meep!

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.)

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.

On Rowling’s new Ron/Hermione reveal: The ships have sailed; it’s time to move on.

J.K. Rowling’s latest revelation about the Harry Potter series, which came in the form of an interview conducted by Emma Watson for “Wonderland” magazine (February/March 2014 issue), has re-awakened the long-slumbering Potter Shipping Wars of old. It seems that everyone has written something about the topic, from a very insightful analysis of love in the series, to a passionate defense of Ron, to suggestions for other ships.

I’m on the crew of the HMS Orange Crush (Harry/Ginny) myself, so Rowling’s confession bothered me, especially how it was first reported: that Jo regrets writing that Ron and Hermione ended up together and that she should have married Harry. I told myself I would wait for the full interview to be released before commenting because, more often than not, people tended to misinterpret or to put words into Jo’s mouth.

Nowhere in the interview did she say that she “regrets” writing Ron/Hermione. Emma asked her if she had a new perspective on Hermione, and she replied:

What I will say is that I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione [ended up] with Ron.

I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.

It was a young relationship. I think the attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it… I’m not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility. I can’t believe we are saying all of this – this is Potter heresy!

[Later, she adds]

Oh, maybe she and Ron will be alright with a bit of counseling, you know. I wonder what happens at wizard marriage counseling? They’ll probably be fine. He needs to work on his self-esteem issues and she needs to work on being a little less critical.

When “Deathly Hallows” was published, I felt that the Epilogue seemed out of place. I knew from following every single interview that Rowling gave (I am on the staff!) that she had been writing toward a particular ending and even a particular last word (“scar”) for a long time. Maybe this has blinded her to how her characters evolved as she wrote them, and how they may not fit that ending anymore. If she just left out that Epilogue, then there wouldn’t be this much hullaballoo over what could have beens.

The troubled Ron/Hermione relationship differs a bit from her other post-Potter reveals (e.g. Dumbledore is gay) in that she does not seem to be insinuating that this is Canon. It’s understandable that she now has a different perspective on the relationships of the Trio. Whether or not it was prudent of her to have revealed what she thought is another story, but I want to look at this as a glass half-full: at least she didn’t say “Ron/Hermione shouldn’t be together”, and the Canon remains unchanged.

For the record, I agree that Ron and Hermione would have had difficulties in their relationship, and that if they worked on it, they would eventually be okay.

Credit: Naomi (potterpuffs.livejournal.com)

Credit: Naomi (potterpuffs.livejournal.com)

As for Harry/Hermione…

In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit and I’ll tell you something very strange. When I wrote Hallows, I felt this quite strongly when I had Hermione and Harry together in the tent! I hadn’t told [Steve] Kloves that and when he wrote the script he felt exactly the same thing at exactly the same point.

And actually I liked that scene in the film, because it was articulating something I hadn’t said but I had felt. I really liked it and I thought that it was right. I think you do feel the ghost of what could have been in that scene.

I’ve always hated the way Steve Kloves kept putting in those Harmonian moments when there weren’t supposed to be any, and how that undermined a lot of Ron’s contributions and importance in the series as it is portrayed in the movies.

I do think the tent scenes, as they were written in the book, were okay, and that maybe the “ghost of what could have been” may have been present, but I never felt any strong romantic vibes there. And if Rowling says she felt something there, then she either did her characters a great disservice by not letting things go where they should, or what she felt so strongly wasn’t powerful enough to make her deviate from the ending she was writing towards.

I also agree that Hermione and Harry are a good fit–and I concede, better than Ron/Hermione–in many ways, but that doesn’t mean they should be in love or would fall in love or get married. Why can’t they have a perfect friendship and why should Harry and Ron be Hermione’s only choices?

I’ve long thought that it was weird that Rowling married Luna off to someone we didn’t know from the 7 books; I even secretly thought it was cute if she had married Neville, after all, everyone was marrying their childhood sweethearts already. But on hindsight, I now like that Luna married someone else and that she met other people outside of their Hogwarts circle. So why not Hermione?

