the better.


The storytelling's decent, although I at first felt confused about the part the pixies play in this mix. (It gets clearer as you go along, I suppose.) I myself sometimes get surprised when a pixie suddenly lands on Nicola's saucy nose.

The characterization is actually pretty good. I liked how human the players were here - they showed sensitivity, strength, loneliness, atonement. I like how a kind of psychology is described here, and how misunderstandings and reputation were handled quite well. Very nice.

The plot - interesting. The premise is quickly given out, really, but the turnout of events was easily played. Some expected turns and unlooked-for twists.

Nice ending. I think it would be lovely to know what has happened to this bunch after the Finale.

There are sex scenes in this book. I love how old English words were used here (addlepated, hoyden, etc). I enjoyed the history lesson, as well as a nice remembrance of the Industrial Revolution. The mechanical aspect here is not very detailed, but it happens. I kept muttering "tsundere" under bated breath.

Overall: An interesting look at industrial England, with a quirky little romance in the middle of it. A quick, cute read, all in all.

Clockwork Blue by Gloria Harchar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, July 30, 2012

After the Birthday Party by Angus Miranda

After the Birthday Party
Have you ever wondered what happens when all the candles have been blown out, when all the presents have been opened, when all the guests have left? Have you ever thought of what happens after the birthday party?

In my opinion, we each take a pause within the day (maybe just before the day runs out), and just dwell in the yesteryears. That is what After the Birthday Party is all about.

It's about the free-roaming thoughts that come once the dusk settles in. It's about the little incidents that have molded us to who we are today, to who we are to become tomorrow. It's about the little heartaches that swell in our hearts, persistent and ever-nagging. It's about the little tears we've shed because we felt pain and happiness. It's about almost-forgetting, but never quite letting-go. It's about remembering.

The stories here, as varied as they are, are all about these memories. The themes ring of hope, love, regret and loss, but they also sing of strength, passion, loneliness and darkness. They take note of childhood escapades, of far-flung dreams, of wanton wishes. They declare in poems and move in stories. They cling desperately to the present, while shakenly staring at the past.

They are you, as you are your friend, as your friend is the kid crossing the street.

What makes each of these pieces closer to my own heart is the fact that I know these people. These are people I don't see everyday, but I know who they are. These are people who have decided that I, a stranger in their midst, can look into their own hearts to view their miseries and joys. These are people who have poured forth words to describe their most beautiful and poignant moments to me, for me, by me. A piece of these people are in my hands, and, as I have contributed my own whispers in this book, a piece of me is in yours too, dear reader.

After the birthday party, when all of the guests have gone
Go open up your own heart, and let it burst into song
Inside are laid memories, buried oh-so deep within
Enjoy the tear it gives you, and let the party truly begin

Thank you, friends, for a beautiful read :')

Bonus material: This is the initial (unpublished) piece I contributed to this work.
"He came. I fell in love. I hoped it would last.
He left. I regret nothing. I am still whole. "
(highlight for spoiler)

After the Birthday Party by Angus Miranda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge (Penguin Classics)
This book's interesting. It shows us that some people may just be born under an unlucky star, having misfortune after misfortune with seemingly no way out (except for a meeting with Death).

Let's see. We've got an intriguing cast of characters: a Scotsman, an orphan, a gullible woman, a simple man. They've all happened to find their way to a small village tucked away from the world - Casterbridge. In this small place, they find a number of interesting things: loves (and hates), family (and strangers), friends (and enemies). They also find darkness (and light), death (and life), regrets (and hope).

The storytelling is rather biased toward showing truths at all angles (even on how a person's steps on the road can mean something). It presents the reader with a number of dichotomies, showing the many ironic sides of life. It tells you how you can have knowledge without wisdom, strength without physical capacity, power without position. What's also very good about the storytelling: You have no idea what's going to happen next (so you might as well dispel your notions of expectations for this book). Oh, and besides having the plot to chew on, I felt I was also being provided with many ideas to brood over and analyze.

Overall: It's an ugly, informative, satirical view of an English countryside, with a great plot to boot. (I mean, really. The first chapter already seems like the climax!) It's realistic, somewhat depressing, but very satisfying. Great read.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea is not your regular book. It is written in a not-so-normal way. The book is written in terse sentences. (I heard that it is really the style of Hemingway.) It is hard at first to read. But you get used to it after a while.

