Si Janus Sílang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon (Janus Sílang #1) by Edgar Calabia Samar: A Book Review

Hey, folks. It’s been a long time. Although I am an avowed atheist, I still want to greet you all a belated Merry Christmas.

The good thing is I had a decent time to be left to my reading during the Christmas break.  I got the crack to read the two books written by my fellow Filipino writer, Edgar Calabia Samar. I received these two from our monito’t monita during our company’s Christmas party. As usual, books are my wishes whenever we have this kind of occasion; otherwise, I tend to have   a bland face . As long as possible, all I want to receive on special days is just books, books, books! I love books. ^__^

22011229I have read a great deal of positive feedback about this. My fellow blogger reviewed that it is likened to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring series of  Britain or to anything else out there considered world-class. Someone on Goodreads shouts out to the world that it is “ang lupet! ” . Also, someone  outspoken   professed that he is willing to die, ignoring the fact that the “Tiyanak” might  come out to bite out  his throat and stomach; he insisted on giving it 5 stars on Goodreads  no matter what you find fault with this.  As a matter of fact, with a special mention to Manix Abrera, the master mind of KikoMachine, reviewed that   this is one of the most frightening and hair-raising stories he has ever read. He also added that there were the moments that he would turn back because his hair would stand on end in fear that something might have been sneaking behind him. Ok. I am not against their opinions. I totally agree. Whoa! I belong to you folks.

If you are Filipino, I highly recommend you read it. Give it a try.  I promise you will like it as well as end up appreciating our very own fiction. First, it is not that cringingly old-fashioned or “baduy “. Do not be mindful of what some “anglicized” hubris put that reading local books makes a dull head of you. They must not even have a reliably scientific term paper to claim so. Rather, you can relate to it, especially if you like playing online  games . Besides, the author’s writing style is unique and  not that super slang nor super archaic. It is balanced. I may suggest it an oxymoron of informality and formality. Thus, anyone can read it regardless of your age, sex, religion, or whatsoever. In the end, you will put the feather on your cap I bet.  Alas, it has not been translated yet for foreign readers   as what happened to his   short-listed one  for Asian Man Literary Prize ,  Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog after it was catapulted to fame.

I muttered under my breath   while reading it that for sure, young -adult readers who are addicted to playing computer games, needless to say the now-defunct , if I am not mistaken, DOTA ( Defense of the Ancient ), will  really like it. Besides, it reminded me of  my another university classmate who , aside from that he is a closet bookworm because he never brags about reading a lot, is known for  addiction to DOTA. I will share it with him once I meet him. I guess he is aware of it.

Granted that it deals with online computer games, and that I do not like reading   books more on fantasy since I believe in scientific reasons, I still enjoyed it   a whole lot. In fact, I got interested in it because the author   conceptualized a very Filipino game. Instead, he created the characters out of famous Filipino myths and legends  such as dwende, nuno, aswang, mambabarang, manananggal, tiyanak, bagani , pusong, diwata, and so forth. With these settings, I can totally relate to the story since I have learned all of them. So I got a thrill out of it. My hair stood on end. I was nervous, worried, angry until I burst into tears when the protagonist’s mother died. Shit! It was Christmas when I was reading it.

As the climax of the story goes, I am amazed at Edgar Calabia Samar’s writing skills more. It is wonder how he is able to incorporate the Filipino life and his fondness  for Philippine literary figures into such a story. Besides, obviously I can surmise, he makes sure that every angle of the story is consistent to each other without any plot holes about which a reader will be very cynical.  And I admit to overlooking   some of them just this book is rather remarkable- a tour de force. Period.

For my foreign folks, the center of the story is the Tala which means star . The main characters have to find it (Tala )through an online game, so the melodramatic game  will  be over. However, since the story is pretty interesting, I do not have the foggiest idea when the author will finish it. Of course, it is understood that he will capitalize on its fame. Besides, he must still have a large panoply of ideas  running into his head.

Up next , my review of its part two: Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal – Mambabarang.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

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The presents I received during the X-mas party

The Writers I Met in November 2015

In my imaginary world in November, there I  met some famous writers whose  literary works shattered my illusions. I met a philosopher, an education reformist, a humored tomboy writer, and an Anglicized Filipino joker. They changed the way I look at the world.