All this says something very powerful about the character of Hermione as well. Hermione was the one that stuck with Harry all the way through that last installment, that very last part of the adventure. It wasn’t Ron, which also says something very powerful about Ron. He was injured in a way, in his self-esteem, from the start of the series. He always knew he came second to fourth best, and then had to make friends with the hero of it all and that’s a hell of a position to be in, eternally overshadowed. So Ron had to act out in that way at some point.

But Hermione’s always there for Harry. I remember you sent me a note after you read Hallows and before you started shooting, and said something about that, because it was Hermione’s journey as much as Harry’s at the end.

Yes, her sacrifice was massive, completely. A very calculated act of bravery. That is not an ‘in the moment’ act of bravery where emotion carries you through, that is a deliberate choice.

Of course it was Hermione’s journey as much as Harry’s…as much as Ron’s, Voldemort’s, Dumbledore’s, Snape’s…it was EVERYONE’S journey. Maybe it was more personal for Harry, but everyone had a stake in the battle. And while we cannot belittle Hermione’s “calculated act of bravery”, we should not reduce it to an impetus for a romantic relationship either. From the tone of their conversation, Rowling seems to be highlighting this as a plus factor for Harry/Hermione (or I could be wrong.) Anyway, we must also not forget that Dumbledore’s and Snape’s sacrifices were just as calculated, and that they have even lost their lives.

And, finally, was it prudent for Rowling to share all these post-Potter revelations? Personally, I think people should stop asking all those “what ifs”; the Potter world, as it is, is difficult enough to keep up with! Rowling has to answer when she’s asked, and she has always been very honest and forthcoming about Potter, which is good. And of course she has the right to add new things to her world and comment on aspects of it (I actually appreciate that about her), but I think she should be careful about what else she reveals. I suppose that as long as she doesn’t change Canon, it’ll be okay. But while she owes readers nothing, really, it is a fact that fans have dissected and new readers do dissect the series to the tiniest detail. How I read Dumbledore before is likely going to be different from how my nephew would read him knowing that Dumbledore was gay. Maybe it will be an interesting literary exercise to compare how different generations interpret it.

Those subtext-shattering revelations are part of why I am excited but scared of what the “Encyclopedia” she never published contained, and why I approach every new thing that pops up on Pottermore as if they are radioactive. She had 7 books and 3 booklets to put in the most important things about Harry’s and the Wizarding World’s stories. Ultimately, it’s what’s in the books that’s important. I believe that’s how it should be.

The ships have sailed; it’s time to move on.

I Spy: “A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls” in “You Came From The Stars 별에서 온 그대”

Ever since “Edward Tulane” showed up in Korean drama “You Came From The Stars 별에서 온 그대” (a.k.a. “My Love From Another Star”), I’ve been on the lookout for what else our Handsome Bibliophile Alien Next Door has been reading. Look at what I spied in Episode 10:

The Alien has been reading about vampires...

It’s “A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls”, a companion book to the popular TV series “The Vampire Diaries”. The Alien has been reading about vampires! I can still remember Song Yi’s “If you’re an alien then I’m a vampire!” moment. And I suppose this is more interesting than seeing Min Joon reading about aliens in popular culture, although that would have been amusingly meta. 😛

mfThe Vampire Diaries, the television series based on the iconic books by L.J. Smith, has already managed to captivate millions of viewers with its unique mix of immortal romance and very human drama.

In A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls, YA authors—led by Red and Vee of premier Vampire Diaries resource Vampire-Diaries.net—take a closer look at Mystic Falls: its residents (both alive and undead) and its rich, inescapable history.