This book is also quite simple. It is about an old man. It is also about the sea. But it goes deeper than that. The book talks about the man while the man goes through a fishing trip. The man is a fisherman, so that is why he goes on this trip. The trip is a rather usual one. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary seems to happen. It is realistic. It is simple. It is also somehow unexpected.

The book talks about perseverance. It talks about strength. It talks about love. It also talks about the fisherman talking to himself. But it is not because he is lonely. Or maybe it is.

Overall, the book is typical, but it is also not typical. It is a simple story. It is unlike other simple stories in that there is more to see beneath the simple story. Some may consider this boring. I think that it is interesting and awe-inspiring.

For me this was a nice read. Simple but not so simple. It is simply great.

PS: Writing in this style really takes the cake. It's simple enough, but my poor imagination and flowery vocabulary are sobbing in a corner. *snickers*

PPS: I've heard of friendly discord between Fitzgerald (who I am, at the time of writing, reading - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & The Beautiful and Damned) and Hemingway. Check it out.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Secrets of the Heart by Khalil Gibran

Secrets of the Heart
This is a book of 11 pieces, a mix of short stories and poems. They're all characteristically of a beautiful language - beautiful in the sense that they all seem a little too... ornate, too flowery. (I suppose it's the writing style that dominates that part of the world?)

Nevertheless, the themes quite surprised me. I see here breaks in tradition, calls for change, intriguing endings. These are not your usual stories - these are stories that are meant to wake something inside you, making you remember that there's something quite not right in the world. Indeed, there's a strand of activism carefully weaved in *almost* every piece.

Few pages, great read. Nice food for thought :)

Secrets of the Heart by Khalil Gibran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra

No Strings Attached
{ Disclaimer: I'm rather biased, especially after meeting Dorothea (Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life), Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) and Jane Eyre. Hah, apparently I don't know the "modern woman". Yes, I suppose I don't read much chick lit, so I can't properly judge this. }

This book is interesting, as it's not as gushy or romantic as opposed to other chick reads out there. It revolves more on the story, as opposed to the sparkling personalities and the sex (although the sex mentioned here is brief and, I suppose, tasteful), though, of course, this book talks about those too.

To sum it up:
-We've got the hot guy and the "cluelessly beautiful" girl.
> Interestingly, the "hot guy" has his own character, as opposed to the ones who seem to "live for their ladies". He's his own man, although he does seem rather perfect.
> The girl here is "unknowingly attractive", but what's interesting about it is that she's independent (of sorts?), and she knows how to act. She is, after all, 30 - and this book really talks about the issues of females (and males?) of that age.
-We've got the "ring of friends."
> Support group, though interestingly labeled the "Marriage Club" + Tonio . Hah, Tonio seemed to be a closet homo to me. (highlight for spoilers)
-We've got the drama, the "villains" (no black and white scenarios here, though), the relationship.

Overall, the story's ok, although I was interested in the portrayal of Carling. I have a respect for her, and I'm glad she had some self-actualization in the end.

Other notes:
(I typically need to be in a certain mood to read chick lit... But I suppose it's been a while.)

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
June 30, 2012

Dear Charlie,

First of all, thank you for sending me your poignant letters. I'm honored you think of me as a person that didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though I could have. I'm ecstatic you decided to allow me to read your thoughts. I'm glad you proved to be such a great letter-writer/story-teller. I am really quite happy about this.

It was nice receiving letters from you, even though they're dated long ago. I know that I got them for only a couple of months (in a span of one year), but it felt like you've been talking to me since you were very young. (Remember that memory you called the first one you ever remembered?) I sometimes felt like the things you were pouring out in your letters were a little too personal, but you let me into your head, into your heart, into your soul.

With only your words, I saw you "participate", I saw you have friends, I saw you fall in love, I saw you grow. I may not have ever seen you or the persons you know personally, but I could almost taste your fries from that fastfood chain, I could almost hear Mary Elizabeth's chatter, I could almost see Patrick's smile, I could almost feel the winter cold of your world there. Your friends and family were as real to me as if I saw them every single day of my life.

Now... While I was glad you were very honest in your letters, I have to admit that your highs and lows were brutal and enlightening to me, as they were to you. Your first kiss (remember her tears?), your first "girlfriend" (e.e. cummings will always remind me of her), your first experiments with different substances (I was a little appalled, a little sad, a little curiously happy for you), your first drive (oh, the silly sophomores), your first mix tape (thank you very much for introducing me to a number of memorable songs!), your first time watching the last episode of M*A*S*H (I promise to keep that incident secret, too). You had your issues, but you seemed more interested in those of others. I felt more than a little sad when you were being too nice to some people... But boy was I rather depressed when you had to be all alone! I wish I could've always been there, instead of reading of your exploits on a date after you've had them.

I'll sincerely cherish your words, your thoughts, your ideas. Thank you very much for the pop culture references - you surely made me add more books and more songs and more "films" to my to-check-out list!

I'm a little sad that I haven't gotten any more letters from you after that last one, but I understand. I'm sure you're doing well, and rest assured: I'll always be here to hear you out when you need it.

Thank you for being so wonderfully Charlie-esque. Thank you for letting me feel infinite.

Love always,
Your friend

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Sugar & Salt by Ninotchka Rosca

Sugar & Salt
This is a book of so few pages. It is, however, so heavy to carry around. Oh, so heavy.

It is but a simple story, a fable. It is of so few words, but it is of so much thought.

It deals with a history of a people, a people whose identity seems quite vague, but an identity that is carried through a lineage (?) of a chosen few (of the few who chose -- and who seem to dwindle with each generation). It talks about the Filipino.

It also, interestingly enough, deals with sugar and salt, both of which have had their parts in shaping the Filipino consciousness and culture. It's amazing how the stories of old have been summarized here in such an artistic and heartfelt, heart-wrenching way. (While reading this, I felt like I was watching a very artsy movie.)

Special care has been taken to put woman in the middle of it all. As if it's her place? As if it's her place.

I don't think I have the words to explain this. It's too moving, too mysterious for me to convey my feeling about it. (I have let others read this as well, and they too can't seem to define exactly how they felt after reading this - except that it's "wonderful".) As a Filipino, I was most touched. As a reader, I was most astounded. This will stay with me for a long, long time.

Sugar & Salt by Ninotchka Rosca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies
I picked this book up with little expectation. All I previously knew about this was the fact that a group of boys are unleashed into a wilderness, and are made to fend for themselves. Little-little-LITTLE! did I figure that there's more to this than a simple story. [Don't judge a book by its cover, DC... Don't!]

(Oh, and this may not the survivalist book you'd want, I think. You'd get more tips from Robinson Crusoe :D)

This started out rather slow for me. Too random, too detailed, too matter-of-fact. The history of what happened to them, the boys playing and lounging about, the seemingly nonsensical talk between mates. Don't let this fool you, though. Each and every movement here has an underlying meaning-- even an innocent-looking shell.

The boys here all have their own personalities, though some, of course, tend to be more pronounced than the others. We see in here leaders (civilized and savage), unleashed terror (mental and real) and intellect (pretend and actual). We see in here the thin line that divides fantasy and reality. We see in here the game that we think we play, as opposed to the game that we actually play.

In short: we see here our purest forms, without the touch of social convention.

By using young bodies to play this gruesome tale, Golding shows us that it *may* take very little for humans to shed their inhibitions once the heavy eye and arm of society has removed their attention from them. After all, wouldn't you just want to stop everything you're doing, and live free and unbound around close chums? Golding also shows us how very easy it is to deceive ourselves (and others) if we have pride, if we have skill, if we have determination. If we want power over others.

(Thinking about it, we may actually see a little piece of us in each of the boys here.)

This is not a survivalist book. This is, however, about the survival of the fittest. Note that having a fit body may be different from having a fit mind.

Final thoughts:
- I've always felt something for Piggy, although he annoys me, like a little grain of conscience.
- Simon's a favorite with me.
- Jack is terrifying, but Roger more so.
- Ralph = "greatness thrust upon us"
- This is a deep, dark book.

