Kwentillion: A Million Stories to be Told

Last weekend was the Summer Komikon and I don’t really go there except if I’m looking for autographs for some of the local series I follow, or if there’s an interesting launch. This time around, it was the latter, and I am very proud to say that it’s the first launch I attended where I actually went onstage because I was a part of the project! :)

Kwentillion: A Million Stories to be ToldFrom the Summit Media page:

Kwentillion Magazine is the country’s first publication dedicated to young adult literature and media, featuring YA-themed comics and fiction by Filipino creators. The bi-monthly, black and white magazine (with an eight-page colored spread in every issue) features reviews and previews of young adult books, interviews with creators, and articles which tackle a wide variety of topics of interest to the YA community.

I co-wrote an article here with my friend Chachic about YA books in 2012:

Apocalypse Can Wait!

It’s not the first time I saw my name in print (I was in another independent magazine a few years ago :P), and I have been writing for Summit and other places online for a while now, but it’s quite nice to see my name in a project like this, something that I am passionate about. The other comics and articles are all awesome too — it’s always nice to read more local fiction. :)

The first issue is really a test run, and the next issue would depend on how well this first one sells, or how much buzz it generates. So! If you like young adult literature, or you want to read more about Filipino comics and fiction, Kwentillion is the magazine you are looking for! It’s available in National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches (last thing I heard, NBS Bestsellers in Galleria has copies) for Php 150. It has pretty good print quality too — I was surprised at the size of the magazine when I finally got my copy.

I’ll try to post a more comprehensive “review” of this issue later this week (promise to get rid of the personal bias over the project :D). I’m so honored to be a part of this project, and it was so cool to see it come to life. :)

Here’s a post from one of our editors about Kwentillion, and why he thinks this project is important. And then, you can also follow Kwentillion on Twitter or like the page on Facebook for more updates. :D

The Reread Factor (3): On the Jellicoe Road

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss for our monthly discussion. When the YA theme came up, I was excited to see that my one of my favorite books last year, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, was included in the short list. Of course that got me campaigning for the book,  because when you love a certain book, you just want a lot of people to read it and hope to be enthralled by it like you were.

The book won by one vote, and I was happy because it gave me the perfect excuse to reread the book. This time around, though, I wanted to try another format, so I got myself an audiobook version of the book and settled in for the ride. :) My mind was ready, but I wasn’t really sure if my heart was. Still, I wanted to know if I would love the book as much as I did the first time around, especially since I know what was going to happen.

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
First read in April 2011

How did I describe this book last year? …reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, but that was exactly what I felt back when I first read this and I was anticipating the same thing when I listened to it.

Listening to the book was a different experience, mostly because it gave me a bit of room to “read” while doing something else. The audiobook became my companion for my night shift work and at home with my neck pillow, and I was transported to that little stretch of Jellicoe Road every time I turn my player on. I found that I was paying attention to the things more, and that I caught little quotes that I wasn’t sure if I caught before (my print copy has lots of dog-ears — I didn’t exactly take note what I was dog-earing then). I found the parts I love were still well-loved, and found new things to love in the book as well.

One might think that rereading this book known for its confusing start will lessen the thrill of the reading experience because you know what’s going to happen already. I was ready to be a bit less enchanted with the twists, to be less heartbroken when the things happen as I was expecting them…but I wasn’t. Okay, perhaps it’s because I came into the book expecting to love it again, so it was harder for me to find fault. There’s one chapter that still killed me, over and over again, and there were those chapters that made me smile and stop and want to listen to them again, because I forgot about them already. Despite knowing what the story was about, the reading experience was still as enjoyable as the first.

Admittedly, there was a time when I was asked, “What’s the point of all of this again?” But then as I finished listening to the book, I realized that maybe it doesn’t really have to have a point. It’s a story of real life — of Taylor and Jonah and Raffy and Santangelo, of Narnie and Jude and Webb and Tate and Fitz — and it doesn’t really have to make a single and simple point. Like what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, real things aren’t made to be simple. So maybe, a story about real life and all its complications isn’t supposed to be simple, either.

I can’t relate to Taylor’s family woes, but once again, I’m amazed at how the friendships were forged in this book. This is the kind of friendship that makes you want to keep on fighting, to keep on going back, to keep on trying. If you ever have the chance to run into this kind of friendship, do everything in your power to keep it — these are the kind of friendships that can save your life.

