Kapitan Sino (Bob Ong)

Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong

Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong
Visprint, 166 pages

THERE IS SOMETHING STRANGE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.b

Naunahan na naman ang mga pulis sa pagtugis sa mga holdaper ng isang jewelry shop. Bago noon, may iba na ring nakahuli sa isang carnaper; sumaklolo sa mga taong nasa itaas ng nasusunog na building; nagligtas sa sanggol na hinostage ng ama; tumulong para makatawid sa kalsada ang isnag matanda; tumiklo sa mga miyembro ng Akyat Bahay; sumagip sa mga mag-anak na tinagay ng tubig-baha; nag-landing ng maayos sa isang Boeing 747 na nasiraan ng engine; at nagpasabog s aisang iganteng robot. Pero sino ang taong ‘yon? Maliligtas nya ba sila Aling Baby? At ano nga ba talaga ang sabon ng mga artista?

Bob Ong is known for his funny yet thought provoking books about the life of a Filipino. I’m sure you’ve heard of him at one point, or have received a forwarded email regarding his little thoughts on life and love (ex. “Kung maghihintay ka nang lalandi sayo, walang mangyayari sa buhay mo. Dapat lumandi ka din.” Don’t wait for someone to flirt with you. Learn to flirt as well.) and I know that most people have certainly agreed with a lot of what he has written.

Kapitan Sino is Ong’s 7th book, and it takes us in an adventure in the town of Pelaez. There we find Rogelio, an ordinary man who makes a living by fixing different appliances in their shop named “Hasmin’s Sari-Sari Store” that they’ve planned to change but never got around to. He lives his life one day at at time, enjoying his little jokes with the kids who insist on buying candies at their sari-sari store turned electronic repair shop, listening to his neighbors Aling Precious and Aling Baby best each other and sing to the different songs he hears on the radio. All this changes one day when his friend Bok-Bok visits his place and they both find out Rogelio has super powers.

Kapitan Sino was born, and from there, Rogelio started saving other people’s lives, disguised in a silver costume and helmet that his blind friend and childhood love Tessa made. Pretty soon, Kapitan Sino was everywhere — on the children that play along the streets pretending to be the hero and the villains, on snacks, gums, newspaper, radio, TV. Everyone was thankful for Kapitan Sino’s heroism, and Rogelio was just happy that he was able to help. This was up until his encounter with the town’s monster, which he defeats but then fails to save someone that mattered to him.

Kapitan Sino is a lot like his previous book MacArthur, but a bit more fun. The thing I did not like about MacArthur was how depressing it was, and I didn’t want to read it afterwards. Kapitan Sino is funny in the sense that it brings in a lot of late 80′s to 90′s Filipino culture, such as snacks like Rinbee, Bazooka Bubble Gum and TV shows like Pinoy Thriller or  Batibot — things that Generation X and Y will surely understand and remember. However, Kapitan Sino is kind of sad too, because it shows us just how our nation is, reflected in the small town of Pelaez: from the corrupt government officials to the people who spend time trying to best each other with their riches, spending more time gossiping than doing something productive and even blaming other people for things that are not their fault. It’s a startlingly accurate picture, and it’s kind of sad to realize the reality of what Bob Ong has written.

But do we really need superheroes to be able to fix our situation? Do we have to have super powers to be heroes? Or can we be heroes on our own?

I’ll leave that up to you to answer.

Rating:

My copy: Paperback, Php250 (?) from Fully Booked

Cover: Visprint – Bob Ong Books
Blurb: Back of the book

Note: Review originally posted at Refine Me

A Little Ray of Sunsine (Lani Diane Rich)

A Little Ray of Sunshine by Lani Diane Rich A Little Ray of Sunshine by Lani Diane Rich
NAL Trade, 304 pages

Emmy James is not the kind of girl who attracts angels. In fact, after she sent her life into a nosedive six years ago, she’s tried to attract as little as possible -attention, people, or responsibility. She skips from town to town in an Airstream trailer, working odd jobs and keeping to herself until a sudden whim lets her know it’s time to move again.

And this works just fine, until the day two unexpected visitors show up at the New Jersey trailer park she calls home. One is a childhood friend with news: her mother and his father are getting married, and they want EJ to be there. The other is a sweet but odd woman named Jess, who says she’s an angel specializing in cosmic relationship mending…and blueberry pancakes. Jess doesn’t think it’s any coincidence that this is all happening at once, but EJ would rather run herself over with her own Airstream before reconnecting with her neglectful, self-absorbed mother. When she wakes up to find her trailer cruising down the highway with a determined angel at the wheel, however, EJ realizes that sometimes what you want and what the Universe intends for you can be two very different things…

I am really starting to love Lani Diane Rich‘s works. There’s something about what she writes and the people she writes about that really piques my interests, and this one is no different. (Plus, don’t you just love that cover? :P)

EJ is a girl who’s been around for the past six years, going from one place to another, taking jobs as a cashier, using a receipt printer and just living on her own. What people don’t know about her is that she’s the daughter of Lilly Lorraine, a famous actress, and it’s something she doesn’t really want people to know. Frankly, she’d rather bury her past and just live the way she lives now — it’s less painful that way.

But one day brings her two unexpected surprises: one is a visit from an old friend telling her that her mother is getting married yet again to his father and probably the closest and most real parent he’d ever had. And she gets a visit from an angel — or someone who thinks she is. Jess, the angel, is convinced that the Universe wants her to help EJ, and would stop at nothing in doing so — even going as far as “kidnapping” EJ.

After much reluctance, EJ finally decides to go home just for the wedding, but what she saw when she got back was something she never expected. Oh, and her old friend and ex-fiancee was there too — with a lot of old hurts that she never thought she’d have to deal with all over again.

A Little Ray of Sunshine is exactly what the title says — it’s a little ray of sunshine in a book. It’s a really entertaining story, with a wacky cast of characters. EJ, with all her rudeness to her mother and the people around her and her need to go to be alone, is still very endearing. Jess is such a darling, and I almost thought she was a real angel until her own secrets were revealed. Lilly was annoying and lovable at the same time. The tension between the characters was the kind of thing that you’d see in real life, and the resolution was realistic enough that you know it’s just the right way for the story to go to.

It’s a really good book, and I’m sure I’d want to read more of Lani Diane Rich’s work. :)

Rating:

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads

→ Lani Diane Rich’s website

Note: Review originally posted at Refine Me

Demon

Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
Demon by Tosca LeePublisher: B&H
Number of pages: 336
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

Recently divorced and mired in a meaningless existence, Clay drifts from his drab apartment to his equally lusterless job as an editor for a small Boston press — until the night Lucian finds him and everything changes with the simple words, “I’m going to tell you my story, and you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

What begins as a mystery soon spirals into chaotic obsession as Clay struggles to piece together Lucian’s dark tale of love, ambition and grace — only to discover that the demon’s story has become his own.

And then only one thing matters: learning how the story ends.

* * *

What a haunting book. I heard about Tosca Lee from Camy, and after reading about the book on the official website (especially after reading this page) I knew I had to get this book.

Demon: A Memoir gives us a view of the whole Salvation history from another point of view: a demon. It’s kind of creepy at first when you think of it, but like Clay, I got curious. What could a demon know about salvation? What could he possibly tell Clay, and what could Clay possibly gain from all this?

The novel had no frills about it. Clay wasn’t a righteous guy, he wasn’t even religious at all. He’s drifting in his life, finding no meaning until his encounter with Lucian. Tosca draws a very different picture of a demon — not one with an image we know, with horns and bat-like wings, but drawing from the story of the first fall: Lucifer. There were no bargains for the soul for Clay, although it seemed like he almost sold his soul to the devil as he became obsessed with the story.