This book isn't meant to be read lightly. This is a discourse on our passions, on our darkness, on our hate. While the events in this book are haunting in themselves, the ideas that revolve around it are so much food for thought - if you're willing to chew on it. Don't expect a fairytale ending, because though it seems resolved in your eyes, there is - and probably will be - an ongoing turmoil past the end of this book's pages.

Read on, but tread carefully. Someone behind you may be calling for blood.

Other update(s):
-The first few pages really turned me off... But then the events started making weird (non)sense, and I ended up liking this. A lot.

Lord of the Flies
 by William Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
Note: This is not Twilight, so don't you go looking for romance here (although it DOES "happen").

Note 2: I haven't checked out Battle Royale yet, so I'll review this book on its own. I also haven't yet read the other books in the trilogy. I'll try hard to keep myself from referencing other books.

This is Panem. This is a world past the years of today, a world that's seen the best and worst humans like us have to offer... And where humans like us consequently decided to re-explore and re-confirm the worst possible scenario, then cruelly bestow such situations to their fellow brethren. Dystopia.

(Note that this is a young adult book. This would probably not compare to the likes of 1984, but we must consider its target market. However, the book, in its own way, was able to portray and give life to a cruel society, with interesting personalities to match.)

This book is not about characters who wear rose-colored glasses. This is a gritty book, talking about the lowest of us, and how they survive behind the glittery, cosmopolitan life of the noted rich. This is about how they struggle to live, while doomed to die. This is about the Hunger Games.

The concept of the (actual) Hunger Games is simple: it's a grandoise display of power by the region's most powerful government. The very thought of the name shows this- the winner of the Hunger Games will be given a bounty to keep their *starving* district from hunger for a year.

This book, however, is not necessarily about the Games. The story zooms in on a young girl, who, by some chance or other, is meant to join the Hunger Games, and, consequently, does things that makes the Capitol change the rules of the game, sometimes in her favor (as opposed to the book's popular quote "May the odds be ever in your favor").

In essence, then, we have here:
-A society (complete with lore!) that controls and is controlled
-A strong *young* female lead character (who is a huntress in all sense of the word, and is not very emotional - though not unfeeling)
-Very real, very human characters (I don't think you'd find a "perfect" person here. The characters have very genuine feelings, and each seem to have a touching past - even the most brutal of them all)
-Lore! Lore! Lore!
-An action-packed story, with stray tidbits of comedy, tragedy and drama

A pretty good read, although my kid sister (11 y.o.) thinks that some parts are too "boring" (i.e. wordy). The movie adaptation was pretty good, too. For some reason, I can't label this a 5... Maybe a 4.5. 4 it is, then.

{What I struggled to understand, at first, is why a lot of people (read: young adults) love it. I mean, I hate-hate-hate the Capitol with a passion, and I think it's so horribly cruel for them to allow such barbaric play to happen. I asked a few people I know why they liked it- they struggled at first, and thought long and hard about it... But then told me things about the huntress in Katniss, the action, and the disparity between rich and poor.}


Other previous updates:

{Apparently, status updates are only for people with a few words to say :P}

Status update for pg. 182:
Disgusting. How can people (readers) utterly enjoy this? (I'm only halfway though, so maybe my viewpoint will still change?) While I admire the huntress in Katniss, this book irritates me. The Hunger Games, the stupid Capitol, the obliviousness. Kudos to the author for making a world (very detailed, deep, complete with its own lore!) that moves me to annoyance. (This affects me - a clear sign that its storytelling, plot, characters, etc. are moving enough to make me want to care.)

Status update for book-end:
Poor Peeta. Poor, poor Peeta.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life
Ah, Middlemarch. Truly, it looks imposing at first glance. I was having second thoughts reading this at first, just as I did when I first looked at The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling or Vanity Fair. I'm glad I didn't though, lest I would have never met with the lovely Dorothea Brooke. {It is, indeed, Dorothea that stays with me long after I've read this. I adore her so, with all her defects and "simple-mindedness".}

Aptly subtitled "A Study in Provincial Life", Middlemarch gives us a good (very good!) look into the lives of a host of characters living in a little fictional town in rural England in the 1800s. Among them, 6 seem to shine through: Dorothea, Will Ladislaw, Lydgate, Rosamond, Fred and Mary. Each of these (as well as their acquaintances in the town) have their unique traits and personalities- we see here the beautiful, the persevering, the pleasure-loving, the hard-working, the artist, the generous, the proud, the delusional. Personalities that, though antiquated in dress, still live among us in these modern times.

