Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review - H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton

 Rating: 10/10

H is for Homicide follows the story of private investigator Kinsey Millhone in yet another exciting mystery adventure. One of Kinsey's drinking buddies is found dead, shot. She thinks it shouldn't really involve her but her interest grows when the insurance claim she is investigating turns out to be connected to the murder. In the course of events, she meets a former school mate and ex-cop, Jimmy Tate, who is romantically involved with Bibianna Diaz, the former girlfriend of insurance fraud ring-leader Raymond Maldonado. For the first time, Kinsey goes undercover and must find evidence against Maldonado and his gang.

This is probably one of the best Kinsey Millhone novels I've read. It's fun-paced, exciting and Kinsey is just amazing. Amazing, amazing writer. Sue Grafton deserves a standing ovation.

Book Review - Do Lord Remember Me by Julius Lester

Rating: 6/10

Somewhere in Nashville, Tennessee, Reverend Joshua Smith, Sr. is writing his own obituary on what was supposed to be the last day of his life. As he does, he begins to reminisce his life: as a young man in the time of slavery, as a husband to his white wife, as a father to his two sons, and as a servant of God. Known to others as the Singing Evangelist and to one journalist as the Colored Billy Graham, the reverend searches his life - and his heart - for answers.

It was a pretty nice story. Do Lord Remember Me gave me a vivid image of America during the years of slavery. It was written well and the characters were nicely drawn but it did not leave an impression on me. Sure, it was nice but there's nothing in the novel that was really striking, or worth remembering.

Book Review - The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rating: 8/10

Far away in outer space, there exists a planet named Winter. It is perpetually cold in the planet. But what was odd about it was its inhabitants - the Gethenians were androgynous. The concept of gender did not exist. They simply took the form of man or woman during kemmer, or mating cycle. Genly Ai is sent by the Ekumen of Known Worlds to further investigate these people and persuade the Gethenians to ally with the Ekumen. At first, he finds his subjects stubborn and unreadable, but when he journeys through the Ice with one of them, Ai begins to see through the eyes of the Gethenians.

What persuaded me to buy this book is, honestly, the name of the author. I first encountered Ursula K. Le Guin's work in a short story we tackled in English 11. I found her writing delightful and, when I saw this book, I wanted to read more from her. As it turned out, I wasn't in the least disappointed by that choice.

It was a little weird reading The Left Hand of Darkness during the first few chapters. It was strange to refer to androgynous people as "he". It was strange to know the Gethenian sexual physiology. The Gethenian calendar and clock was very much strange. The fact that Le Guin wrote about an entire world so different from ours (and yet so real) is just amazing. Well, it is science fiction, after all.

Like I mentioned above, it was pretty hard to comprehend the terms, names, and dates because it was so different. But when I finished the book, I felt that the Gethenians are no different from us. Their physical condition may be different but the human nature does not change.

The discussion of patriotism was an eye-opener for me. It is true that love for country is a questionable concept.

"I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on one side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then's its not a good thing." - Therem Harth rem ir Estraven,  The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This was a fantastic novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cheerdance Competition (HALABIRA!)

Better late than never, right? So here's my account of Sunday's [AWESOME!] UAAP Season 73 Cheerdance Competition.
My two classmates and I went inside Araneta Coliseum at around 11:45 a.m. Our tickets were labeled Upper Box B so went there, on the 'UP side'. And voila! There were no seats available. So we had no choice but to climb at the top of the section and stand there all throughout the event (which, by the way, started at 2 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.).
The UST and FEU sides were almost filled (and it was all yellow...). UST was located on our right, UE was on our left.
While the preparations for the event were still underway, some universities began cheering. We (on the UP side) imitated their cheers OR answered back with one of our own for the sake of... Well, nothing. To spite them, maybe. :P So that went on until 2 p.m. But it was fun. HAHA! Especially when they distributed the paraphernalias used in cheering. There were shouts of "Penge! Penge! Penge! Penge! Penge!" everywhere (even when the balloons were being distributed in the UST side). Everyone was just uhh... Crazy with excitement, I guess. =))))))))
The event finally started. I can't remember the exact order but UP was the sixth to perform. FEU and UST performed before our university and their routines were really awesome and shocking. Anyway, UP Pep Squad performed their routine well; it was a CLEAN performance. The energy was just there. We screamed like crazy while they were dancing and cheered them on. \\(>o<)//
There were a couple of commercial breaks before the announcement of the winners. We were ALL nervous. I overheard one of the students behind me say, "Parang tayo yung sumayaw," which I think summarizes the whole feeling we had during that time.
When the second runner-up was about to be called, we all strained our ears to hear which university it would be. When the announcer said, "UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS," we almost did cartwheels. Haha! We even joined them in cheering "Go USTE! Go USTE! Go USTE! Go go go go!!!"
Commercial break! Pfft.
The time for the announcement of first runner-up came. The UP and UST (I think) side started shouting "FEU! FEU! FEU!" And they, indeed, placed first runner-up.
Yes, we almost did cartwheels, again.
Another commercial break. :P
ALMOST everyone was screaming "UP! UP! UP! UP! UP! UP! UP!" when the champion was about to be crowned, including the other universities. (Ahem. Someone seemed to be pretty bitter.) We were also screaming. HAHA!
And UP Pep Squad was named the champion! We were all jumping and waving the placards and flags like mad. The heat no longer mattered. Everyone was sweaty but it was alright... OUR UNIVERSITY WON!!! The 0-14 record of the basketball team was REDEEMED!
The NU and UST drummers played the beats of "Unibersidad Original" and we all sang along:
Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (4x)
Matatapang, matatalino
Walang takot kahit kanino
Hinding-hindi magpapahuli
Ganyan kaming mga taga-UP!
Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (4x)

