Adiós por ahora

I really meant to schedule posts and reviews for the next two weeks while I’m gone, but alas, I ran out of time. You know how whenever you say you won’t cram stuff before any major trip weeks before, but still end up cramming at the end and realizing there were just so many things you haven’t done yet and there’s no time?

Yes, that’s me.

Anyway, this is just a notice that I will be out for the next fifteen days. I’m one of our country’s delegates for World Youth Day in Madrid which will happen next week, and afterwards, I’ll be going on a European mission trip with my Catholic community. I won’t be bringing a laptop where I am, so I doubt there’d be much blogging and reading RSS feeds and browsing websites such as I’ll be bringing my iPod, though, which is only really good for mobile stuff. I’m not even sure how much online time I’ll have there, so let’s just assume I’ll be offline most of the trip, yes?

Of course I’ll be reading whenever I get some lull time in the next two weeks (aka flights :D). I brought Astrid, my Kindle, with me, to save some luggage space. I’ve got really good books to accompany me so I know I won’t be alone (that, and we’re 18 in the group :D).

So, I bid you guys “Adiós por ahora”. :) Watch out for occasional tweets (I hope!).

Heroes, Old and New

I’ve always called myself a geek, but I never really point out where my geekness lies except when I’m programming, or when I’m geeking out on a new gadget. I realized lately that there’s also another thing I’m kind of geeky about: superheroes.

I’ve been reading a bit more superhero fiction this year, and it doesn’t really help that so many superhero movies came out this year, too. I really, really like reading about super beings, or humans that came with a mutation that gave them special abilities that they use to help people. I have a feeling this stems from all the times I watched those X-Men cartoons with my brother back when we were kids.

The thing is, there aren’t a lot of superhero novels out there, at least in prose form. So where to get my superhero fix? Why, graphic novels, of course. :)

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics
Number of pages: 228

Set just after the dawn of the 21st Century, in a world spinning inexorably out of control, comes this grim tale of youth versus experience, a tradition versus change, while asking the timeless question: what defines a hero? KINGDOM COME is a riveting story pitting the old guard-Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their peers-against a new, uncompromising generation of heroes in the final war against each other, to determine nothing less than the future of the planet.

* * *

I’m not well-versed with graphic novels. Truth be told, in my mind, it’s graphic novel = comics. Isn’t it? I’m not sure, actually, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re one and the same. Correct me if I’m wrong, of course.

Anyway, in the spirit of buddy reads and exploring other genres and book format, I picked up Kingdom Come by Mark Waid, illustrated by Alex Ross, through the push of my friend, fellow book blogger and graphic novel fan, Ariel. Kingdom Come is set in the DC Universe, several years into the future. Superman has gone into hiding after he was disappointed at how a superhero was acquitted for committing the murder of a villain. The other heroes had gone into hiding, too, disheartened by Superman’s and the people’s actions. Without them, their moral compass has gone astray, and the metahumans have become aggressive, blurring the lines between who are the heroes and the villains. Ten years later, we meet the story’s narrator, a minister named Norman McCay. He started getting dreams and visions of an apocalypse shortly after his friend Wesley Dodds (who is Sandman, according to Wikipedia), passed away. Soon, the Spectre shows up to him and recruits him as a witness to help him judge who are the good from the wicked in the impending superhuman apocalypse.

Kingdom Come reminds me a bit of the movie The Incredibles, sans the kiddie concept. This is definitely (and obviously) way darker, and discusses a lot of deeper moral themes, such as the real meaning of justice (if killing people who did wrong is justified just because they are evil and they killed other people too), humanity (are they still humans just because they’re super?) and morality (is it ever justifiable to allow some people to be killed if it saves more people?). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at all, with the title and everything, right? I liked how these things were tackled in the superhero universe, making it not just your normal superhero-saves-the-day story but something that discusses the things we readers most probably ponder about everyday.

What really surprised me in reading Kingdom Come, though, was how familiar I was with this. I mean, I don’t know half of the heroes mentioned here since I never opened a DC comic book in my entire life until now (my brother wouldn’t let me touch his collection back when we were kids). However, I guess growing up with a brother who loves these things and watching movies and cartoons with these characters enforced familiarity. Although I had to consult Wikipedia every now and then to see who’s who, I was more or less comfortable with navigating this universe on my own.

There was a lot of deep talk in this that had me rereading some parts of it again, but it was all wrapped up nicely in the end. And speaking of that ending: it was a nice, heartfelt one that had me chuckling. If you’ve read this, you probably know what I mean. :) I enjoyed reading this one, and it served as a good companion to those slow night shifts at work.

The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo FabregasThe Filipino Heroes League #1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas (edited by Budjette Tan)
The Filipino Heroes League # 1
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 135
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Undermanned and under-funded, the Filipino Heroes League does what it can to fight against injustice.

It’s tough being a superhero but its even tougher being a third-world superhero.

* * *

A week after I finished reading Kingdom Come, I felt the urge to read another graphic novel because, well, I was sick, and actual wordy novels made me dizzy and/or sleepy. So I finally decided to pick up The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas, which I bought after Jason‘s very enthusiastic recommendation.

The Filipino Heroes League, or FHL, were a group of superheroes that fight injustice and help the police apprehend criminals in the Philippines. Well, they fought, but because of bad economy and the defeat of all Filipino supervillains in the country, some of the heroes have decided to take on normal people jobs using their powers, and/or migrate to other countries in hopes of being an international superhero and making it big.

We meet two of our heroes still loyal to the FHL, Kidlat Kid and Vis, who are off to catch bank robbers. After dismissing a warning from a kid who told them his classmate will kill a public official, they race off in a pedicab to catch the criminals, only to be scolded by the police after they set the van on fire with the stolen money still inside it. Meanwhile, government people who are in favor of the president’s impeachment are being killed one by one. When the remaining members of FHL are framed for these murders, they escape, only to find out that (1) there’s another group of “superheroes” who are off to get them and make them look bad, and (2) there’s a bigger conspiracy that ties all these events together, and tells them that what the FHL believed all this time may just not be true.

Fresh from reading Kingdom Come, FHL turned out to be a very fun read. I loved the local references, and how these heroes are just so…Filipino. The characters were fun, the dialogue was so familiar and the story was so gripping that I almost wished I bought this when the second book is out just so I would know immediately what happens next. I thought it was very well-written and easy to read, and it served as great entertainment for the few hours that I sat down reading this. :) I especially loved Kidlat Kid — he reminded me so much of Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender! :)

I thought it felt right to juxtapose this book with Kingdom Come, because they have similar elements: a team of superheroes, some of them forgotten and set aside, all trying to make things right with the best of their abilities. Of course, Kingdom Come takes well-known characters so it obviously has more punch, but I think FHL is pretty much at par with its foreign counterparts.

If you’re looking for another good, local graphic novel to get you by while waiting for, say, the next Trese book, then I recommend the first book of The Filipino Heroes League. It helps that Budjette Tan edited this book, too.

And once again: I really, really can’t wait for the next book. When is it coming out?

Kingdom Come –
The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones

Other reviews:
The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones
taking a break
I Am Pinoy Peter Pan

Filipino Friday: ReaderCon Intro

Filipino Friday

It’s not Friday here anymore, but you know that thing where the day is not over until you’ve slept? Yeah, I’m doing that here.

It’s been a crazy couple of days that’s why it’s kind of quiet in the blog, and it will be quiet again soon because I’ll be off to a trip for the next two weeks! I’m breaking the blog silence to join the first Filipino Friday meme in preparation for the first Filipino Reader’s Conference that will be happening next month (more to that in a future post, hopefully this weekend :D).

So, hi! I’m Tina. I’ve been reading since I was a kid and I’d like to believe that my dad’s reading time with me was what made me a reader. I remember the times he’d read this Pepito the Catfish to me when I was younger, and there was this other book that he used to read to me in the province when we were staying there. Anyway, the first time I truly wanted to start collecting and reading books was when a classmate in Grade 3 brought some Sweet Valley Kids books in school. Ever since then, the bookstore has always been my favorite place to go to when I go out.

I wish I could say I read any genre, but I’m really very biased towards YA, especially contemporary. I’ve learned to love fantasy last year, and right now I’m working on getting to know more sci-fi and classics. My favorite a.k.a auto-buy authors are Sarah Dessen, John Green, Frank E. Peretti, Ilona Andrews, Melina Marchetta, Mira Grant, Camy Tang, Patrick Ness, Stephen Emond, and Mina V. Esguerra to name a few. :) I’m pretty sure I missed someone there — there’s just too many good books by good authors out there.

Comfort reads include anything swoony or funny, preferably both — best examples are The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra. I like my books with enough swoon. ;) I also tend to like books with zombies and just recently, superheroes.

Two of the best books I’ve read this year: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. And just because it’s unusual, I think it’s worth a mention that I thought Unearthly by Cynthia Hand is one of those paranormal books that went against the norm. And because they’re from favorite authors, I also thought Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer and Mira Grant’s Deadline are full of awesome. :)

If this post sounds just a teensy bit loopy, I apologize. I’m actually really sleepy right now. :P So, hi! :)

On Pre-ordering

So just last week, I realized that I have some 10% discount voucher from Book Depository for their summer sale. I felt bad for not using it, so even if I know there isn’t really anything I want to read now now now, I figure I could use it for pre-orders.

I'm starting to like seeing these buttons. :)

You know I never really thought I’d be pre-ordering any book when I started buying books with my own money. I’ve always seen things like, “Pre-order this from Amazon” and all that, but since shipping is so expensive here, I can never do the pre-order thing. The shipping alone would be more expensive than the book and it’s just not worth it. When Book Depository started shipping here for free, I still didn’t pre-order, thinking I can still wait for local bookstores to get it when it’s out.

Then I remember buying A Monster Calls from Book Depository last April as a prize for one of my birthday giveaway winners. I remember being impressed at the price of the book – less than $10 for a hardbound illustrated book. What a value, right? I decided to order it too, and was I glad I did. Now it’s a whopping $18 in Book Depository.

So now I’m all for pre-ordering books. But only for books that I really, really want. Case in point, my order last week:

Pre-order ahoy!

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins / A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner / How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr - YAY~

All books were 25% off + the 10% off from the voucher. And they’re all books that I want to read. I know it would take a while before I get them, but I’m not in a rush, anyway. I like the idea that I “have” them now, and can read it as soon as its shipped.

I do have some comments on pre-ordering, though:

  • I’m not sure about pre-ordering print books in Amazon, but I think the customer isn’t charged until the book is shipped, right? That’s one thing that makes me raise an eyebrow at Book Depository — you get charged immediately for the pre-order. I’m sure you can request a refund to cancel your order, but I think you still have to email? I don’t know, maybe it’s easier if the customer won’t have to go through that channel to cancel a pre-order.
  • And speaking of Amazon, I pre-ordered some Kindle ebooks a few months ago because there were some books that I can’t wait to have in print. However, pre-ordering Kindle ebooks doesn’t really have much perk as far as discounts are concerned because there are hardly any discounts. The only perk is…well…you get it quick.

So, have you tried pre-ordering? Do you pre-order as much as you can to get more discounts? Have you had pre-order horror stories? What’s the last book you pre-ordered, and why? Any other perks you got from pre-orders other than discounts? I want to know.

Oh and P.S. — I will pre-order John Green’s newest book soon, of course. I wouldn’t want to miss a signed book. :)

Garden Spells

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam

Number of pages: 290
My copy: hardbound, gift from Kwesi. Thank you! :)

 The women of the Waverley family — whether they like it or not — are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother’s unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town’s constraints. Using her grandmother’s mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business — and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life — upon the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down. With Sydney’s homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire’s own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney’s child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

* * *

I’ve heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired it and even some more time before I decided to read it. Every now and then, there’s a book that comes along and takes you in and makes you comfortable with every page. They’re those books that you just sink into effortlessly, almost like it was an old friend welcoming you with warm food after a long day’s travel. I am very, very glad to say that Garden Spells is one of them. :)

Claire Waverley has lived alone for a long time now, choosing to stay in the Waverley house, running her catering business that offers the strangest but life-altering delicacies. Being a Waverley, Claire possesses a kind of magic that is unique to her: she can cook food from their garden that can shape the minds and moods of people who eat them. Claire is content with living alone and is not in any hurry to relinquish control over her routines until her wild and rebellious sister Sydney comes home with her daughter. Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down as she deals with her sister’s homecoming, and she tries desperately to stay in control even if she’s afraid of the changes this would bring in her life.

Garden Spells, in a word, is lovely. This book reminds me of Marisa de los Santos’ books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, both of which I loved. The prose is lyrical but never flowery, the characters quirky but never too much that they’d be annoying or forced. I love that all characters had something going on with them — even the apple tree had a personality. Just like Waverley magic, there’s something really magical about this book, just enough that you wouldn’t question the people’s abilities or the things they believed in the little town of Bascom. Granted, there isn’t anything that surprising with regards to the book’s plot, but there’s just a certain charm in this book that would stop you from caring too much. It’s like you want to live with them there. This book should also not be read while hungry (or if you’re on a diet, like the HCG diet Austin) because all the descriptions of food made me hungrier! It makes me wonder if there is some truth in the life-altering food that Claire makes. Maybe if I put candied violets in my cake…? Haha, right. I can dream.

It’s not often I let out a contented sigh at the end of a book, but this got one out of me. Sigh. If all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books are as yummy and as magical as Garden Spells, then consider me a fan. I can’t wait to get my hands on her other books. :)


Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook