Trese

Last weekend, I was trying to get into reading Noli Me Tangere for my Required Reading challenge and because it was Independence Day. Unfortunately, I was having a hard time getting started — it is one of our National Hero’s masterpieces written during the Philippines’ Spanish era, so the language was a bit dated. I had a hard time getting into the book so I perused my shelf for something easier to read, but still Filipino because like I said, it was our country’s independence day.

So I said hello to Alexandra Trese again. :)

I can’t remember who told me about the Trese series — I probably read it in one of the many blogs I’m following. Since I was on a mission to read more Filipino work last year, I knew I should read it, even if I only bought myself the first copy. I got it, read it in an hour, and liked it but never got to review it. I even met the authors during the Metro Comicon last year, but I’m not a comic girl, so I wasn’t really that interested, or starstruck, unlike some of my friends were. Fast forward a few months later, after getting the next books and discussing graphic novels with Ariel (who gave me Books 2 and 3 for Christmas), I finally cracked them open.

Trese # 1: Murder on Balete DriveTrese # 1: Murder on Balete Drive by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 104
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

* * *

Trese is a comic book series about Alexandra Trese, a bar owner who also works as a paranormal detective helping the Manila police in solving the weirder crimes that happen in the metro. Each book has a series of shorter stories inside, where we see Trese find the criminal through her contacts in the paranormal world. As it’s set in the Philippines, Trese’s paranormal contacts are all from the Philippine mythologyaswang, duwende, tikblang, etc.

I remember reading the first book last year and being impressed — it was very nice to read about something I know and grew up with given a different twist. Trese was likeable despite her very cold demeanor, and she immediately joins the strong female leads that I have read about in other books. I do find her a little bit too perfect in this though — perfect in the sense that she knows everything and she does everything right. I would’ve wanted her to mess up a bit, but that may be too much for me to ask in the first book.

The cases were interesting, and they tread carefully between the line of paranormal and horror (is there a line there? Not sure). I liked how it related to what I know as a Filipino, but not in the classic, dated sense. I liked that the story was set in places in Manila and how they were updated to the current times. No deep dark forests or remote provinces were the creatures normally lurk here, for sure. It’s fun, and thankfully not scary enough for me to really freak out, you know?

Yeah, I know, I’m a big chicken. :P

On the international front, I think Trese would be able to hold its own with a bit of limitation. I don’t think it’s very hard to understand, but I think the mythology would take some time to get used to and would need more research for a non-Filipino reader to understand. It’s easy for me to wrap my head around the creepiness of Balete Drive because I live here, but for someone in another country, I’m not sure if the creepiness factor would be the same. Still, I’d like to see how non-Filipino readers would view Trese.

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Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan by Bob Ong
(Visprint, 127 pages)

I’ve been reading Bob Ong’s books since college, ever since a friend brought her copy of his first book, A B N K K B S N P L A Ko (That reads as Aba Nakakabasa Na Pala Ako – literal translation: Wow, I Can Read Now). Bob Ong is one of the popular Filipino writers, who, until now, I am not sure if he is really one person or many contributing to one book. I’ve read almost all of his books ever since then, always looking forward to his funny words of wisdom that pokes and reflects on modern Filipino culture. I remember resorting to his books whenever I needed a pick-me-up, and since then, he’s become one of those authors that I buy even if he isn’t really a favorite. Perhaps this is an addiction?

So when I saw Bob Ong’s latest book in Fully Booked, Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan (Translation: Mama Susan’s Friends), I didn’t think twice in getting it. I wasn’t even sure what it was about — I just knew it was Bob Ong, and whatever it is, I would probably like it. Even if I did not, it’s still local fiction, so I figure it’s still a win, right?

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan brings us back to the days of school journals. Everyone must have had a teacher who made them do a journal for school — a small notebook with a recollection of what happened for a certain period of time to be read and graded by a teacher. I don’t really know the purpose of why our teachers made us do this except maybe for my college Literature professor. That wasn’t a particularly hard assignment for me, anyway, as I’ve always been journaling on my own — it was all a matter of filtering what you write for school, you see.

I didn’t know what the book was about when I got it. It wasn’t until I got back to the office to read about the book when I finally saw this trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

The trailer is in Filipino, but you don’t really need to understand it to figure out that this book is horror, especially when you get to the last part of the trailer. That stopped me from reading the book immediately. I was never a fan of horror, and I really go out of my way to avoid anything scary. I’m not a screamer, and I’m usually calm in reading or watching or listening to scary stories but my imagination wrecks havoc in me after.

So when I decided to read the book, I told myself I need to finish it in broad daylight. And so I did. In Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan, we meet Galo, who first started writing on a journal for an assignment and ended up keeping it because he did not want to waste his notebook. He chronicles his life in Manila where he lives with his relatives who never made living with them easy for him. He gets fed up with them and leaves to go back to the province to stay with his grandmother who raised him before he left for Manila. Things changed drastically from what he remembers in the province. Instead of finding the town to be just less noisier than Manila but still with improvements from his last visit, he finds that the town went backwards and were rejecting technology (no heated mattress pads, for example). His grandmother’s house grows increasingly creepier with the presence of different statues of saints and the weekly gatherings of her grandmother’s friends in her house. As weirder things start to happen, Galo tries to escape, but finds that there may be powers stronger than he is that are keeping him from doing so.

Talk about creepy. I read this in one bright and sunny afternoon but I couldn’t shake off the creeps especially in the last pages. I think one thing that made it really scary is the fact that it is a journal, and it’s a first person account. I liked how Bob Ong’s words flowed naturally and Galo’s voice rang clear all through out. I found that it wasn’t much different from the voices of his other characters from his previous books but there’s this distinct Bob Ong feel to it that is familiar. There’s also the fun references to some of the things I grew up with as a kid.

While I enjoyed reading it because of Bob Ong, I can’t say I liked it because like I said, I don’t like horror. The story is interesting and the last pages are truly creepy, but as a whole, it’s not my book. My rating isn’t really based on how much the book lacked but really more of a genre preference. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll probably enjoy this, but if you’re a big chicken like me…skip. For your peace of mind, skip it.

To further prove my point: after I finished reading this book, I woke up in the middle of the night from my sleep needing to go to the rest room. I almost decided not to go because it would mean standing up and going there alone, and who knows what I will find when I open my bedroom door? I keep on remembering the face in the trailer and freaked out at the thought of seeing that in the dark corners of our apartment. I got up eventually because I couldn’t hold it in any longer. But I left all doors and lights open, and ran back to the bedroom right after doing my business, all the while my mind remembering the last words of the book in absolute clarity.

Hmph. Big chicken, I am.

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 Filipino books in 2011

My copy: Paperback, from Fully Booked

Cover: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
taking a break
Simply, Human

Cryer’s Cross

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages: 233
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on… until Kendall’s boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it’s crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear…and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating…and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico’s mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

* * *

I liked Lisa McMann’s Dreamcatcher trilogy, so I was thrilled to know that she would be coming out with a new book next year. I was even more thrilled when I found out through Grace that this is available through Simon and Schuster’s Galley Grab…well, I cannot not have it.

Cryer’s Cross tells the story of Kendall Fletcher, a girl with OCD who lives in the small town of Cryer’s Cross in Montana. It starts with the entire town searching for Tiffany Quinn, who disappeared without a trace shortly before Kendall’s junior year ended. When the town eventually gives up on looking for her, everything sort of goes back to normal until Kendall’s best friend and sort of boyfriend, Nico, also disappears. Kendall is distraught, until she finds something very peculiar: Nico and Tiffany sat in the same desk in school, and Nico seemed to be sending Kendall graffiti messages through this desk.

Lisa McMann delivers again in this deliciously creepy novel about a small town with secrets through the eyes of a girl with OCD. It’s almost similar with the Dreamcatcher series in terms of its sparse prose, and yet Cryer’s Cross has a more poetic feel about it with how the town was described and the people who live there. It had a somewhat initial similar feel to Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost, but it got creepier and creepier especially after reading some of the messages from “WE” in between some chapters such as this one:

WE

When it is over, We breathe and ache like old oak, like peeling birch. One of Our lost souls set free. We move, a chess piece in the dark room, cast-iron legs a centimeter at a time, crying out in silent carved graffiti. Calling to Our next victim, Our next savior. We carve on Our face:

TOUCH ME.

It came to a point that I was too scared to read this book when I was traveling alone or when I’m the only one left awake at home, which was why it took me a while to read this book (I’m a big chicken, too bad). The book’s pacing was slow at first, but the author takes this time to set it all up, building up to a very creepy climax.

Perhaps my only gripe in this book is the reason why the things were happening felt a little…I don’t know, abrupt? It was a perfectly creepy and horrifying reason, but it felt like it totally came from nowhere. Of course, this may be done on purpose to hike up the creepiness factor, although I kind of wish for a bit more foreshadowing on that piece of Cryer’s Cross history.

Nevertheless, this is another solid book for Lisa McMann. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with next.

Cryer’s Cross will be out on February 8, 2011. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ebook ARC!

Rating:

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Reclusive Bibliophile
Shut Up! I’m Reading
YA Librarian Tales

When will you rise?

Feed by Mira GrantFeed by Mira Grant

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

Note: Will you just look at that awesome cover???

It was a normal afternoon at work. My colleagues and I were preparing to attend a required meeting when the boys started discussing their last Left 4 Dead 2 gaming session. I listened to them talk about how hard it was to get through whatever level they were in and how they blasted the zombies in the game, then I interrupted them with a question: “What if a zombie apocalypse actually happens?”

That simple question started a string of discussions about what could happen if zombies actually walk among us, hungry for our brains. We talked about the zombie apocalypse at length and what we would do: where to hide, how to kill zombies effectively, what weapons to use given our location, how to survive, even what to do if one of us were to get infected. Answers drew from sources of zombie wisdom ranging from movies like Zombieland to games like Resident Evil and even Plants vs. Zombies, all discussed with absolute seriousness, as if a zombie invasion was a real possibility.

In Mira Grant’s Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy, zombies have become a part of the normal everyday existence…click here to read the rest of the review.

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 28 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 12 out of 20 Fantasy books for 2010

→ Get Feed by Mira Grant on Amazon.com
→ Mira Grant’s website
→ Newsflesh Trilogy website