Happy Birthday, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter!
This is probably as good a time as any to look back on one of the most inspirational things to ever come from Jo (and Harry too, in a way.)
I reviewed the published stories in Paolo Chikiamco’s “Mythspace” universe for GMA News Online:
“Mythspace” is a wonderfully innovative take on Filipino mythology, which should appeal to readers of all ages. The diversity in the art and stories make for different and enjoyable reading experiences. The series is so much fun, so I hope more people, especially Filipino readers, will check it out. :)
Originally posted on Filipino ReaderCon:
Hi everyone, happy August! :)
Things are slowly starting to pick up behind the scenes for the Filipino ReaderCon this year, and with those preparations, the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards team is also starting to gear up and get ready for another fun (and perhaps crazy :D) FRCA season! And with that, we are excited to announce that we are now accepting nominations for the 2014 Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards!
An initiative of the Filipino Book Bloggers Group, the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards debuted at the 2nd Filipino Reader Conference in 2012, and was established to develop awareness and appreciation of Philippine literature, recognize the reader’s role in creating the meaning and experience of a literary work, and give the readers a voice in the Philippine book industry.
Nomination period is from August 4 to 18, 2014,
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THE “MAGIC MIRROR” SERIES: “The Visionary Voyage” (Book 1), “The Traveller’s Tale” (Book 2), “The Tomb of Time” (Book 3)
Author: Luther Tsai and Nury Vittachi
Read Date: May-July 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (average rating)
The “Magic Mirror” series tells of the adventures of brother and sister Marko and Miranda Lee, who one day found themselves living alone. Their parents went on a trip, leaving the kids with their grandfather, who likewise suddenly disappeared. Their grandfather, a historian and archaeologist, left behind a Magic Mirror and a string of mysteries that the kids must solve by going back in time. Tsai and Vittachi blend historical facts, people, and events from around Asia with fictional elements to form the backdrop for the Lee children’s adventures.
When I read about the premise of the “Magic Mirror” series, I was very excited. I love history, I love adventure, and this being focused on Asian history with Asian characters is a plus. It all sounds like the perfect formula for a fun new children’s series! On a personal note, it also reminded me of a wee story my high school classmate and I concocted for a (believe it or not) Biology class project, so I am rooting for this to be great.
The verdict: Great idea! The execution? Not so much.
Being home alone has sparked numerous children’s adventures. I have no problem with this as a plot driver most of the time, but in this case, being home alone is just a given, and it baffles me. It’s just weird because of how tight-knit most Asian communities and families are, and yet weeks seem to have passed by and the Lee kids are still home alone. There was some mention of a housekeeper dropping in on certain days, but I can’t even tell how the kids manage to pay her or where they get the money for their necessities. Heck, even the Cahills in “The 39 Clues” had an au-pair and a dozen other relatives looking out for them. Also, shame on the teacher who already suspected they were living alone but didn’t even bother to investigate further.
I do realize that these little details don’t really need to add up because the core of the stories is the time-travel adventures, but some kid is bound to notice and ask, so I’m just going to put this out there. XD Talk about taking “Losing the Mentor” in Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to the extreme. XD
Simple and sparse
This series is obviously written for younger children, so I don’t mind that the writing style is simple or that the books are only 100 pages or so on average. But simple writing to cater to a young audience doesn’t mean that details should be sparse. I can’t even picture Miranda and Marko and what they look like in my head. I know Miranda is twelve and Marko is ten, and that they were adopted by an American man married to a Chinese woman. There’s no info on whether Miranda and Marko were real siblings to begin with, or if they come from different biological families.
There’s also not much to go on with Mira and Marko personality-wise; they are rather wooden, kind of like chess-pieces that are just used to move the story from one plot point to another. I think one of the reasons why “The 39 Clues” worked well is because the characters are fleshed out, and readers discover new things about them as the series progresses. After 3 books of “Magic Mirror”, I don’t know any more about Miranda and Marko than when I started reading. I hope this changes when the rest of the series comes out.
