Random Bookish Thought for the Day

Whenever I remember GRRM’s “Dying of the Light”, I hear the words “Honour to your holdfast; honour to your teyn” in my head, and there, it is often followed by:

I don’t really know why. Maybe these are the times when I unconsciously channel my Inner Sassy Kavalaar Who Wants To Challenge Irritating Characters to Duels. #TMRS

Scoring the Book: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Read Date: 24 June 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: None.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is, perhaps, one of Gaiman’s most accessible novels. While “American Gods”, “Anansi Boys”, and “Neverwhere” were critically acclaimed, I had a very difficult time reading them. It took me a long time to finish the first two, and I never did finish “Neverwhere” (although I finished watching the BBC mini-series).

I don’t know why that is; I love the premise of all those books, and I love Gaiman’s prose…most of the time. But until now, I’ve never been able to figure out just what it is in those books that I had difficulty with, to be honest.

To my surprise, I breezed through “Ocean”. The first-person POV was very immersive, and that’s exactly what you want when you read a Gaiman novel, although I don’t think it’s healthy for my sanity to be inside his head for long periods of time like this. It can get really weird in there. 😛 But Gaiman has written something deeply personal here, and you can feel it in every word.

Because the book is not marketed for children or young adults, I was surprised by how much time was spent during the narrator’s childhood. But then again, I think this is the kind of story that you will only really appreciate if you have a substantial childhood to look back on yourself.

There are a lot of elements here that are familiar to me from reading Gaiman’s other works, in particular, “Coraline”. (Ursula reminds me so much of “The Other Mother”.) This feels sort of like an aged-up version of that.

I struggle once more to grasp why exactly I couldn’t like this book more than I did, or to rate it more than a 3.5 when almost everyone has been raving about it. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault; I think it might be me, as cliché as that sounds.

[2013.06.25: Edited to add…] Okay, I will attempt to write something that I only just realized about Gaiman’s writing. It has a weird effect on me. When I read most of his books, my brain processes them like a half-remembered dream. Some parts are hazy, some parts are vivid, some parts baffle me, and some parts, I feel, are too deep for me to fathom. And so afterwards, the stories don’t have a solid impact on me or my emotions. By the end of the stories, I am in awe, and…that’s it.

My experience was different with “Good Omens”, “Stardust”, and “Coraline”, though. Those, I had a more solid grasp on. “Mirrormask” felt like a dream all throughout, but then again, if you didn’t feel like it was a dream while you were reading it, you’re probably reading another book…or you’re a real fantasy creature who lives in a world that strange. 😛 [end additions.]

And also, when I read books, I imagine that they have an aura about them that reflects how I feel after I’ve read them. This book’s aura is very grim and gray, except for the part where Lettie Hempstock allowed the narrator (what was his name again? Handsome George?) to immerse himself into the Ocean. That might be the only time I saw a brightness in the book.

Of course, that’s not the book’s fault. Gaiman told the story that he wanted to tell, and he told it well. There are just days when I want a book with a bright aura, and today is such a day.

So don’t let my Trelawney-esque mumbo-jumbo or my brain’s inability to properly process Gaiman dissuade you. This is something that I would recommend to people no matter what my experience with it was.

And now to score the book. Nell (넬), my favorite Korean band of the moment, just released a mini-album called “Escaping Gravity”. (They’re a real band, by the way, and not a singing boy group. Their sound is influenced by Brit rock, so it’s safe to give them a listen if you like that kind of music, or if you’re not fond of popular or mainstream Korean music, a.k.a. K-pop.) The promo single for the album is called “Ocean of Light”, and I think it’s appropriate to score the part of this book that shone like a bright beacon to me. 🙂

I’m in the ocean of light
My dreams are breathing
In the dazzling waves of light
I am being born again
I’m in the ocean of light
My dreams are dancing
In the big waves of light
I am being born again
In the ocean of light

 

Read this book:

  • If you would like to be introduced to the works of Neil Gaiman. It’s more accessible than his other adult novels, except perhaps for “Good Omens”, but that’s a collaboration.
  • If you feel like reminiscing about your childhood, which, hopefully, was more…sunshine-y than the narrator’s was.
  • If you like good fantasy, but you are deathly afraid of epic fantasies.

Celebrate the freedom to read with recent Filipiniana releases

I have a new story published on GMA News Online:

Celebrate the freedom to read with recent Filipiniana releases

The book I’m most excited about in that list is “Manila Noir”, which I started reading last weekend.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read anything by Jessica Hagedorn, but her introduction to this anthology alone really got me interested in her writing. If anyone has any suggestions for which Hagedorn book I should read first, please do leave a comment. 🙂

“Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)” by Tahereh Mafi

unravel meUnravel Me (Shatter Me #2)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Read Date: 27 February 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: click!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. But only because of Warner, who’s worth maybe a whole star, maybe more. (What?! The rest of the book was only mildly interesting.)

tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it’s almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

*SPOILER WARNING FOR PRETTY MUCH ALL THE MATERIAL IN THIS SERIES*

So I thought that life-changing decision they were talking about in the synopsis will be something really epic, but as it turns out, it’s just Juliette finally succumbing to Noble Idiocy.

I first encountered the term when I got into Korean dramas, and perhaps one of the best examples is illustrated here: Noble Idiotic Cancer-afflicted Characters. If you’ve read “Unravel Me” and that scenario sounds familiar, well…now you have a term for it. 😛

I was annoyed with Juliette for most of this book, and to be honest, I really wanted to punch her in the face. If only she weren’t so powerful and so…fictional. 😛

First, there’s that noble idiocy. (I am a monster, I can kill you, therefore, we cannot be together. *gives Adam torturous looks for the rest of the book*) I do understand her plight and her genuine fears, but I was disappointed that she didn’t even give herself or Adam a chance to at least be trained or to even actively find a solution.

Juliette: ‘I can’t help but wonder what my life would’ve been like if someone had taken a chance on me.’

Me: Well, sister, you will keep wondering if you aren’t even willing to take a chance on yourself.

I liked, though, that Adam wasn’t willing to take all this bullshit from Juliette and kept insisting that he wanted to make things work. (Although sometimes, I think he’s just sexually frustrated. Sorry. I mean…right?) At least he redeemed himself after making the mistake of not telling Juliette that he wasn’t as immune to her as they thought.

Second, she was just so emo. It’s the book’s saving grace that Tahereh Mafi got Kenji and Castle to call Juliette out on being a selfish, whiny, anti-social brat. I really, really appreciate Mafi hanging a lantern on that. It’s a pity because you would’ve thought she’d be a bit more optimistic and proactive now that she has a Professor X in her life. You know, just a bit? Not to mention an awesome awesome friend in Kenji. If Kenji dies in the next book, I will seriously cut a bitch.

Also, I do think Mafi writes beautifully, and sometimes the similes and metaphors are so pretty they touch my heart, which is proven by the many tabs now sticking out of my copy of the book. But there are times, too, when it all gets cheesy and overbearing. Emo Juliette + Juliette’s voice in melancholic prose = a particularly trying time inside the character’s head. I do get that this is part of the character’s DNA, but I just wish there was some semblance of evolution in this aspect now. It was acceptable to see her so introspective and defeated only when she was locked up in an asylum. I don’t expect her to stop being this way entirely because then, she wouldn’t be Juliette. But maybe just…a little more positive? A little more willing to change her circumstances and to fight back? I loved when she was being funny and light-hearted and even sarcastic—those are some ray-of-sunshine moments!

The character who I did not expect to be such a fancy thinker was Warner (omo, he reads Shakespeare!), although reading “Destroy Me” changed that perception. Oh, Warner Warner Warner. There’s some hate for him out there as a love interest, especially post-“Shatter Me”, and I understand that. In fact, I approve. I felt the same way!

But I, like Juliette, find something compelling about him that I cannot name. He’s been described by other readers as a psycho, a warfreak, a megalomaniac. Well, he does own up to being a murderer and a troubled, unforgivable person, but people give him too much credit.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean he can’t make you swoon. After all, bad boys are attractive, right? And Warner is a very bad boy who you just might want to do bad things with. CHAPTER SIXTY TWO. ‘Nuff said.

Juliette: ‘I don’t know why my heart is losing its mind.’

Me: Damn. My heart lost it too. But I know why.

wave_of_feels-18739

I don’t know why she keeps giving Warner flack about going Darth Vader on her Luke Skywalker, by the way. (*in Darth Vader voice* Join me, and together, we will rule the galaxy…) Warner wants her to realize the true potential of her powers. Sure he wants to do it for World Domination (or so he says), but what about Castle? Castle wants her on their side so they can overthrow the Re-establishment, but he also admits that they will do it when they’re ready to rule. So both sides want Juliette on their side so they can gain power. Castle may have more noble intentions, but sometimes, when it comes to Warner, I think Juliette doth protest too much. It’s a good thing she’s not a hypocrite about her other feelings for him.

‘Warner is the one person I can be completely honest with. I always feel like I have to protect Adam from me, from the horror story that is my life…But with Warner, there’s nothing to hide.’

I am not yet too hopelessly romantic to think that Juliette will end up with Warner just because I like him, of course. Author Kate Evangelista once said that there seems to be an unspoken rule that the heroine must end up with the one who saved her first, and that was Adam.

Actually, I’m still not convinced that Warner will be good for Juliette in the first place. As of this book, he does have his own agenda despite his feelings for her, and nothing can erase his past, his crimes, and his family background. Basically, if Juliette was still living with her family, her mother would tell her to stay as far away from Warner as she can. And until things change in the third book, I’d have to agree with her.

I personally like him because he has more potential as a character, he has more depth, and he’s been brutally honest about what he’s really like so far, and I appreciate that. And also, yes, that compelling something I still cannot name. And the feels. But being on Team Warner/Team 62 doesn’t mean being on board the Juliette/Warner ‘ship entirely. In this book, for me, it just means I’m rooting for the character.

It’s telling, though, that the times when I liked Juliette in this book were when she was with either James or Kenji.

I also like that in the love configuration, it’s Juliette who is the more powerful entity. In most YA love triangles, it’s often the girl who’s the normal or weaker one—the human—and it is often the boys who have power or wealth or who are supernatural beings. This is a nice variation to the trope. I hope that she lives up to the hype when we get to the last book.

I should probably stop talking about the romance now. I just couldn’t help it because the plot didn’t really move forward as much as could be expected from such a thick book, and the romance constitutes a good chunk of it. 😛 You can’t even really argue for character development taking up a lot of space because there wasn’t much growth or change in Juliette.

Okay, let’s talk about abilities. The gist: the series has gone all dystopian X-Men on us.

Yes, I did expect to see a lot of mutants because the story is now set in Omega Point, but I didn’t want EVERYONE to be a mutant! Sure, I was willing to accept that maybe Adam was, and I kinda saw the Warner revelation coming after that. But even James?! Being Adam’s brother is not an excuse.

The only normal major character in this is Supreme Commander Anderson. And who knows, maybe he’ll also find out later that he’s a mutant, especially considering how his kids turned out. Statistical probability just got thrown out the window. It’s all just so…to quote James himself, convenient.

Sometimes I feel like the Omega Point and mutant rebel action plot thread belongs to a different story. I think it’s because of Juliette’s voice, which is so personal, internal, and emotional; it fits the romance aspect more than the action and secret mutant rebellion scenes which are best narrated in a more straightforward voice to be better appreciated. I’m hoping that Mafi will be able to more smoothly intertwine internal Juliette with heroine Juliette and the outside world.

I also hope that Juliette will live up to her potential, not necessarily as a powerful being, but as a proper heroine in the next book. Nothing like almost-death to get you motivated, huh?

♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫
And now to Score The Book. This has everything to do with Warner and Chapter Sixty Two. Sorry, Juliette.

♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫

Read this book:

  • Only if you’ve read “Shatter Me.” Reading “Destroy Me” is optional, but recommended.

“Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5)” by Tahereh Mafi

destroy meDestroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Read Date: 26 February 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: click!
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

*SPOILER WARNING FOR BOTH THIS NOVELLA AND “SHATTER ME”*

It’s great that we now know more about Warner and why he did the things he did in “Shatter Me”, even though he turns out to pretty much be your usual villain who dons a mask of cruelty to hide a troubled past (and present) to the point of driving the love of his life away. It’s a little too cliché, actually, but there’s something compelling about Warner that I am gravitating toward—especially compared to Adam—so I will just have to accept this.

Also, he picked up a dog and happily fed it, so now it’s gonna take something truly devastating to make me hate him after that. bagGorgeous, emotionally compromised men who are nice to women (when they’re not possessed by bouts of noble idiocy or necessary pretense), children, and dogs: there you have it, ladies and gents, my literary male character kryptonite.

The passages from Juliette’s notebook are a great addition here, by the way, as there really isn’t much of the actual content of the notebook in “Shatter Me”. They shed a little more light on Juliette’s captivity (pre-Adam) and how she dealt with her isolation.

“Destroy Me” seems like such an apt title for this novella because, dude, Warner was just crumbling right before my eyes. He falls apart so many times that it’s painful to read. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to paint him this way—in a level of pain that is almost close to Juliette’s—when he didn’t suffer as much as she did. And this difference is magnified even more when the revelations in Juliette’s notebook entries are put parallel to Warner’s trials and tribulations. Sure, he empathizes with her, especially with how they were both treated by their parents. But when you consider how he is in a position of power and privilege, he comes off as too emo, no matter how helpless he actually is when it comes to Juliette. I can still sympathize with him as a reader and understand his motivations as a character even if he were written just a little less emotionally than this.

I wrote about how the portrayal of love can still be epic and thrilling and intense without being suffocating, as Laini Taylor pulled off so well in “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”, and Maggie Stiefvater also did in “The Scorpio Races”. I loved how measured but still swoon-worthy the romance there is, and I wish there was a little of that kind of calculated restraint here and in “Shatter Me”. But the intensity and heightened emotions seem to be part of the style and the theme of the series, and it certainly isn’t something alien in dystopian YA, so I suppose it all comes down to personal preferences, but I just had to say it.

And I thought it was just Juliette, but is thinking in very dramatic similes all the rage in this world? (Loved them at first, but they can get exasperating.) I dread to hear what Adam is thinking.

But…okay, I’ll bite, because I’m a sucker for this tortured love thing sometimes. I’m on board for “Unravel Me”, but the payoff better be something that will rock my world.

Read this novella if:

  • You’ve read “Shatter Me”.
  • You’re curious about Warner.
  • You were waiting for a Warner shower/bath scene. 😛 (What?! It’s his turn.)

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Share Your Story in the Pensieve: What is your literary character kryptonite? (What kind of characters do you most gravitate toward?)

New Year Giveaway Winner!

My New Year Giveaway closed last Saturday, and I’ve consulted the mysterious, oracular Random List Generator.

So who’s going to have a Frost-y January?

Okay then, an even Frost-ier January, considering it’s been chilly these past few days.

newyeargiveaway

Congratulations, Paw! You win a copy of “Kiss of Frost” and “Dark Frost” by Jennifer Estep. Please wait for the confirmation e-mail to find out how you can get your prize. 🙂

Thanks to all those who joined or who showed interest in this giveaway. I already have the next one lined-up for next month, and it’s gonna be a special one, just in time for Valentine’s Day. ❤ Please watch out for that!

✻ ✻ ✻

In the meantime, I hope you have started making a dent on your 2013 Reading Goals.

I’ve re-started “The Eye of the World” because I’ve long forgotten the few pages I read last year:

eotw2

I also finished 1 out of the 6 books in John Green’s Back List:

achievement (2)

This is how my 2013 Reading Challenge progress looks:

Goodreads   Recent Updates

Actually, I’m probably just 2 books ahead because this counts the 2 novellas I read as 1 book each.

I hope all those with reading goals are doing just as well or much better. 🙂

When writing begets more opportunities for reading

I recently turned in a story about a local public high school and their Little Reading Program That Could (click!). I learned about Ms. Debby Asuncion, Kalayaan National High School, and their Y.O.U.T.H. Power program a few months ago during the 2nd Filipino Reader Conference. I was very impressed by how the school has managed to keep their program afloat despite their less than ideal circumstances, as well as by the passion of the people involved to ensure that the program will continue to help students become better readers.

Yesterday, I learned that after reading my story, Eskritoryo Pilipinas, an “organization dedicated to promoting literature and environmental sustainability in early education,” organized a book drive to benefit Kalayaan’s program. Here’s an account of their visit to the school: click!

Writer and fellow blogger Chris Mariano (dementedchris), who’s a member of Eskritoryo Pilipinas, also told me that the folks from the school actually printed out my story for everyone to read. Whoa.

KNHS1

KNHS2

holysheep

I know that Ms. Debby is very busy, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear back from her after the story went live. But I also worried that she wouldn’t see the story if she didn’t get to check her e-mail. I’m glad that wasn’t the case, and I’m so touched that the people in the school even posted it in their hallway. ❤❤❤!

When I submit articles for publication, I certainly don’t have any altruistic or noble motivations; I write just because I like to, and sometimes, because I have to. But ever since I pitched this story to my editor, I harbored hopes that someone who will come across it can actually do something concrete to help Kalayaan. Because my circumstances hinder me from doing something more substantial to help, writing about them on a wide-reaching online platform was the most practical way I could think of to personally contribute to the cause. I’m very happy that a group like Eskritoryo was able to give them what they really need, and at Christmastime, too!

Thank you, Chris, for sending me the photos! Kudos and Happy Christmas to everyone in your organization. bounce

ReaderCon 2012 Filipino Friday #4: Books and Friends

Books and Friends. We will have book discussions hosted by several book clubs during the ReaderCon, so to prepare us for that, let’s talk about books and friendships and book clubs. Are you a part of a book club? If yes, what made you join one? What’s your favorite activity that you have with them? If you’re not a part of one, will you consider joining one? Why or why not? Or if you’re not (yet) a part of a book club, do you have friends who share the same passion for books as you do? Do you have a “bookish” best friend? If yes, tell us about them! How did you become friends? What’s your favorite memory with them?

Before I answer this week’s question, come join me in singing the Garfield and Friends song! Raise your hand if you watched this series when you were a kid! *raises hand*



My reading group is actually one of the clubs that will be participating in the ReaderCon. We’re called The Mysterious Reading Society, and I’ll let the mystery carry on further until they put up the post at the ReaderCon website. 😛 EDIT: The post is up! Learn more about us. 🙂

But yeah, most of the very good and close friends that I have now, I met through my love of books. In particular, I met many of them through the Harry Potter and Twilight fan groups. (Shelve the hate, please. 😛 )

I share the same favorite authors and genres with a handful of these friends, and these eventually became the people that I am now in TMRS with. I am thankful for these 5 people (Leia, Echo, Lianne, Claire, and Ron,) who I spend a lot of time with, both online and IRL, because their company keeps me sane amid the day-to-day craziness of life.

Looking back, I realize that my oldest friends are also fellow bookworms. I spent my Sweet Valley and Sweet Dreams and Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes phases with close friends from elementary and high school, and my Harry Potter phase with friends from University. And I began my epic fantasy, The 39 Clues, and science fiction phases with friends from work.

Of course, books aren’t the only things that I share in common with these people, but it’s satisfying to know that I’ve actually shared more adventures in different worlds with them than I initially thought.

*Choose a drink –butterbeer, blue milk, elven wine…blood?– and raise your glass! (Mine has soju because I think the only way I’d be able to drink an entire glass of that is in a fictional setting, haha!)*

Here’s to good friends to share more good books and good memories with!

See you all at the ReaderCon!

United We Read — The 2nd Filipino ReaderCon will be held on August 18th from 8:00am-6:00pm at the Filipinas Heritage Library, Ayala Triangle, Makati City. For more information, visit the official website at filipinoreadercon.wordpress.com.

Pre-registration for the Con is now open and you might want to participate in The Great Book Swap!

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Previously, on Filipino Friday 2012:

FF 1: Introductions
FF 2: School of Reading
FF 3: Reading Habits and Book Formats