So did I like it as much as I did the first time? There is no other answer to that question but yes. Maybe I will grow out of this in a few years, maybe not. But for now, I still stand by every word I wrote last year, and I am very happy to know of a place “…where they would all belong, or long to be. A place on the Jellicoe Road.” :)

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya SonesWhat My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Simon & Schuster, 304 pages

My name is Robin.

This book is about me.
It tells the story of what happens
when after almost 15 pathetic years of loserdom,
the girl of my dreams finally falls for me.

That seems like it would be
a good thing, right?
Only it turns out to be
a lot more complicated than that
Because I’m not gonna lie to you –
there are naked women involved.
Four of them, to be exact.
Though not in the way you might think.

Don’t get me wrong — my girlfriend’s amazing.
But the way things have been going lately,
I’m starting to believe that the only thing worse
than not getting what you want,
is getting it.

I like reading novels in verse when I feel like I’m reading too slow, like how I have been doing lately. I figured reading this book right after I finish the chunkster that is Jane Eyre would help me cleanse the palate a bit and make me feel better because I read a book a bit faster than how I am currently doing. That’s probably just me, though, so don’t mind me with that quirk.

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones is the sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know, another novel in verse that I read and liked last year. Spoiler warning for the first novel starts here. This book is Robin’s story — Robin, the art geek who Sophie falls for at the end of the first book. Robin has always had a crush on Sophie, but he never thought she’d fall for him, until she does. He was ecstatic, of course, until he realizes that Sophie being his girlfriend wouldn’t change his life as much as him being Sophie’s boyfriend rocked her world — in a not so good way. Here the book tries to answer a question that fairy tales with their happily-ever-after’s don’t really get to answer: what happens next?

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is both cute and painful. I know that’s a strange combination, but really, those are the two things I thought of while reading it. Robin is a cute narrator, sounding exactly like how I imagined a teenage guy would sound, with all the hormones and insecurities and girls and all that. He’s a good guy, really, but again, he’s also a guy, and the reactions and comments he had here with Sophie and their relationship, and yes, the naked women (with no scrub tops) were very…well, boyish. Robin is not just the art geek who fits the mythological perfect guy who never makes mistakes or never looks at other girls or women — he’s human, but he’s trying his best to be the best person he can be for his girlfriend, even if she doesn’t know so many things about what he’s going through.

And that’s the painful part. Robin and Sophie’s relationship isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Sophie’s reputation suffered because of Robin, and it was painful for Robin to see and hear the things people say about her because of him. I felt their pain, too, and it was just…sad because it wasn’t supposed to be that way. And it was messy, too, because Robin felt that it was all his fault, when really, it’s not. What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know showed that life goes on after the fairy tales end, and it’s not always “happily” ever after.

A favorite passage that pretty much summarizes the happiness and paint that I felt while reading this:

Maybe,
if we can just laugh
instead of shattering,

we can somehow
keep all of it
from mattering.

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is cute and fun and sometimes painful, but it’s a very quick and readable novel in verse. I’d recommend reading What My Mother Doesn’t Know first before getting into this so you’d appreciate this more. This is a very teenage novel, though, so don’t expect deep, life changing, earth-shattering revelations to come to you while reading it. If anything, this book gave me a reason to look back at my own high school years with a smile, and then sigh with relief and say, “Thank goodness I’m over that already.”

Rating:

My copy: paperback, birthday gift from Grace

Reviews of other Sonya Sones’ books:
What My Mother Doesn’t Know

Other reviews:
Kirkus

That Kind of Guy

That Kind of Guy by Mina V. EsguerraThat Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 170
My copy: paperback, won from the author’s contest

Good girl Julie never expected her hot former-player boyfriend to propose marriage. But when he did, she turned him down for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Will she settle for a nice, safe guy instead? Or will she let him find his way back into her carefully guarded heart?

* * *

Back in college, I was friends with two girls in my org, and we were often called as the Powerpuff Girls because we were always together. Our little group was also known to be the “ate‘s” or the older sisters of the other younger members of the org, which was kind of why we had a kind of impression on others that we always laughed about when we were talking amongst ourselves. Privately, we call ourselves manang‘s (another term for older sisters in some Filipino dialects, but colloquial use refers to being old fashioned older women) because we all have our own levels of being…well, manang. We had levels of being manang based on how people often approach us: one was the ultimate manang because of her strictness (and also because she’s an officer of our org), I come in second because I’m not as strict but not everyone finds it easy to approach me and finally, the last member of our group is the least manang because she’s was just naturally friendlier (the type of person who’d wear honeycomb shades all day for kicks) and the younger members find it easier to confide in her.

Fast forward a few years later, and it’s no surprise that the least manang among all of us is married. The remaining two — well, we’re still pretty manang. :P

I can’t help but remember this particular college memory while I was reading Mina V. Esguerra’s latest book, That Kind of Guy. Julie has always been a good girl, and has always done what was expected of her. How she ended up with bad boy Anton was a mystery, even more when he popped the question to her. The only obvious thing to do when he asked her to marry him was to say no — after all, she wasn’t even sure if she knew Anton well enough after 11 months of “dating”. Julie figures there are enough safe guys out there that fit her personality better, but does she really want that?

Okay, of all of Mina’s heroines, I find Julie both the easiest and hardest to relate to. I can relate to her manang ways, obviously — about how she does the right things, how she tries to be honest and tactful, about how she tends to play safe. I also couldn’t relate to her because unlike Julie, I’m not exactly friendless because of my (attempts at) honesty. I don’t know if that makes me less of a manang then? Anyway, I think Julie can be either likable or unlikable depending on the reader’s POV, but like Mina’s other heroines, her voice still sounds so authentic that it feels like I’m just hearing a story of a friend over a meal. The hero in the story is a familiar one for those who have read Mina’s old books — he was mentioned once in Fairy Tale Fail and was one of the secondary characters in No Strings Attached. I liked that he showed another side in this book, one that wasn’t really expected based on how we were introduced to him in the previous ones. You don’t need to read the two books to really get into this, though, but it’s nice to be surprised at the depth of his character in That Kind of Guy. While Anton is still not going to top my favorite Mina guy (Lucas of FTF — who has a teeny mention here, squee!), I was surprised at how much I ended up liking him in the end.

I think That Kind of Guy will be able to speak to a certain kind of girl who rarely has a starring role in chick lit books — the good girl. This isn’t about a good girl deciding to be bad, or a good girl getting into scrapes that she didn’t deserve because hey, she’s good. It’s about that kind of girl who wasn’t sure what kind of guy she really wanted, if she would take the risk or go for the safe choice. The fun thing about this is that Julie never really had to change much about her being a good girl, even if she tried to be not. Julie didn’t have to change to someone too wild or too careless for her story to move forward. The growth of her character came not from a shocking revelation because of her sudden wild changes, but from the things she proved that she already knew but just needed to be brought out. In the end, That Kind of Guy was really about being certain of your choices and acting on it, even if the outcome is not really guaranteed. To quote (this one is really more specific about those choices):

Next time, just say something. It doesn’t have to be the first date. Maybe the third or the fourth. Don’t wait a year if you’re sure. Certainty is sexy. And owning up to your attraction is sexy, too, and if you do it right and you’re not creepy about it, I bet she will respect you for it anyway even if she does not like you back. (p. 157)

It’s no surprise that I really liked That Kind of Guy. :) I think it just proved Mina’s strength in drawing out characters that different readers can relate to. I really liked the epilogue too, and I’m curious if that new character will have her own story eventually. If she does, then I can’t wait to find out what Mina has in store for her. But even if she won’t have her own story, it doesn’t change the fact that I am still going to read everything that Mina writes. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Girl Next Cubicle

Sinner

Sinner by Lino RulliSinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic by Lino Rulli
Publisher: St. Anthony Messenger Press
Number of pages: 232
My copy: ebook, gift from Monique

In this fast and funny collection of stories from his own life, Lino Rulli (aka The Catholic Guy) shares the joys and the struggles of trying to follow God in everyday circumstances. Honest, outrageous, funny and, above all, real. Lino demonstrates that, even though we are all sinners, God’s mercy and grace keeps us going. In the pages of SINNER you’ll read about: Lino’s adventures in the confessional; A host of characters who make Lino’s Catholic faith more challenging; Why Lino is still single; Lino’s take on suffering.

* * *

I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen‘s Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn’t really sure if I want to buy it because I’m picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.

That is divine providence, IMHO.

But I digress. I wasn’t planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.

What just happened there, oy?

Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:

I want to be more faithful, but I’m scared. Scared that I’ll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I’ll succeed.

Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He’s not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It’s basically the story of every human who’s a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.

I can’t remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren’t alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino’s stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I’d like to believe that there’s something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).

The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it’s Catholic! And it’s not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There’s nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you’re ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can’t relate, then I suggest you try this book. It’s funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.

Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I’ve read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)

I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who’s still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Notlukewarm
Scrutinies