It was so much fun and all the cramping was forgotten because we were all so happy! UP FIGHT!!!
(It was a good thing that the UP Pep Squad won last Sunday. Being the head coach of the pep squad, my PE professor, Ma'am Lalaine Perena, is very happy when she entered the Dance Studio this morning. She even allowed us to revise our final exam AND said that we wouldn't have to perform on Monday, September 20, which is Dancing in September in UPD. Hurrah!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review - Of Nightingales that Weep by Katherine Paterson

Rating: 9/10
Being the daughter of a samurai, Takiko is expected to not weep. But how could she help it when her father dies and her mother remarries a strange, deformed potter? When the opportunity to leave comes, Takiko immediately grabs it, little knowing what awaits her in the Imperial court. Her beauty and musical talent endear her to the hearts of many, but more importantly to the heart of the young warrior Hideo, an enemy spy. Torn between her loyalty to the Heike and her love for Hideo, Takiko painfully learns the lessons of life, love, and upholding the samurai honor.
I liked the book very much. The events and surroundings were surreal and the characters believable. The reader is given a glimpse of the culture of feudal Japan. More importantly, it gives the reader a different point of view about beauty. There are a lot of lessons to be learned and it's just a sad, sad story of a samurai's daughter. It can very well leave anyone in tears.
(I'm pretty much disappointed with one character but if I say who, it's going to spoil everything. :D)

Book Review - Nancy Drew Files Case 1: Secrets Can Kill

Rating: 5/10
Nancy Drew goes back to high school to solve a mystery. Recently, Bedford High School has experienced a series of thefts and Mr. Parton asked the girl detective to find out who is doing it. But when the case turns to murder, Nancy finds there's more to the thefts than meets the eye, and she is determined to find out who is behind it all.
I didn't enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed reading the hardbound ones. Well, I never did like the Nancy Drew Files. It's more like a romance novel than a mystery novel. Sure, there's the sleuthing and all the what-not, but there's just something not right about it. The fact that Nancy could be "cheating" on Ned (because of Daryl Gray) is incredulous. The Nancy I read about in the hardbounds is not this Nancy. She's just so different, more mature maybe. It probably appeals to other teenagers, but not to me.
Like I mentioned above, it's written more like a romance novel. There's a lot of love and kissing going on and I just don't think I'd see the girls doing all that (especially George in the Nancy Drew on Campus series). So yeah, I pretty much didn't like it.

Oh yeah, it has a PC game version which is the first of all Nancy Drew games and I hope I get to play it one of these days. :D

Book Review - Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Rating: 8/10

Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. Made up of 34 cantos, it tells the story of a man named Dante who found himself in a dark wood. Unable to find his way out because of three beasts who blocked his way, Virgil, sent by Beatrice, comes to his rescue. The poet tells him that they must go through hell in order for Dante to return to earth.

I didn't exactly enjoy reading it because of, well, the language. It's pretty hard to understand and without the translator's notes and other guides, I may not have understood two-thirds of what I read. While the punishments were gruesome, they don't register in my mind that quickly. Again, the language. It's really, really hard to understand (harder than Charles Dickens). Plus the fact that it's allegorical makes it more difficult. :P

Book Review - Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Rating: 8/10

Nectar in a Sieve is the story of Rukmani, an Indian woman who is the wife of a farmer. Throughout the years, many hardships beset their lives. She watched one of her children die from starvation, her only daughter work as a prostitute, and her other sons depart for jobs which she mistrusted. But after all of them, amazingly, she survives.

It's told in first person narration and that adds to the personality of the story. It gives the reader the idea that this could happen to anyone (and, sadly, it does happen). The plot is also built well and the events are believable. It offers the reader a glimpse of rural Indian life, and the encroachment of Western concepts in the countryside. The story also explores other topics such as morality, happiness, land ownership, and poverty.

I appreciate the novel very much. It's my first time to read an Indian novel (and, more so, one written by a woman!) and it left a really nice impression on me. :)