  • Claudia Gray delves into the events of 1864 and how they’ve shaped not just Mystic Falls but the success of the show itself
  • Sarah Rees Brennan tells us what it takes for a girl to hold her own against a vampire boyfriend (or two), placing Elena squarely between fellow vampire-daters Buffy and Bella
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes takes Mystic Falls to task for poor treatment of Caroline Forbes
  • Jon Skovron examines the male-female vampire dynamic, in history and in The Vampire Diaries
  • Plus a guide to the book series for tv fans looking to visit The Vampire Diaries’ literary inspiration, and more

Min Joon might just learn a thing or two after reading Sarah Rees Brennan’s contribution.

Who the Hot Neighbor Kid married and the Decades-Old Grudge

I saw these fun Upworthy-style re-titled books by TheMillions.com in my Tumblr timeline and had quite a laugh:

Until I saw this…

lw

…and remembered a decades-old grudge.

“Little Women” was required reading back when I was in 6th grade, and looking back, I think this must have been my first experience in legit fandom-level shipping.

I got really attached to Jo’s character, who I found a lot in common with. And I really liked her and Laurie together, so I was so mad about who he ended up with…

ヽ(`Д´)ノ︵ ┻━┻

…that I never read any other Louisa May Alcott book or watched any adaptations of “Little Women” since. It pained me to skip on that Keira Knightley movie because I like her, but skip it I did.

I realized much later, of course, that what Alcott did was actually great, plot-wise and character-wise, and in keeping with the theme of the book. And The Professor was a good man and a good husband to Jo, so it’s not like she suffered or anything. But when you are in 6th grade, this first love heartbreak thing can be rather devastating, never mind that it’s only fictional and that it didn’t even happen to you!

And I realize now that that grudge against Alcott was silly; she was just doing her job. But I still can’t get past a particular chapter of that book, or read any other Alcott work, or watch any adaptations. So silly.

It’s been decades and I’m still not over it, damn it.

Jo x Laurie forever!

I Spy: “The Happy Prince” in “I Hear Your Voice 너의 목소리가 들려”

I only noticed this last week, during my…ummm…nth re-watch of “I Hear Your Voice”, a.k.a. My Favorite Korean Drama as of this moment (why? that’s something for another post).

ihyv300

In episode 11, Park Soo-ha (Lee Jong-suk) meets up with his classmates, Sung-bin and Choong-ki. Choong-ki returns the things he found in Soo-ha’s locker the year before after some rather…let’s just say exciting things went down.

Aside from Soo-ha’s journal, headset, and some papers, a copy of the Korean edition of “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde was also found in his locker.

vlcsnap-2014-01-21-21h42m02s250

happyIn a town where a lot of poor people suffer, a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt for the winter meets the statue of the late “Happy Prince”, who in reality has never experienced true happiness. Viewing various scenes of people suffering in poverty from his tall monument, the Happy Prince asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes, and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor. As the winter comes and the Happy Prince is stripped of all of his beauty, his lead heart breaks when the swallow dies as a result of his selfless deeds. The statue is then torn down and melted leaving behind the broken heart and the dead swallow which are taken up to heaven by an angel that has deemed them the two most precious things in the city by God, so they may live forever in his city of gold and garden of paradise. (Wikipedia)

The book was probably part of their literature curriculum, although it’s not far-fetched that Soo-ha could have been reading this just for fun.

Maybe the writer wanted this to symbolize something about the characters or the story; she likes that device. Certainly, the prince giving the poor people around him the jewels and gold that were inlaid on his body and the deeds of the swallow are reminiscent of the thread of sacrifice that runs through the drama–of people losing their lives, their innocence, their memories, and even actual body parts–to either protect or avenge their loved ones.

Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this; maybe it was the only book anyone had on set, so it was commandeered as a prop. 😛

And I Quote: On Fantasy

Someone posted the following quote on Tumblr:

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to Middle-Earth.”

-George R.R. Martin

To which @odinsbitch replied:

I read fantasy to REMIND myself there is beauty and magic and goodness in reality. I read fantasy to remind myself that reality itself is changed and shifted by how I look at it. When I fly on Southwest Airlines I always choose a window seat so that I can look at and see the cloud-castles and curve of the horizon and the way the sunlight turns the rivers into liquid gold and lose my ability to breathe because I am not Icarus. I can fly as near the sun as I want and my wings don’t melt because my wings are made up of both fantasy AND reality, wax and canvas and iron and bone wings as strong as I am.

Reality is the whimsical graffiti in the dirty alley in Cleveland. Reality is the chaotic circus of a strip mall where people are bad and selfish and good and welcoming. Reality is seeing the blue sky reflected on the Chicago skyline and thinking I already live in Minas Tirith.

Middle Earth is not better than here. Gormenghast is certainly not better than here. I believe it’s true that fantasy can remind us to listen to the siren songs and relish the color in our real lives. It does spark desires deep within us. But I want my fantasy to remind people that they don’t have to visit hollow hills to find adventure or Oz or Shangri-La to find love. We make ourselves heroes and villains in reality every day. I want my fantasy to remind readers – and myself – that we shouldn’t long for Camelot. We should create it right here.

When I die, I hope I’ve already built my heaven around me.

And to which I say “Amen!” to @odinsbitch.

While fantasy is awesome, the more I read or watch fantasy, the less I am surprised by what people can imagine anymore. The real world, however, is fantastic enough as it is, and the more I see of it, the more I am convinced that it will never cease to amaze me.

I Spy: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” in “You Came From The Stars / My Love From The Stars 별에서 온 그대”

EDITED ON 2014.05.10 – My blog stats show that so many people have somehow found this post, likely looking for more information on the book after watching “You Came From The Stars / My Love From The Stars”. After posting this back in January when the drama was airing in Korea, I later managed to find a copy of the book. It’s heartwarming, and in many ways, Edward’s story is reminiscent of Min Joon’s. The rabbit’s journey and experiences with each of the people who manage to find and care for him feels like the many lifetimes Min Joon has had to live since he came to Earth. They both loved and lost and loved again, and eventually, managed to find their way back home.

I’ve added an excerpt from the book below, which is the part Min Joon was reading in the drama.

~゜・_・゜~ ☆ ~゜・_・゜~ ☆ ~゜・_・゜~

Soompi ran a story on how the book sold some 30,000 copies (in Korea, I assume) after this episode of the drama “You Came From The Stars 별에서 온 그대” (a.k.a. “My Love From Another Star”) aired.

tumblr_mzal5sAp381r5lrn1o1_500

In the drama, Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) is an alien who has been living on Earth for several centuries. Just like any self-respecting immortal, he has amassed enough riches to maintain a swanky apartment with an awesome hidden library.

In one scene, he is seen reading Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”, an illustrated (by Bagram Ibatoulline) children’s book.

37186“Someone will come for you, but first you must open your heart. . . .”

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.

And then, one day, he was lost.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hoboes’ camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle — that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

Here is the excerpt which Min Joon was reading in that scene. I’ve quoted a few more additional lines to give it some context:

“Once there was a princess who was very beautiful. She shone as bright as the stars on a moonlit night. But what difference did it make that she was beautiful? None. No difference.”

“Why did it make no difference?” asked Abilene.

“Because,” said Pelligrina, “she was a princess who loved no one and cared nothing for love, even though there were many who loved her.”

☆彡 The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — Chapter Four

I’m not sure why the writer picked this part to highlight in the episode, but I feel like the description of the princess somehow reflects what Min Joon thought of Song Yi at this point in the story.

When Soompi wrote that the book was published in 2009 and that it didn’t generate any interest then, they are referring to the Korean edition; the English first edition was published in 2006, and within a span of 2 or so years, it was nominated for and won several awards.

The publishing industry exec that was interviewed made an interesting point: “…that the bestselling status of a work can be influenced by a single broadcast is very bittersweet, reflecting the fragile state of the Korean literary market.” The appearance of the book was about as effective as most product placements in Korean dramas (i.e. very effective)!