First:  Albert Camus. I was into his suprising   novels such as :

  1. The Stranger. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It took me time before I drew my review of it. I didn’t want to admit something, that I saw myself in the character. His personality reflected in me. Something entangled deep inside of me was pulled out. The feeling was indescribable, ambiguous until I realized that the pain was trickling off. I could not hold myself any longer. I cried.
  2. The Fall. I did not give a hoot about giving it 5 stars. Who cares about someone ranting if it is as though Camus just scribbled it? Sometimes, in doing so makes sense. My experience was just like the one with whom the conversant struck up . I was all ears ,kept on nodding at his cathartic confession. Ok! Ah! Ok! I see!
  3. The Guest. I liked it , so I gave it 3 stars. I put myself in the main character in bind ,unknowing how to deal with the Guest. Besides, I did not focus on the trivial dilemma of the character much but on the panoramic and picturesque imagination described by Camus. I remembered then the beauty of the Alps described by Johanna Spryi in her novel Heidi.
  4. adulterousThe Adulterous Woman. Although I made a fuss over its title, I still gave it 3 stars. Camus was just so skilled in associating the mystical world with his story.

Second: Willa Cather. The first time I knew Cather was through her novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Through   this novel, she impressed me with her august writing skills- pure, original, something  which styles I cannot find fault with. As a matter of fact, her novel My Antonia, for the second time, has made me put her on the pedestal of the best writers I have encountered in my imaginary world. The latter  made me stand and hop in joy. Yahoo! I wish I were in a prairie where I could shout it out that I would give it more than 5 stars.

                 antonia        archbishop

Third, Malala Yousafzai. Malala is now one of the inspiring people I look up to. She has made a big difference to me, to everyone, to society. For me, she is the perfect epitome of a reformist in the modern world  where   conservative ideas still exist. In her autobiography, I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, she showed her  dauntless dignity being in the center of the distorted reality. Her book moved the heaven and earth.

malala

Finally, Elbert Or.I do not much about Or. It is my first time to have read one of  my fellow Filipino’s works. Obviously, his book , The More the Manyer and Other Words of Wisdumb, has something to do with Filipinism, the Filipino English. It deals with the common mistakes  in English among Filipinos. His examples are supposed to be for the heck of  fun with some somewhat funny illustrations. But I do not want to laugh at them, for I am a consummate stickler for correct English grammar and structure.  Look who’s talking?  ( blushing)

 

There the authors  are, in my imaginary world- my nook of comfort  where I read   8 books in November. Not bad. Better than 4 books  which might predispose me to throw into tantrum. I do not want to have this pang  of  guilty feelings again. (laughs)

My prediction last month that I might not be able to complete my 200 reading goals on Goodreads   came true. I really cannot do it. There are many things I have been busy with. But I promise that I will do it again next  year! Hooray!

Happy Reading, buddies! ^_^

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A Book Review

thegirlontetrainThe winner of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller.  It narrowly defeated Stephen King’s Finders Keepers and  J.K. Rowling’s  Career of Evil under her pen name Robert Galbraith. I have not read the latter ones yet, but I am aware that Stephen King is well- known for writing such genre. How about Rowling’s skills in captivating her audience with her magic spell?  So I cannot comparatively but subjectively criticize it if this is deserving of the award. Don’t take umbrage at me, Ms. Hawkins.

I may not be a movie snob, but I believe that this is the agglomeration of the author’s collected ideas she may have drawn from the mystery and thriller movies she has watched, needless to say from the books she has read. I bet my boots Stephen King is one of her influences. So there are some parts in the book which are not new to me any longer: I guess who among the characters the real killer is. It is the kind one who turns out to be the bad one;  the part when another character drowns her baby to death. This sounds Greek to me. Where did I read and watch it? ; Rachel’s episodic-memory  scenes ; and the victim’s husband will be the protagonist’s friend and eventually enemy.

Nevertheless, the author wrote her collected ideas very well. The sentences are light, loose, and expressive which I believe are essential in writing a mystery and thriller. I can imagine the vivid scenes. I can connect to the characters. I can sense the suspenseful parts. However, I notice that there are some parts which enervate and undermine the excitement in reaching the climax such as too many emphases on the protagonist’s abject misery. She does something like this and like that off and on. In addition, the idea of alternate personal accounts among the three characters, notably between Anna and Megan, taxes my interest in and focus on Rachel, the protagonist. I do not care much about both of them; I just want to focus on Rachel. How about playing down to some other characters such as the two detectives? In other words, the author intends to leave us readers hang in the air which I find monotonously dreary and annoying . Ooops! You might find me now harsh, but I mean business. Mea Culpa.

Despite that the book appears lacking  originality, there is one thing that I found somewhat interesting. It is  the main character’s role. She is a divorcee and   dipsomania as well. That is why she loses her job.  In fear of shame, she pretends to go to work   by staying on the train where she forms her   fantasies and in a library where she reads and reads and reads- the settings I have not read yet.