((By the way- the storytelling is, I must say, brilliant (sometimes sarcastic, sometimes romantic, but really very adept in suiting the needs of the reader).))

Overall: You've got the elements of a great story of intermingled stories, a bunch of very human characters, a lovely setting, an 1800 society, and a crowd of thoughts just waiting for you to think about them. Oh, it's got A LOT of pages, all right - but I could almost call it a complete work. Essentially, it's a lovely journey with a very proficient guide into the waiting countryside. Come, sit in the coach with me, and let's allow Ms. George Eliot to show us the way.

What I saw here:
- Women empowerment (Dodo is just too adorable. She's strong, she has her own will, she is smart and can think for herself. Of course, she has her rough edges, but she's well-meaning and independent - something quite difficult to understand in those days... And perhaps even today)
- Societal relations, both of the 1800s and of today (man-wife, sibling-sibling, parent-children, mother-son, mother-daughter, sister-sister, brother-sister, etc.)
- Conservative VS "New Age" notions (politics, society, cholera, medicine - Lydgate, I believe, was amazing to have that kind of constitution and principle!)
- Social classes (provincial doctor vs well-endowed widow vs peasant, etc)
- Religion (note Farebrother's active participation with his laity's problems)
- Other topics of interest (debt, auctions, elections, LOVE - and how it may or may not be significant in whatever relationships, death, farming, management, gossip - there's a chapter here that made me laugh because all it seemed to show was how easily and how fast gossip spreads in a town like Middlemarch!, charity, trains, Rome, art, newspaper, jewelry, clothes, babies, horses, gambling, pamphlets, cameos of Fielding!,...)

Other updates:
-The finale beautifully brings the epic to a close, mirroring some of the author's words in the prologue.
-What makes this a great read (I'm merely currently in Chapter 15) is the fact that its details are all too real-- from the people in their humanity, to the pervading notions of the time. Really very good.

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
*claps, slowly and deliberately* Brilliant show, Master Pullman... Brilliant.

Actual rating: Playing between 4 or 5... 4.5, really. I'll tag this a 4, then.

Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / YA, I suppose? / Mystery? :)
Characters: Amazing! Unique. Have their own personalities. Twisted!
Lore: Lovely. Nicely thought out. Different. Unexpected! Awesome.
Story-telling: Appropriate enough. Slow & fast, depending on the necessity.
Underlying notions: Philosophy, theology, scientific thought
Age: Hmm... Modern? A little steampunk? (Balloon <3)
Points of interest: Bears (<3), familiars & daemons, bookish Scholars, Oxford, snow, Dust, other worlds, the golden compass, severed children.
Other remarks: May be a little too crude here or there, but that's what gives it beauty.

Something that interested me: A play on the thought of witches and their familiars.  (highlight for spoilers)

Warning: After reading this, I think it's pretty understandable why the Church banned the book. It's definitely got the blasphemous vibe going - blasphemous being something contradicting and/or seems to be making fun of the Christian doctrine.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)
This is a story about a book.

Not just any book, mind you, but the ultimate book initially designed for dudes and dudettes who suddenly place it into their heads to live on just a towel, plus rides with random strangers. And no, I'm not talking about See The Universe On Less Than 30 Altairian Dollars A Day.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly the kind of book that a hitchhiker newbie, such as Arthur Dent, would need, if he'd like to check out what the universe has in store for him. (Funnily enough, I suddenly remember this quote for Arthur: "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.")

The book by Douglas Adams chronicles the (unfortunate?) events in the life of Arthur, who wakes up to find that his world is about to expand... Literally. He's forced to come to terms with the fact that he's suddenly roommates with an alien from space, that he cannot quite come back to his beloved Earth (nor can he have a McDonald's burger again!), that he has to be friends with the guy who snagged his to-be date during this party a few months ago, and that he has no idea what he's to do nor where he's heading. He hasn't even had his cup of tea yet! Thank goodness for the existence of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, indeed.

The story is presented to us in a classic, no-holds-barred way. It's funny, in a witty, dry and sarcastic way (that is almost always lost to Ford Prefect, sadly). It's got some traces of math and science, and lots of random mumbo jumbo, just to make you feel like you're not hoopy enough to hang out with the "in" crowd. Almost each character in here has their own unique personality - from manic-depressive to (appearing to be) simply clueless. (Yes, even a bowl of petunias has its own voice here.) It's wacky, random, and if you're not paying attention, you might just end up listening to the worse poetry in your life.

There are a LOT of crazy ideas in here, but that's all right. As long as you remember that the Improbability Drive's in motion, you've got nothing to fear. So relax, and take another sip of that Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Things are about to get really interesting.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener by Mani Niall

Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener
Sweet! is half an informative guide on the different kinds of existing sweeteners (sugar, honey, syrups, etc.), and half a recipe book. What I really like about this book is the fact that it tackles scientific aspects, historical trivia and wide range of the substance that makes our desserts sweet.

The book, in effect, made me change my perspective so that baking, to me, will never be the same again - all because I now look more carefully at the kinds of sweeteners (and other ingredients too, since this book gives some info on flours, eggs and other useful & necessary ingredients) that are commercially available in the market. Very nice to chew on.

I do have a problem with the actual recipe portion, though. Besides the fact that there are very few pictures here (8 pages of glossy paper in the middle of the book is sadly not enough space for the products of the 100+ mentioned recipes), I am having some trouble getting the ingredients Niall requires for his recipes (e.g. fine sea salt, unbleached organic all purpose flour). This is, of course, probably due to the fact that I live in a far off country, and therefore have some difficulties obtaining so and so ingredients xD

Otherwise, a really informative read!

Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener by Mani Niall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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The Hunters by Zayden Ramos


The Hunters
Too cute for words! Ahahahaha :D

Simple storyline, simple words (although I was rather surprised reading of "exhaust beams"), simple humor, nice and clean illustrations. Overall a very quick read.

I think the real threat I acknowledge here would be underestimating the capability of 4-year-olds.

The Hunters
 by Zayden Ramos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Father Solo and Other Stories for Adults Only by Isagani R. Cruz

Father Solo and Other Stories for Adults Only
This is a collection of 5 stories (Father Solo, Once Upon a Time Some Years from Now, Termination, Picked, What I Did Last Summer). This is labelled "For Adults Only" not just because of its erotic content, but also because of the ideas here that young minds may not appreciate or understand. (For example: politics, psychology, academic pursuits, etc.)

The language is lovely, the storytelling is neat and superb (although Picked here needs some getting used to), and the plots were quite unexpected for me (I had some shock to get over here and there, but that's what makes it interesting!).

This book is just a few pages, so I read it in more or less one sitting. Quick, easy, mature.

Father Solo and Other Stories for Adults Only by Isagani R. Cruz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Dadaanin by Alwin C. Aguirre

Sa kakaunting salita lamang, andaming misteryong magbabalandra sa harap mo.

Sa ‘sangdaang kwento, marami kang madadaanang klase ng panunulat. May kwento ng pag-ibig, paghahanap, pagpapasákit, pananaginip. May kwento ng lungkot, ligaya, takot, pantasya.

Sa ‘sandaang salita, buo na ang diwa – at mayroon ka pang mananamnam na aral habang pinapagpag ang natirang mahika sa mga salita.

PS: Dapat lang yatang basahin ang mga paunang salita mula sa mga pamamatnugot. Doon nila ipinapaliwanag ang kanilang *mga* layunin sa paggawa ng ganitong klaseng libro.

PPS: Natuwa rin ako sa maiikling biograpiya ng mga manunulat. (Mahahanap ito sa mga huling pahina.)

{100 na salita}

 by Alwin C. Aguirre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob Ong

Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin
Bago ang lahat: Hindi ako mahilig mag-saliksik ukol sa isang libro bago ko ito basahin, kaya nagulat na lamang ako nang malaman ko na hindi pala nobela ang librong ito, kung hindi ay koleksyon ng tatlong dula / screenplay. (Aksyon / horror /drama -- o yun nga lang ba?)

Babala: Sa aking palagay, nangangailangan ng mambabasa ng konting pag-iisip, at konting pagkakaintindi sa larangan ng industriyang panlibangan, para tunay na maunawaan at mabigyang-halaga ang mga dulang ito. Patnubay ng magulang ay maaaring kailanganin. Huwag din lamang kalimutang isuot ang 3D Glasses.

[Dahil sa patuloy na pag-aaral at pag-hahasa ng kaalaman ko sa araling panlipunan, ako'y lubos na natuwa (at lubos ding nadismaya) sa mga eksenang ipinalabas sa librong ito.]

Nakakatawa (para sa akin) ang simpleng pag-lalahad ng mga bida(?) at kontrabida(?) ng kanya-kanyang kwento ang totoong kalagayan ng sitwasyon ng kasalukuyang (2012!) estado ng pamPilipinong sine at panitikan (at iba pang porma ng sining). Kalunus-lunos man ang katotohanan, ako'y humalakhak pa rin sa pag-ganap at pag-arte (ng walang ka-workshop-workshop!) ng mga tauhang ito nang ayon sa kanilang parte: cliche', madaling mahulaan, gamit na gamit na personalidad. [Magsama kayo ng palitaw mo sa impyerno!]

Ngunit hindi lamang ang mapapanood natin sa telebisyon o makikita sa sine ang tila binabatikos sa mga dulang ito. Narito rin ang paglalarawan ng pang-araw-araw na (kung tutuusin nga naman) buhay ng karaniwang Pinoy - ang pag-pila para makasali sa sikat na variety show, ang pagiging call center agent, ang Facebook / Twitter / Angry Birds, ang nakakalat na basura sa tabi-tabi, ang pinakapangit na paliparan sa buong mundo. Sa isang libro, natalakay ang lahat ng ito (at marami pang ibang paksa!), at (para sa akin) sa isang kakatwang paraan pa!

Para sa akin, ang sarap talaga nitong basahin. Ito'y hindi lamang dahil sa paraan ng panunulat, kung hindi ay para rin sa maraming palaisipan na ansarap (at o kay pait) na namnamin.


PS: Ang ikalawang screenplay rito ay hindi ko lubos na nagustuhan, bagaman kawiliwili rin naman nitong basahin. Totoo, may mga malalim na paksa rin dito, pero tila hindi masyadong nagningning (para sa akin) ang mga tauhan dito, at mas nagmukha siyang diskurso kaysa sa isang pag-kukwento.

Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob Ong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine
At about half-way, I begun thinking, "Huh, this doesn't seem to be a story about a time machine at all." Admittedly, however, it was most probably a New Age concept for that era, and all in all- a very curious premise.

I must say that this is, indeed, a very spectacular story. What an amazing imagination! The characters, the setting, the overall ambiance... Oh, and let's not forget the time machine itself! Simply extraordinary.

What made this story all the more interesting for me was knowing about the Time Traveler's opinions / thoughts on how the society he left (19th c.) had evolved into the state enjoyed by his 802,701AD. While his line of thinking had the undeniable trace of Industrialism in it, I have to say that I was rather impressed to read about things that may apply to current-day. [For the record, it's the year 2012 as I write this.] The "perfection" of machines, the evolution of medicines... I almost got scared, just thinking about it. What really struck me: white-collar jobs vs blue-collar jobs / social stratification / First World VS Third World... [I can go on and on about this... I really can.]

[Of course, given the time period he wrote this, he couldn't have thought about robots, and other such advances in technology. I was thinking that the museum would have more techie stuff, and he'd find a flashlight in there somewhere, among other things.  (highlight for spoilers) Still, the far-off future of 802,701AD was dazzling and odd enough in its own right.]

The other steps he took with his time machine (besides his brief interlude with the Eloi & Morlocks) made me realize my own mortality, which was, undoubtedly, on the Time Traveler's mind as well. [I almost cried out once or twice: "I feel for you, man!"]

Overall, it was a great journey for me, and probably a greater one for the Time Traveler. (The epilogue filled me with sadness, though.)

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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