This lack of detail also extends to the time-travel adventures themselves. We don’t get much time to appreciate the time period that we are reading about or the characters there because the writers seem hell-bent on plowing through plot point after plot point. A fast-paced adventure is all well and good, but sometimes we also have to stop and smell the roses.
The historical focal points for the first 2 books were a bit lackluster: the first book dealt with a Chinese admiral and some pirates, and the second had something to do with Marco Polo. Sounds exciting, yes? Unfortunately, nothing much really happens in the story. For the first book, in particular, much of the plot and exposition is static. The third choice was brilliant, though: Emperor Qin Shin Huang and his famous tomb.
The third book is the best one so far, and the more exciting one. But it still suffered from lengthy expositions on history often spouted out by a helpful character. It’s nice that this series is also educational, but there is probably a more creative and less tedious way of explaining the historical background. Considering the structure of the stories, the longer expositions probably don’t belong in the narrative anyway. The authors also include end notes, so there is no need to get too lecture-y in-story.
Oh, speaking of history, there is the matter of Grandpa. He represents the “Call To Adventure” in Mira and Marko’s journey, but he has his own mysterious journey, which seems to involve meddling with history. This is the most interesting aspect of the series for me (it’s telling that I gravitated more toward the character who hasn’t even appeared “on-screen”), and I do hope that we get a good reveal and explanation in the end.
In general, I think that the authors have managed to achieve what they were going for: telling good adventure stories highlighting Asia and its rich history. I had too many things to complain about, but that’s only because this series has so much potential that I wanted it to work well. We need more books like this for kids in the international market. But right now, this series is a bit unpolished and under-edited. I hope the future installments will be better; the improvement from Book 1 to Book 3 is already encouraging.
Disclosure: Review copies were provided by Scholastic Philippines
We attended the second of Prof. Ambeth Ocampo’s “History Comes Alive” lectures at the Ayala Museum last week. The topic was Apolinario Mabini, and I definitely learned a lot from the lecture. I seem to have slept through my old history classes, unfortunately, because there were a lot of things that were new to me, like this one:
Meann (@almeldiel) July 26, 2014
Mabini was almost appointed Chief Justice, but Congress wouldn't confirm him. #HistoryComesAlive—
Meann (@almeldiel) July 26, 2014
Anyway, a book always comes with our ticket to the lectures, and this time, we got Prof. Ocampo’s newest volume of the “Looking Back” series of essay collections.
Aside from a very informative essay on actual historical Pinoy storm chasers and the origins of institutions like the Manila Observatory and PAGASA, the piece that I gravitated to the most was “Tolentino’s Oblation”. Being a graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, this really sparked my interest because, sadly, I know so little about the icon of my alma mater.
Apparently, the model of the statue was not Fernando Poe Sr. and it used to be completely naked until the President of the University back then asked Tolentino to cover its family jewels. I was also surprised to learn that the Oblation standing in front of the admin building is just a replica, and that the original used to be kept in one of the rooms in the upper floors of the Main Library! I spent a lot of time in the reading rooms of the Main Library because I found it more relaxing than the Engineering Library, where everyone always seemed to be frantically studying and studying and studying. Not that I didn’t study in the library, but there seemed to be a lot more nervous energy in Melchor Hall. Plus the Main Lib was where the fiction books were. (Now you know my priorities.) XD
It’s just a bit disappointing that I didn’t even know this when I was still a student. Although, come to think of it, even if I knew about this back then, I would have had to convince some friends to come with me because the sight of the stairs going up beyond the reading room floors used to give me the chills.
I hope to get a chance to see the original Oblation some time.
Next up in the “History Comes Alive” series — Juan Luna: Face-to-Face on August 30.
WordPress finally let me in! I haven’t been able to access WordPress.com sites, including my own, for a little more than a week now. I keep getting timed-out of the servers. I’ve done almost everything on WordPress’s Troubleshooting list, but nothing worked. Maybe it’s an ISP issue (although I did not change providers) or something else entirely. But anyway, I can access my dashboard now, so I hope to finish some pending reviews. ^_^
Oh, and Harry Birthday to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling!
I got to meet the very lovely and bubbly New York Times Bestselling Author slash Hug Machine Stephanie Perkins a couple of weeks ago during the National Book Store-sponsored signing events here in the country.
Like many of the authors who visited before her, Stephanie seemed surprised but very happy to see how many readers and fans she has here. That rock star reception in two cities is definite proof that many people love her books.
What’s so memorable about Stephanie is how she talks to each and every person in line, even if it’s just to ask how they are doing if they are too shy to talk first, or to compliment someone, or to answer a question. And the HUGS! There’s just something about Stephanie that makes you want to hug her. I wasn’t planning to, but after we took a photo, I just had the sudden urge to. I’m not sure how many people she hugged that day in the Manila signing because there were more than 600 people in line. But HUGS for everyone!
She had quite a lengthy and enlightening discussion with NBS’s Ms. Xandra Ramos Padilla and Town and Country magazine’s Ms. Yvette Fernandez before the signing, but what remains most significant to me is her advice for writers:
To all of the writers out there, the number one piece of advice I have for you is to learn how to read like a writer. And what I mean is that when you’re reading a book, take it a little bit slower and be a little more conscious and self-aware. When you’re reading something and you have a reaction— it doesn’t matter what the reaction is. If it’s something funny, or makes you swoon, or scares you, or makes you angry, stop and go back and see how the author made that happen. Good books and bad books can be equally effective. When you’re reading and you go, ugh, terrible! Stop and think why and what you’re not enjoying about it.
I always tell my readers who want to be authors that the people I read in school growing up–like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens–they didn’t take writing classes. They learned how to write by reading. I encourage you to keep reading, keep reading, keep reading.
Most writers just tell people to read but not why and how, and Stephanie’s advice explains a lot and is, I think, a great practical advice that I will definitely take to heart. Not that I have a novel in the works…I only wish I did. XD
p.s. Thank you, National Book Store! :)
“About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’ So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?
Or does his injury have a more humble origin, one that Potter is desperate to hide? Has his wife perhaps cursed him? Are cracks beginning to show in a union that the Potters are determined to promote as happy? Should we read anything into the fact that his wife Ginevra has been perfectly happy to leave her husband and children behind in London whilst reporting on this tournament? The jury is out on whether she really had the talent or experience to be sent to the Quidditch World Cup (jury’s back in – no!!!) but let’s face it, when your last name is Potter, doors open, international sporting bodies bow and scrape, and Daily Prophet editors hand you plum assignments.”
– “Dumbledore’s Army Reunite at Quidditch World Cup” by Rita Skeeter on Pottermore (I can hear Miranda Richardson’s voice reading this story in my head. XD )
Sorry this took FOREVER. Congratulations to Pau-pau A.! You won the signed copy of “Hush Hush”. Please wait for a message on Twitter or your e-mail to find out how you can claim your prize. Please make sure to provide your contact info within 3 days after receipt of the image or your prize will be forfeited. Enjoy the book!
A segue before getting to the actual Bookmark Monday stuff: I haven’t posted in a while because my brain seems to want to take a break from writing about books and just concentrate on actually reading them, and also to just keep watching K-dramas instead of blogging about them. XD This has resulted in a bad case of procrastinating on blog posts that I wanted to actually write, and on articles that needed to be submitted like…ages ago. o_O So, apologies to those who have been waiting for the result of the “Hush Hush” giveaway. I will post the results sometime this week.
On to the actual Bookmark Monday post!
A few weeks ago, Leia and I had a “Museum Day With The Neffy-poos” at The Mind Museum in Taguig. It was tiring (we cannot compete with the boundless energy of young boys) but it was fun!
One of my favorite interactive exhibits is Literature-related.
I could swear my heart rate sped up a bit because of that excerpt from D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”…
Anyway, after roaming around for several hours, we passed by the Museum Store on our way out. We spotted these super cute magnetic bookmarks at the Museum Shop, and of course I could not resist buying them for my bookmark collection. I just wish they had more designs available, and therefore more featured scientists.
FOR SCIENCE! ;)
Bookmark Monday is hosted by Guiltless Reading.