Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 10/10

The Hunger Games is an event held annually by the Capitol to remind the Districts of their helplessness. Each District must provide two 'tributes' - one boy and one girl - to participate. The twenty-four, aged 12 to 18, must compete for survival and fight to the death, until only one remains...

The Hunger Games certainly lives up to its reviews. Spectacular and thrilling in its entirety, it's a novel you'll never want to put down. It's the best adventure story I ever read. Every moment is just fantastic and equally thrilling.

And the last paragraph! God, how I loathe that last paragraph... It practically leaves you wanting for more. If you're planning to buy this, buy the other two as well, because once you've read this, you cannot stop. :>

Book Review - Arabian Nights by Kathryn Wesley

Rating: 8/10

Schariar, the son of the late Sultan of Baghdad, must marry in order to inherit the kingdom. However, his recent experience with his first wife causes him to distrust all women. With this dilemma in mind, he formulates a plan: marry a girl from the harem and have her killed the morning after the wedding. Enter Schaharezade, the beautiful and independent daughter of Giafar, Schariar's adviser. Ever since they were children, she had always loved Schariar, and she feels she can save him... But can she also save herself with only tales as her guard?

This version of Arabian Nights is not that complicated: it's a simple love story. This aspect of the novel makes it a light and easy read. Plus, the stories are told in a humorous style, which temporarily alleviates the mood of sadness enveloping Schaharezade.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Filipina

I Juander, a television show on GMA NewsTV, tackled the topic of "dalagang Pilipina" tonight. I was able to catch a few whiffs of the program, but I think it's enough to inspire me to write this blog post.

This past second semester, I took my first elective: Kasaysayan 118 or History of Women in the Philippines. It was something I never wanted to take, or even expected to. I merely signed for it to accomplish the required 18 units for the semester.

History, for me, was always boring and, above all, masculine in nature (hello, history!). I didn't think I would enjoy the class; more so when I found out on the first day of school that there were only a few of us. As expected, most of us were females, but there were some males who also signed on.

Anyway, to put it shortly, the semester was not what I had thought it would be. I found myself immersed in the lessons and even spent considerable time in the library reading about the topics. Everything was interesting. But what piqued my interest the most was the fact that Filipinas were freer than we believed them to be.

It all began with the "Maria Clara" archetype of the Filipina. This, I say, is not true for all Filipinas. First of all, Maria Clara in Jose Rizal's novels was a privileged young woman: her family was well-to-do. In our discussions, my professor, Ms. Maria Luisa Camagay, said that women from the lower classes enjoyed more freedom than the nobility. It would seem that the effort of the Spanish conquistadors to restrain the woman was not entirely successful. Take for example the cigarreras of the 19th century. Considered to be the first manual laborers, they held a job, received their salary, and were subject to sanctions. There was even documentation of a strike arranged by the cigarreras. They were fighting for an increase in wages.

While the noble women of the time brushed their hair, trimmed their nails, and ate sparingly, others were fighting for their rights as women - as working women.

Also, during the pre-colonial period, the Filipina was prominent in the barangay. The babaylan or the catalona were important figures during that time. Women also exercised certain rights over men with regard to marriage (the man paid the dowry to the woman's family), sex, religion, etc.

So, in spite of the Maria Clara image thrust upon women, I would like to believe that the Filipina is not the timid woman in fancy clothes. I would like to believe that she is a warrior.

Perhaps the freedom women enjoyed during the pre-colonial period can never be fully regained. However, my advocacy is this: that women and men be treated equally, with no one above the other. While women today enjoy the same luxuries as men, we still have a long way to go to attain that state. More must be done - women must be made aware of their rights, and that they can do something about their condition.

(By the way, I really recommend the Kas 118 subject!)

Images from:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FFKau-MIe2I/TJeITIdTmsI/AAAAAAAACME/zT9VsuejbRM/s320/gabriela+silang+philstar+com.jpg
http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs16/f/2007/126/1/b/Maria_Clara_by_Xergille.jpg

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New [bought] book

Hi, hi!

Today I bought one of the books on my wait list: Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club. It's about this cult that investigates the existence of evil using science. However, a series of murders follows them and they begin to wonder if they inadvertently summoned a dark entity...

It's kind of an "evil" book and all but supernatural stuff is kind of interesting, too. Plus, Tess Gerritsen is one of my favorite writers. If you're looking for suspense-filled pages and sleepless nights (ha! I doubt anyone's looking for that...), give her novels a try. Most of them are medical in nature, but after the jargon, they're actually great reads. I've read two of her novels and I can say they're better than some of Michael Crichton's.;D

So, I'm definitely looking forward to reading this thrill ride.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review - Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Rating: 10/10

Set in a futuristic Earth, Extras tells the story of Aya Fuse, a fifteen year old girl in a city addicted to fame and reputation. With her rank of 451,369, Aya is a total nobody - that is, until she meets the Sly Girls, a clique that likes playing dangerous tricks but is obsessed with keeping it secret. She decides to kick the Sly Girls story without them knowing... But when they stumble upon an earth-shattering discovery, Aya becomes caught in a web of betrayal and extreme danger that may just cost her her life.

Before Extras, Scott Westerfeld also wrote Uglies, Pretties, and Specials. I, unfortunately, have had no chance to read the three books. However, Westerfeld's writing is so masterful that after a few chapters of Extras, I understood just what he was talking about. Now, that is an important rule in writing a series, but how he does it is just amazing.

Another appeal of the novel to me is that it is, I think, set in Japan. The manga eyes, pixel skin, prehensile toes... It's just something crazy and so Japanese-y! Reading Extras is totally entertaining.

Also, the characters come alive. I definitely see this turning into a film... A good film, in fact, if placed in very good hands. It has the makings of a blockbuster teen flick: hoverboards, the right amount of romance, etc.

I'm dying to read the other three books. :>

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review - Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery

Rating: 10/10

Emily Byrd Starr is all grown up and it's high time she marry! At least, that's what the Murrays want. But what does she want? To publish her own novel, of course! But in the course of her literary adventures, Emily encounters love in its many forms and, as her relationship with her childhood friend, Teddy Kent, blooms, will she be ready?

This is the last in L.M. Montgomery's Emily trilogy. Actually, I liked these novels better than the Anne of Green Gables series. It was more entertaining and more personal, I guess, for Montgomery. In some of the articles I've read about her, all of them say that the trilogy was more like her life story. Maybe I am reading Montgomery's biography, and that's what made it better than the Anne series.

Again, L.M. Montgomery works her wonders. She can make her characters dance right out of the page. They are so real that I want to strangle a few Murrays right now. Emily is still lovable (and, sometimes, hate-able) as always. Her adventures never fail to amuse. Montgomery can make the reader laugh and cry. She truly is a wonderful writer.

Book Review - Sword of Waters by Hilari Bell

Rating: 7/10

Sword of Waters is the second book in Hilari Bell's trilogy. Arisa and her mother, the Falcon, have just settled into the life of the nobility. But Arisa hates it: the dancing, evening balls, the spiteful girls, politics... Everything! That is, until her mother tells her to befriend Prince Edoran in order to find the Sword of Waters...

It's a good book - on its own. But when Sword of Waters is placed alongside personal favorites like Green by Jay Lake and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, it's not as good. While reading it, I felt like it was meant for a younger audience (by younger I mean 10-12, 'kay?) and, seeing that I've read a lot of fantasy novels lately, I've failed to appreciate it. But it is well-written and well-executed. I just don't see it competing with other novels. :(

Book Review - Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Rating: 10/10

Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Palanca Award, Ilustrado tells the story of Miguel, a close friend of the acclaimed and much-criticized writer Crispin Salvador, as he goes on a journey to write the story of his mentor amidst a troubled Philippines.

The world of Ilustrado is, chillingly, similar to ours and it makes one wonder if this is really fiction one is reading. At least, it made me feel that way. Miguel Syjuco weaves a masterful story that reveals so much about us - things that often go unnoticed. After I closed this book, I wondered for a very long time why we cannot reform this society we live in. We, obviously, have so much work to do.

But it is not only its social relevance that makes Ilustrado a good read. It is also, more importantly, a good read. Unlike boring political novels, this mixes politics with humor and other entertaining literary devices. Not one moment is boring and I'm sure everyone can (and will) enjoy this book.

Considering that this is one of the (unfortunately) few Filipino novels I've read, Ilustrado is so good I want more...

Book Review - K is for Killer by Sue Grafton

Rating: 8/10

Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is hired by Janice Kepler, a woman who lost her youngest daughter, Lorna, ten months before. Lorna was found in her secluded apartment in a bad state of decomposition. Police suspect foul play but there are no leads and the investigation is forced to a halt. But Janice doesn't want to stop, and so Kinsey must solve the puzzle of Lorna's death, but she must take care not to face her own.

K is for Killer is good in its own right, but it doesn't stand against the better Grafton novels I've read, like T is for Trespass or I is for Innocent. It was just "okay" for me.

Time capsules

My letters to my father when he was still in the US... I refuse to divulge their contents here.
For two days now, our house is undergoing a major upheaval. My mom decided to clean out some cabinets and throw stuff we don't need away. Naturally, this involves a lot of dust - which is making my allergies rise up in rebellion - and sorting out. So, in the course of cleaning out, we uncovered a ton of stuff which were also buried in our minds. In other words, we clean forgot about them. But, looking at all these stuff, I am suddenly transported to another dimension - the past.

My unimpressive Candy magazine "collection"
Comics and K-Zone issues we bought over the years
I found my old identification cards all the way back to Kindergarten (which I will never be bothered to post here), the program guide during my piano recital, cutesy class pictures, and even letters to my dad when he was still in the US (which I, also, will not be bothered to post here... please be content with envelopes); he saved all of them and, reading back, they were funny-I-don't-know-why-I-wrote-that kind of letters. Just leafing through the pages of my favorite kids' magazine produced a lot of remembrances. There were exclamations (e.g. "Hey, Nintendo DS didn't exist back then!" or "Look, there's AJ Perez on the cover!" or "This is the magazine I brought during the staff meet and greet!") and questions (e.g. "This game was so popular back then... Why is it forgotten now?" or "Look at Lindsay Lohan in this picture. She's so innocent! What happened to her?").

A pastel painting I did in high school
My debut box
But, most of all, the question that needs to be asked is, "How much change did I go through since then?" It may be decades, a few years, months, weeks, or even days since I last held those things. In that incredibly short time that has passed, what lessons did I learn? What failures have I gone through? What ambitions have I achieved? How many notes have I played? How many pictures have I taken? What awards have I received? What have I learned thus far? How many books have I bought... and read? How far have I gone in this journey called life? These moments lead me to reflect on the questions above. But, seriously, I can't answer all of them. I don't know how far, because I never keep track. I'm not one to write down everything I've done in a day for the sake of remembering - that's because some of the stuff I do are downright stupid; in short, things I don't want to reminisce about. Everyday is a new day and I don't need to write stuff down. The materials I leave behind will do the talking for me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Embroidery 101

Hello! Today was spent embroidering the Japanese symbol for the number 4 on one of my bags. Why the whole day, you might ask? The bag isn't that big and it's not a very complicated character, but... Well... Blame it on amateurish hands. Haha! I'm such an amateur when it comes to needlework, but, I must say, I am proud of what I've accomplished today! I was poked by the needle a lot of times. Thankfully, none of my fingers are bleeding. I got dizzy at times because I'm not used to it (we did some embroidery in high school... basic, of course) and because the process is horribly meticulous.

I embroidered the character because...
1. My birthday is December 4.
2. My favorite BLEACH character, Retsu Unohana, is the Captain of the 4th Division. (Cool, ne?)

I might bring the bag (more like pouch, really) on MetroCon because it's small and handy. Also, 4 in Japanese shares the same pronunciation as death, which is 'shi'. That's why the number is considered unlucky (could it also be the reason why Yumichika Ayasegawa considers it ugly???). Since I'm going to dress up as goth chick Sunako Nakahara, I think the symbolism would be appropriate.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oyoyo.

Hai!

I'm done watching Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge live-action (oh, what a mouthful!). It was good. Of course, there would be differences with the anime. For one, this was more dramatic while the anime tends to be extremely funny.

I totally love the last episode. If that happened to me, I'd beat *spoiler alert* senseless!

But, it was a wild ride and I'm positive I did not waste my time watching this. Although it was not as dramatic as 1 Litre no Namida or SMILE, YamaNade still shines in its own pedestal.

Oh, and speaking of shine... Mabushii!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Project: Hikikomori-san!!!

So! After (serendipity-cally) attending the 2011 Ozine Fest, I have decided to try my hand on cosplaying. I have chosen Sunako Nakahara from Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge for my first because (1) it's simple and (2) I like her character. I'm already looking for a wig and I might come with my parents to Manila on Friday to hunt for one in Divisoria. I have also drawn the school uniform worn by Sunako in the anime so I can show it to the seamstress (I have yet to do so, but... yeah). I'm also going to look for a skull... and maybe make some fake-organs-floating-on-water-inside-a-jar whatevers.

And, because cosplaying is more than just dressing up, I decided to brush up on my hikikomori (social recluse, in Japanese) skills by watching the live-action version starring Kazuya Kamenashi as Takano Kyohei and Oomasa Aya as Nakahara Sunako.

So, I figured some stuff I can apply:
1. Start saying "mabushii!" when cute people approach me.
2. Practice playing with my fingers.
3. Talk to myself.
4. Wear a cape around.
5. Run with the cape billowing behind me.
6. Start eating Koala Ghost cookies. (Oh, he has eyebrows!)

Well... There's probably more. LOL. But this series is really funny and Tegoshi Yuya is sooooooo kawaii!