Since Goodreads, the largest book club site in the world, catapulted it to fame, for sure,  Ms. Hawkins will be expected to write something better than this. Congratulations to Ms. Hawkins!  I am sure she takes her hat off to the readers who voted for her. Can I still belong to them? ^_^

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s OK.)

 

The Giver by Lois Lowry: A Book Review

thegiverI am a realistic person. Maybe if American philosopher, William James, were still alive, he could describe me as pragmatic. I believe that that is the way everything in the world is. I do not believe in Elysium as in the movie played by oomph daddy, Matt Damon or in Utopia , the superannuated idea of Thomas Moore. I do not even believe in the geographical places   such as Paradise and Hell as in what the Christians believe, let alone the Purgatory described in Divine Comedy which is totally feared by deeply religious readers unless we can figuratively describe them on Earth.  Just I am staunch. Maybe I have been weaned on my background in social sciences. Maybe I am still ignorant less than people who believe in seven virgins as does the ISIS. So, with this perception, there is no wonder I did not appreciate this book, The Giver. I cannot bear with the conspicuous inconsistencies of the story. There are some parts I do not find fascinating.

Readers may   understand that dystopian   and/or utopian stories could be fictional. They are the pigment to the authors’ imagination. In other words, they do not happen in real life as what readers put it. However, for me, fictions could be drawn from personal experiences since writing  is an art, an expression of oneself. So, suffice to say  that  we are all in harmony that when you read such stories, they are   fictitious. Enough said! … But for me, I appreciate dystopian and/or utopian stories more  if they  still cling  to the real world. Sort of oxymoron. I wish the late scientist Stephen Hawking could help me expound what I am trying to drive at here. ( Bleary-eyed)

Ok. Take it easy, Joey. Don’t mind the sea of bright readers, notably those friends of yours who gave it more than four stars lying in waiting, here on Goodreads. (Taking a deep breath)

The first understanding is that the setting is Utopian. Everyone  just in that you-know-what place mentioned in the book is equal, has kind of socialistic and communistic life. You know as in what   life in North Korea   or in Russia before thought to be  like; everyone  has comfortable life; everyone does not need to be capitalistic  to one another; everyone is given whatever job can be assigned to them according to their personality or life styles while growing up. What a superb concept! However, as you reach the core of the story, you realize that you-know-what place turns out to be dystopian. Aha, Moore’s concept is a trash!  Jonas, the main protagonist, in the end, has found out that everything  turns out to be the greatest show on earth, mimicking Richard Dawkins’s book title.

I believe that dystopian and/or utopian stories  are more appreciated   if :

  • people can relate to the dystopian and/or utopian situations; they may happen in their daily life. For instance, if authors write something which concept is about a paradise where people  thought to be living without suffering  from pains someday, as in life is peaceful and physically comfortable, it could be imaginably understood  because people may interpret the existence of such geographical place, for there are many religions in the world.
  • the story could be beyond belief, logic, and scientific  explanation. Why not make it interesting, something that readers may be ignorant of since   they may have no background in the branches of science? For instance, magic witchcraft in Harry Potter series , but  young readers are enchanted by it. Besides, it is a common superstition elsewhere.

In comparison to the The Giver, there are some parts considered an insult to someone’s intelligence (Don’t take the expression literally.) such as:

  1. In the story, The Giver said to Jonas that love does not exist .

My comment: I believe in this   proposition, but wait, all along , all the characters express love as does The Giver.

  1. Superficial settings like some people keep an eye on   everyone in the you-know-what  place, so don’t ever hide anything such as food  or your acts or talks about something excluded from the rules.

My comment:  I wonder about this imaginary  place. Is it a colossal machine? There is an instance that Jonas and The Giver can talk tête-à-tête  when turning something  off which can record their voices. I think I should watch its movie adaptation.

If you argue that it is the voice of the Highest Person which symbolizes God in that you-know-what place, how about the One in Elsewhere? I am sure you may argue that it is the same voice of the Highest Person. Aha, that you-know-who is omnipresent after all, a lame excuse for the famous atheist writer, George H. Smith.

  1. Cringing symbols  like a bicycle   for a rite of passage.

My comment: Of no taste

  1. Releasing babies that are found to be useless or people who give up on their responsibilities by  means of injection or whatever euthanasiac  paraphernalia mentioned in the story.

My comment: The story may suggest that life could  be taken away by the hands of humans, but it appears that humans are like robots dumped when they are no longer useful.