I’m no publishing guru, and I have no idea what the literary market there is like, but it’s obvious that this cross-media thing is happening everywhere. Many publishers, especially American ones, know that social networks, movies, television, fandom (just go on Tumblr) and other non-traditional book marketing increase awareness and sales, and exploit those. Those are part of why the Young Adult demographic is alive and kicking…and hey, those are also part of how a K-pop album can sell a million copies.

I write about books and give away books not only because I enjoy it but also, in my own small way, I want to try to make people more interested in reading. Personally, while I think it is disheartening that it has to take a drama to get people interested in reading a certain book, I am nevertheless happy that it got people reading in the first place. I appreciate that the writer used such a public platform to introduce a book that she liked.

Next move for the publisher: invite Kate DiCamillo to do a book signing in Korea and make sure Kim Soo Hyun attends. 😛 (Kidding.) (Or maybe not.)

2013 Retrospective: Books

This is so late. 😦 Work has been very hectic lately, what with my new responsibilities and management changes in the company. But I finally have a couple of hours to spare to get more pending blog posts out of the way.

★ ★ ★

Actually, I already posted a list of my favorite books of 2013 via my GMA News Online year-ender: ‘Daig mo pa ang telenovela’ award and more for the best books in 2013.

I read a few more books that didn’t make that list, though. Some were not released in 2013 either. But for what it’s worth, here are a few more honorable mentions:

  1. “The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2)” by Maggie Stiefvater – I love Maggie Stiefvater because her writing is so evocative and she creates very interesting characters. “The Raven Boys”, the first book in this new series, was good, but “The Dream Thieves” is even better. This one has more magic, more action, more character development (particularly for Ronan), and some forward momentum in the romance department. If “The Scorpio Races” deserves an award for the Most Romantic Non-I-Love-You Confession, this one deserves the Most Romantic Non-Kiss Award.
  2. “Unseen Moon” by Eliza Victoria – Horror and suspense are not my favorite genres, but Victoria really impressed me with this collection of short stories, and this made me a fan of her writing. Favorite stories: “The Viewless Dark”, “The Ghosts of Sinagtala” (not recommended for scaredy-cats), and “December”.
  3. “Pacific Rims” by Rafe Bartholomew – This was published a few years ago, but it’s relevant again this year because of Bartholomew’s mini-series in the National Geographic Channel called “Pinoy Hoops”. But hey, really, the book will always be relevant, I think, because we will probably always be a basketball-crazy nation. Bartholomew’s writing is also very engaging, and his anecdotes are fun to read, whether you are a basketball fan or not. He’s one of the authors I would really love to meet sometime.
  4. “Monstress” by Lysley Tenorio – I surprised myself by reading a lot of Filipiniana this year, and several of them focus on the immigrant experience. What stands-out about “Monstress” is the hints of secret histories and a very subtle touch of fantasy that frame what may otherwise just have been run-of-the-mill stories about being a Filipino living in another country.
  5. Kresley Cole’s “Immortals After Dark” series – This probably deserves a separate blog post. 🙂

Here’s a list of the other titles I read last year, as listed in Goodreads: click! My 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge target was 52 titles, which I thankfully passed and even exceeded, thanks to my impromptu Crazy Kresley Cole Holiday Readathon (more on that later). My 2014 target is still 52 titles because I don’t trust myself to not get into another reading slump.

I also met a lot of authors this year (Thank you, National Book Store!), some of whom, I interviewed and wrote about.

Author Mina V. Esguerra also invited me to participate in the audio commentary of her “Interim Goddess of Love” trilogy, which is really good, you guys, so read them! 😉

It looks like 2014 will be another busy Bookworm Year, beginning with the author visits of Gayle Forman and Mitch Albom.

This year, I hope to be able to do more concrete things to further my reading advocacy. Back in 2012, when I wrote about a public high school book club’s challenges, I was thankful that that story paved the way for an NGO to donate books to the school. I really hope I will be able to do something more.

Happy new year, bookish friends! \(^o^)/

Fiction Builds Empathy

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

– Neil Gaiman (Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming)