“The Staff of Serapis” by Rick Riordan

Staff of SerapisTHE STAFF OF SERAPIS (Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles Crossover #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Read Date: 14 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review Summary: A more cohesive, more imaginative, and mythologically richer crossover than “The Son of Sobek”, but still too formulaic.

In this adventure, Annabeth encounters more oddities in the subway than usual, including a two-headed monster and a younger blond girl who reminds her a little of herself.

*SPOILER WARNING FOR PLOT DETAILS* (more…)

“Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)” by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and MonstersDREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3)
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 10 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known.

When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat–and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves–maybe even toward love.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

Review summary: Perhaps too ambitious, but a dramatic finale that readers who have journeyed with Karou will certainly appreciate.

*SPOILER WARNING FOR PLOT DETAILS* (more…)

“Dreamer” by Brandon Sanderson (from the “Games Creatures Play” anthology)

games-creatures-playDREAMER (from the “Games Creatures Play” anthology)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 6 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Welcome to the wide world of paranormal pastimes, where striking out might strike you dead. Editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner are your announcers for this all-new story collection of the most peculiar plays ever made….

Sports fans live and die by their teams’ successes and failures—though not literally. But these fourteen authors have written spirited—in more ways than one—new tales of killer competitions that would make even the most die-hard players ask to be benched.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s “Dreamer,” a game of cops and robbers is a new challenge when the players are able to switch bodies at will.

Disclosure: Of course I only decided to read this anthology because Branderson has a story in it. ;)

I must admit I was surprised to see Brandon Sanderson’s name included in an anthology by Harris and Kelner because their collections often feature paranormal elements. But I did say I will read anything he publishes, so…

In his blog post on the release of the book, Branderson classified “Dreamer” as a horror short story. As I was reading it, though, it didn’t feel horror or paranormal.

It begins in the middle of a deadly chase and, as the synopsis says, the people involved can switch bodies at will. The entire story is, in fact, one continuous dynamic chase scene reminiscent of those in “Steelheart”.

I always expect a certain level of world-building and a well-defined magic system from Branderson no matter how short the story, and he doesn’t disappoint here. But perhaps that expectation is what killed this for me in the end. See, after the action-packed chase and after unraveling the rules of the world, I expected the ending to reveal some strange creatures or people with out-of-this-world abilities, but no. It was simple. So deceptively simple. Maybe that’s the downside to reading too much Sanderson–you don’t expect him to write something simple anymore. embarrassed But that is also the charm of the story–that something simple was set up so creatively. I just wish it felt more paranormal considering the anthology it was part of.

Harris and Co.’s usual readers will definitely enjoy this story, especially if they are new to Branderson. Sharders like me are in for a nice surprise.

2014/04/04 @ 10:06 am »

So I finished “Words of Radiance” by Brandon Sanderson around a week or so back (1,100 friggin’ pages; approx 24,000 e-book locations), and now I’m re-reading “The Way of Kings” because, predictably, I missed SO MANY THINGS from that first book. And now I am unable to move to any other book–not that very tempting “Black Ice” ARC, not even our book club book, “The Last Chinese Chef”–and I’m pretty sure I’ll re-read “Words of Radiance” after this. I feel like Branderson dropped me into one of the chasms in the Shattered Plains (Stormlight-assisted, of course) and did not leave a ladder so I can climb back out. Help! (or not.)

Giveaway: Signed copy of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom

It’s almost Holy Week, so I thought it would be a good time to finally post this giveaway. :)

If you missed Mitch Albom’s blockbuster-movie-level book signings here in the Philippines, here’s your chance to win a signed paperback copy of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven,” Albom’s first novel. There is a Filipino character in the novel named Tala, and the protagonist was based on Albom’s uncle, who served in the U.S. military and was deployed here to fight against the Japanese occupation during World War II.

TFPYMIH Giveawa7

MECHANICS: To join, just go to the Rafflecopter page for this giveaway and follow the instructions there.
⇨⇨⇨ Portkey to Rafflecopter (whoosh!)

REMINDER: When you comment here, please don’t forget to answer the contest question: Name 5 people you would like to meet in Heaven; they should be real people who have passed away, whether they are famous people or your relatives. Your points for this entry will be rendered invalid if you don’t post a comment.

The contest is open only to residents of the Philippines. If you are not a resident but know someone with a Philippine mailing address who is willing to mail you the prize if you win, then you are welcome to join the contest. Contest ends 20 April 2014 (Easter Sunday)..

Spread the word, and May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!

“Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Arts Academy, Vol. 1″

luna east 1KIDS THESE DAYS: STORIES FROM LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY, VOL.1
Author: Various
Read Date: 28 February 2014
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The stories from LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY are about love. And also, friends, food, kissing, rumors, mean people, insecurities, birthdays, breakups, making up. We set it in an arts academy because we wanted everyone to have a talent, and know it. Because no one is ordinary, if you know them well enough.

Who are you, at LUNA EAST? Are you a popular kid, a wallflower, a drama club diva, a debate whiz? Visit lunaeastacademy.org to read more stories from #LUNAEAST, and submit your own. For readers 16 and up.

Luna East Arts Academy is a project of Mina V. Esguerra and the writers who were part of her online #romanceclass, but it is open to anyone who wishes to write a story. The school – Luna East – is a collaborative setting that Mina mentioned is a lot like the set-up for the Sweet Valley High series, where different stories establish characters, important events, the school structure, relationships, and other aspects of the world. The stories are Young Adult / Coming of Age, since Luna East is a high school.

The first volume contains 14 stories, most of which already make use of common characters and events. The collaborative aspect of the world-building seems to be working very well, and with continued editorial care and maybe the assignment of a continuity editor, hopefully that will not change (and only get better!) when the next volumes are published.

There are several very promising talents in this volume aside from those like Mina, who already have publishing credits. There are a few who are still a bit green, but I’m sure they will improve as they write more stories and as other more experienced collaborators give them advice.

The beauty of a project like this is that people are encouraged to start and finish their stories and are then given a medium by which to share them. When future volumes are published, though, I hope that more editorial direction (beyond just grammar checks) will be given to each story that will be included, and that there will be more variety in terms of the plot hooks and story arcs. I am aware that the setting will limit the variety a bit, but Sweet Valley was able to accomplish this to a certain extent, so I would really love to see the collaborators stretch their legs more.

My favorite stories in this volume are: Mina’s “Fifty-Two Weeks” (because the romance is really subtle), Ronald Lim’s “Yours Is The First Face That I Saw” (because indeed, Tyler and Sebastian’s story was kilig), Anne Plaza’s “Senpai’s #1 Fan” (because I can relate to the geekiness), D.R. Lee’s “Picture Me Naked” (because…well, I got valuable advice, ehem), and Stella Torres’ “Be Creative”.

Chrissie Peria’s “Sitting in a Tree” gets a special mention because of this dedication:

Sitting in a Tree

and because, hey, kissing booth.

And this calls for a Scoring the Book song (or Scoring the Story) because how appropriate is it that one of my favorite Korean artists, K. Will, came out with a collab song with Wheesung and the rookie group Mamamoo called “Peppermint Chocolate”? (He’s not in the video because he never appears in his music videos…except once, and then his character died…ummm, that’s another story.) So this is for you, Chrissie. ;)


English Translation, in case the closed captions don’t work for you: click!

On cyber-bullying authors and Cyber-Bullying Authors

The Guardian reports that Anne Rice has supported a petition for Amazon to implement an identity verification system for reviewers and message board posters in an effort to alleviate the bullying of authors on the site. Earlier this year, Rice herself was attacked by bullies, many posting anonymously or using multiple accounts, when she posted on the Amazon boards.

I didn’t witness the Rice incident, but I certainly followed the Charlaine Harris one. When the ending of the final book of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. Sookie Stackhouse series) was leaked, angry readers cancelled pre-orders and flocked to Amazon and other message boards to rage at Harris. There were many threats to inflict physical harm on her, and many more insults and name-calling.

I have been very unhappy about how the Sookie series shaped up myself, and until now, I have held out on buying the last two books. I can’t blame the people who cancelled pre-orders; it is their right as consumers. It is also within the rights of the fans to be unhappy about the story and to write that they did not like it. But calling Harris names and threatening her is too much.

Like a painting displayed in an art gallery, books are an author’s creative work that is being shared with the world. We are free to critique the paintings and say that the color palette is a visual nightmare or the book’s plot is shitty. But we do not have the right to say that the artist deserves to die or to bombard her webpage and social network accounts with threats or to harass the author with demands that the story end a certain way.

I’m not sure how Rice and the petitioners envision the identity verification system should work, but I’m hoping this also means that the system can alleviate Cyber-Bullying Authors on Amazon, and hopefully in other places like Goodreads as well. We know they exist, and they have a following who can turn into cyber bullies themselves; there is a lot of documentation online that this happened before.

If bullying authors is a problem, then authors who bully reviewers is equally a problem. Like a painting displayed in a gallery, when you publish a book, you open yourself up to criticism, no matter how much those comments stab and poke and bleed out your authorial pride. Authors, of course, have the right to complain against reviewers who go above and beyond just plain snarky or cruel criticisms on their blogs or SNS accounts, especially if death threats are involved and if they cause real mayhem. But targeting readers who blog about your work being shitty, and getting your friends and colleagues to target same readers, is just plain unprofessional.

[Audio] Interview with Mitch Albom – 2014-02-20

As I promised in a previous post, here’s the audio of my interview (almost in its entirety) with Mitch Albom last February 20th.

I was in a panel with 2 reporters from other websites. We were the last batch of interviewers, scheduled just before Mitch had to leave for a live appearance in a TV program, so we didn’t have a lot of time. And I had a very different set of questions for the article that I conceptualized compared to the other ladies, so the topics are noticeably…all over the place (and so fluffeh!) ^_^

At times like these, though, you just roll with the punches. We did get some good answers from Mitch, who was very accommodating and open. This was during the second straight day of his media blitz, and he must have been tired and jetlagged, but he never really showed it.


 
Highlights:

  • His charity project for typhoon-devastated school libraries.
  • The book that resonated with him when he was young: “The Royal Road to Romance (1925)” by Richard Halliburton
  • A glimpse into his creative process
  • Anecdotes about his travels around the world
  • The inspiration for “The First Phone Call From Heaven”
  • How his uncle inspired “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”
  • A glimpse into his “Happy” playlist…and he actually whipped out his tablet to let us listen to some songs!
  • His next project.

The article I eventually wrote about Mitch Albom has been published here –
Mitch Albom: ‘Giving is living’ and the healing power of stories

Bookmark Monday #12: Hanami Lady

b438b-bookmark-mondayMy friend Minami got this lovely bookmark for me during her trip to Japan. (Thank you! ありがとう!)

The design of the lady and the cherry blossoms is engraved on a thin, hard plastic. I used my old phone’s camera to take the photo, so unfortunately, it does not properly show how dramatic the gold highlights make the design look.

Hanami Lady

When I first saw this bookmark, it immediately reminded me of one of my favorite books, Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha”, and this scene from the 2005 movie adaptation:

memoirs

“Memoirs” is one of my “ritual books”; I try to read it at least once a year. I don’t like books set during a war, but this one is an exception. Golden’s style is very evocative, and…the feels. ^_^

And that movie may have been trashed by critics, but I still loved it. Ken Watanabe is awesome, the costumes and cinematography are wonderful, and of course, John Williams’ musical score is flawless, as always.


Bookmark Monday is hosted by Guiltless Reading.

[Audio] Mitch Albom Book Signing Tour in Manila, Philippines – 2014-02-22

Here is my recording of the Q&A with Mitch Albom and Ms. Xandra Ramos-Padilla of National Book Store during the Mitch Albom Book Signing Tour stop here in Manila last February 22. I know a lot of people who didn’t make it to the event, and some people said that audio wasn’t too good from the far edges of the activity center, so I decided to upload and share this.

Photo courtesy of National Book Store

Photo courtesy of National Book Store

Click the Play button:


Download Links (right-click on link, save file as):

Highlights:

  • Lots of screaming fans! ;) Mitch is a legit rock star.
  • “Outside of the United States, apparently, the biggest group of readers that I have in the world is right here in the Philippines.”
  • “Tuesdays With Morrie” was rejected by at least 10 publishers before it was finally sold.
  • “I didn’t know what Tala meant when I wrote the name.”
  • Mitch talks about his charity project for typhoon-devastated schools and affected fishermen
  • Mitch impersonates Elvis Presley, live!
  • One of Morrie’s greatest lessons: “Taking just makes me feel more like I’m dying; giving makes me feel like I’m living.”

After my article on Mitch and his visit here is published, I will also share snippets from my actual interview with him. I interviewed him together with 2 other ladies from other local news websites, and a lot of fun and “fluffy” stuff was talked about! ;) And also, I will give away a signed copy of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”! Stay tuned.

2014/02/27 @ 12:37 pm »

I was finally able to draw the winner of my Lunar New Year Giveaway of a signed copy of “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman! Congratulations to Christine (@kitinmeowmeow)!

Christine: Please check your e-mail for the notification with instructions on how to claim your prize. Please respond within 3 days or, according to the mechanics, your prize will be forfeited in favor of another winner.

To everyone: Stay tuned for the next giveaway sometime in March. This one is sure to be…heavenly. ;)