Lucian was a very interesting character too, taking on a lot of forms of humans because he liked to “test” them out. He started out as a Mediterranean-looking man and then later met Clay as a woman and then a geeky teen — it seemed like he could not get enough of the “clay” people, regardless of age. He was also fascinated with humans eating, and made sure Clay was eating almost every time they met. His hurried manner at some parts of the story makes you wonder who exactly is out to get the demon — Lucifer? Another hoard of demons? But why? And why is he talking to Clay in the first place?

Like I said, it’s a way to view the story of our salvation from another side. It almost comes to a point that I felt some sympathy for Lucian and I wished there was something better for him…and in the same way, it made me realize how lucky I was to be created in God’s image and likeness. How infinite my chances are, how much patience God has for me. How forgiving God is for someone like me who commits the same mistake over and over again. It’s…amazing. And humbling.

The ending of the novel is satisfying in a way that it’s not wrapped in neat bows nor it is terribly disturbing. The book reminds us of a choice that everyone has to make in this life. What will you choose?

Rating:

Note: Review originally posted at Refine Me

Lock and Key

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin USA
Number of pages: 432
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Ruby can take care of herself.

She’s used to counting on no one and answering to nobody. But all of that changes when her mother vanishes and Ruby is sent to live with her older sister, Cora. Now Ruby’s got her own room in a fabulous new house, she’s going to private school, and — for the first time — feeling as if she has a future. Plus, there’s an adorable and sweet boy next door, Nate. Everything should be perfect. So why is Ruby so wary? And why is Nate keeping her at a distance? Ruby soon comes to realize that sometimes, in order to save yourself, you’ve got to reach out to someone else.

* * *

Don’t you think that’s such a pretty cover? There’s really something about Sarah Dessen‘s book covers, and I know how much it appeals to its target audience.

Lock and Key is about Ruby Cooper, who moves into her siser’s place after her mother left her behind to fend for herself. Ruby has gotten used to taking care of herself ever since her sister left and her mom could hardly be counted on. She was so used to not owing anyone for help that when she moved to her sister Cora’s place, all she wanted to do was go back. But her new family was insistent on letting her stay and taking care of her, especially Jamie, Cora’s husband, who wanted to provide a good future for Ruby. Ruby is stuck, and despite all good things happening to her, she couldn’t help but feel wary of all this good fortune. She knows that Cora’s world isn’t her world, but she knew she couldn’t count on her mother anymore. But can she really learn to trust all the other people that’s coming in her life?

All the typical Dessen elements were in the story: Ruby, the sort of troubled child who’s left to fend off for herself; Nate, the cute neighbor who Ruby falls for but then has a secret of his own; Olivia, her classmate who she didn’t really like at first but then became friends with; Harriet, her boss at her job who was even more of a control freak than Ruby. There are also old friends who are only in the book to appear that they’re not really “friends”: Marshall, Ruby’s sort of boyfriend and Peyton, the closest thing she had to a best friend. Though not set in the summer, like other Dessen books were, this one still spanned a couple of months, almost half a school year if I got it right. There’s a lot of looking into the past, and backstories and family events and little symbolisms that made the story poignant.

I liked how Dessen was descriptive with Ruby’s past and everything around her  — from Ruby’s new room to the key that she kept hanging around her neck. The thing about Lock and Key for me, however, is that it read too much like Love Walked In by Marisa Delos Santos, with the mentally unstable and possibly a drug addict mother leaving the daughter to fend off for herself and someone coming in to save the daughter. I couldn’t help but recall that other novel while reading this one. It’s not entirely the same, but the similarities just feel a bit odd.

But if you’re a Dessen fan, you’ll love all the Easter eggs in this novel. You’ll find a character from almost all of Dessen’s past novels. I especially love it when Kristy and Bert from The Truth About Forever showed up in one scene. :D

Lock and Key is a good read, but I think it’s not really as good as The Truth About Forever or Just Listen or This Lullaby.

Rating:

Note: Review originally posted at Refine Me