  1. The age when a child finishes her/ his childhood

My comment: This is what I have been blubbering about. This concept could   make someone cringe. We know that this is unacceptable to the law of human development. We all   universally know that we never stop growing as a child at the age of 12. This is the fact that the writer cannot distort. We can justify this fact. So can young readers.  Do you know what I mean to say, buddy?

I wish I could ask Lois Lowry about my points in question, but I forgot that she wrote it in the 1990’s. Besides, this is supposed to be for young adults. May be readers at that early age  are not mentally mature enough to understand the story. Just they are fascinated at it.  I wonder how a  young smart Alec muses it over.

Rating: 1/ 5 stars ( I didn’t like it.)

A Giveaway On My List

A book came all the way from the U.K. Yippee! Thanks to the author. It is a dubious honor to read and review his first novel.

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The  genre of the novel is fantasy. What I liked about it is its  cover- mystically enchanting.

Here is the description of the book on Goodreads:

Kasmah

A series written for those who enjoy discovering a world,
its mythos, characters, and story threads both big and small,
come together over multiple books.

Forma

In the scorched lands of the Maharaan lives a dark-skinned girl soon to become a woman.
Capable and strong, confident and caring;
all she has known is peace, all she has known is purpose.
All she will bring:
Death.

On the icy plains, beyond the Gadori forests, lies a dead boy.
Forgotten by the world and himself,
he is about to be given the hardest challenge of all:
Life.

In the center of Kasmah one sits above all, the Integra Divinitas.
Beyond the trappings of the common, bound to mankind by responsibility.
A burden that, should any Divinitas fail, could bring the worst fate of all:
Chaos.

All promises must be fulfilled.

For Kasmah… will grow.

 

Although there are still some books in line I have to keep up with before the year ends, I cannot resist the excitement and temptation to   bury myself in it.

Happy reading, buddies! 🙂

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai : A Book Review

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.” 
― Malala Yousafzai
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

malalaThe day Malala was in the  news headlines  catching the attention of the world , I remembered  myself  back on my younger years when I was still so idealistic,  wanted to make a big difference  by helping survive the dying  Mother Earth  and educate the youth as well.  Malala invigorated that desire. Then,  I  kept track of  her personal life . I watched  her  on CBS news  and even  her speeches and TV guest appearances on Youtube. I will not forget her speech at the U.N where she expressed her desire to   continue her  fight for  girls’ right to education.  In fact,her closing statement marked in my memory, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” Her speech made me cry and clap many times as though I belonged to the audience in the chamber surrounding her in awe.Then in 2013, her autobiography was launched . However, I was so frustrated that I was not able to buy it yet because of its exorbitant price. After a few years, I’ve got my own copy and  read it with gusto. In the end, I fathomed Malala more. I was moved to the bone and shattered at my reading chair.

I revere Malala not only because she was shot by Taliban for speaking up for the right of girls but also because she was very young , at the age of 16 , to get silenced. I may sound ignorant of the current and affairs around the world, but who can imagine that a young girl like her living in one of the tumultuous lands on earth was able to stand up to a group who could have almost killed her? I have known some admiring people who have been staunch for their causes, but so far Malala is one of the most incredible  persons I have known in my generation.

Reading this book  sounds like the author is an old adult who has grown up a lot  , for she  is too mature to speak of the miserable situations in the world. She is so smart that she understands her rights. However, you may realize that the author turns out to be as young as your  niece or cousin – Malala is also an ordinary girl like the other girls playing outdoor games, fond of watching romantic movies and dramas, interested  in reading books .  Think of her as a young lady, but take her seriously. She really means business.

Aside from the fact that  she  has the courage of her own convictions, there are the other sides of Malala that made me grin from ear to ear. She likes studying a lot. She is always eager to learn the things she has not understood yet.  That is why she is  academically  competitive but intellectually humble. In fact, she likes History and Physics.  The cute thing is she is a big fan of Twilight and other books about vampires. Also, she likes journalistic writing and is a nature lover as well. But the most important thing I have learned from   her is to stand up for your rights.

Before, I  wanted to be an environmentalist. I wanted to help the famous Filipino environmentalist, Chin-Chin Gutierez, on her advocacy of surviving the Mother Earth. I started   in  little ways. However, I lost interest and courage to do so when everything in our society turns out to be so powerful that I could be run over. Nevertheless, when I read Malala’s story, since then, I said I want to do it again. I hope I can do it again, for life on this earth is so infinitesimal.

“Life isn’t just about taking in oxygen and giving out carbon dioxide.” 
― Malala Yousafzai
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)