Minis: Alternate Endings, Award Winners and Love Stories

I feel this counts as cheating, but sometimes, I read some short stories and books just to up the number of books I read. Is that bad? They can’t really be books since they’re super short sometimes, but they count as one because they’re stories. Right? Or I’m just making excuses?

But anyway, I am still reading every-so-slowly and I really don’t know what’s up, but I will stop worrying about that. And I will “cheat” anytime I want to, so there. :P Besides, cheating means more Mini-Reviews posts, right? :D

Fed by Mira Grant Fed by Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 53
My copy: ebook

An alternate ending to the first novel in the Newsflesh trilogy, Feed.

* * *

So I actually wrote a review on this on Goodreads as soon as I finished reading it because I was so overwhelmed. Here’s the short review in verbatim, and right now I still stand by this. Mira Grant, you are an evil genius.

If you haven’t read Feed yet, don’t even try opening this. Read it first, digest it, and then come back for this when you’re ready enough to do so.

Well if you think having your heart broken from Feed wasn’t enough, try this alternate ending. I never thought it could happen this way, but when you think about it, this seemed like the way it could and would happen.

Of course, if you’ve read Deadline, questions will pop up about how this ending happened. But that doesn’t make this less heart breaking.

Mira Grant, I am in awe.

Rating:

The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Publisher: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Number of pages: 15
My copy: ebook

A gentle fantasy. Love, paper tigers, mail order bride, culture clash.

* * *

I wouldn’t have heard of this short story if it wasn’t for my Goodreads friends who started reviewing it on their profiles.The Paper Menagerie is a short story about a boy whose mom was a mail-order bride from China who can barely speak English and can make magical paper origami. The boy had a collection of moving paper animals from his mother as a kid, and it was their odd but sweet means of communication. However, as the boy grew up, he had to deal with his friends who don’t understand their family set-up and eventually, he started drifting apart from his mother.

This short story reminded me of all those stories that I used to read as a kid, the ones that make me feel guilty and inspired at the same time — guilty because I know that I can be like the kid who push away her parents because I am starting to have my own life, but also inspired because it makes me not want to have the same fate as the kids in the story. The fantasy elements in The Paper Menagerie were indeed gentle, and at first I wasn’t sure if I read it right. It made me wonder for a moment if origami paper animals were really supposed to move and I’ve been doing the things I used to do wrong.

This is short and sweet, and it would take little time to read it. It left me with a feeling that…well, I don’t want to end up being like the boy in the end. It’s not the kind of regret that anyone wants to have, for sure. You can read The Paper Menagerie here, or listen to the story here.

Rating:

Comic Stories About Love & Heartbreak Comic Stories About Love and Heartache by Various Authors, edited by Elbert Or
PSICOM

Comic Stories About Love and Heartache by Various Authors, edited by Elbert Or
Publisher: Psicom
My copy: gift from KD

The long-awaited anthology contains eleven stories exploring characters who have loved and been loved, have broken hearts and had their hearts broken and still love (or long to be loved).

* * *

Here’s my theory about love stories, or at least, anything romantic: my appreciation level in the story is directly related to the state of my heart while I was reading it. Wow, look at that, me using that phrase state of my heart. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s easier to appreciate happy love stories when you’re happy, and heartache stories resonate more when you more or less share the same state, or have been in that state before and you can relate.

So how exactly did I find this comic book? Well, if the state of my heart was any indication (and I am probably digging a grave for myself by writing this), I liked it. Maybe I’m just really a romantic at heart, or I’m just a generally happy person, or there’s something else, but I thought this book is pretty sweet, despite it being “stories of love and heartache”. I’m no expert at art, but I appreciated the comics, especially the cute stories in between each major story.

I guess this is one of those books that show different facets of love, and how things can work out or how things may not work out. It’s a very quick read, and I finished it in one sitting, but I didn’t feel as if I wanted more. Perhaps the reading was enough to satisfy the state of my heart then.

My favorite part in the entire anthology is the last story, Red String, about a man who has been looking for his soul mate by looking for whoever was tied to the other end of the red string on his finger. I don’t know about you, but I found the last part quite…hopeful.

The Red String

Okay, maybe I am just a happy person. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: July

Hello, July! Hello second half of the year! :)

I owe several reviews on this blog but I’m sort of pressed for time with work and other things recently, so reviewing has kind of taken a back seat. I figure a post should suffice now so you know I’m still alive, and I’m not off doing some funeral planning checklist or you know, not reading. I am, I’m just terribly slow! But right now I just happened to be caught in the rain and waiting for it to stop so I can go to work, so I had the time to squeeze in a quick blog entry. Then I remembered that I haven’t made a Required Reading post yet and it’s already the 3rd day of the new month. So here we go!

From the quite dismal reading month that is May, I had a pretty good reading month for June! And I’m particularly proud of this June accomplishment because the two books from my list aren’t exactly the easiest books to read. So yay, recap!

  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (4/5)
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5)
  • The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway (3/5)

Plus, I managed to quit being lazy and interviewed Maria for my What I Read post. So even if I didn’t really have an active reviewing month, I think had a pretty good reading and blogging month. :)

Required Reading: July

Continue Reading →

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 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Hitchhiker’s Guide # 1
Publisher: Del Rey

Number of pages: 216

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

* * *

When I was new with my current job, one of my colleagues told me about his favorite book, one that, according to him, made him laugh like a crazy loon by himself. I didn’t really take note of it, since our reading genres were very different, and even when he lent me a copy of the book, I still didn’t give much thought about it. When I first met my new friends at the book club, I saw one of them carry this big black book that looks like a dictionary…or a Bible, even. Just like that, I found myself encountering that same book again.

Of course, I still didn’t read it, because I just wasn’t interested. But ever since we started a 100 Favorite Books list in our book club, and ever since we all decided to discuss books face to face, I had run out of excuses. After years and years of not paying attention to the book, I finally picked up a copy and read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

How do I describe what this book without spoiling things, or without thinking everything I am writing is absolutely ridiculous is a bit of a problem, so I will just not write about that. Instead, I’ll write about what this book has: the end of the world. Oh, but not the Mayan kind with natural disasters. There’s also a poor guy who just happened to be at one place at a certain time who may not be so poor now because he practically becomes the last human being everywhere. And then there were aliens. Spaceships, too. And finally, the Ultimate Question. Or, not.

My friend was right, though — this book was very funny. I found myself giggling every now and then to this book, often times while I was on my commute to work or some other place. I’ve always been wary about sci-fi stuff because I feel like my brain cannot comprehend much of it (except maybe it is has something to do with computers, even if they’re medical computers), but I found The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quite readable even if it was absolutely absurd at some point. Maybe that’s really the point.

It’s funny, yes, but I didn’t really find it absolutely hilarious. It’s good, but I don’t really have the urge to get the next ones and read it immediately (although they did say it gets better there). I enjoyed it, but perhaps not quite as much as my friends enjoyed it.

However, I did enjoy discussing this book with my book club over breakfast. With questions about favorite characters, what we’ll do in case the world ends and if we’ll allow ourselves to have a babel fish (of course – very useful for travel!). Having a group of friends to discuss a book about in detail makes me like the book a little bit more, possibly because I tend to associate the memories with the book.

Goodreads Filipino Group -  Face to Face Book Discussion # 3 (Photo c/o Kwesi)

Goodreads Filipino Group – Face to Face Book Discussion # 3 (Photo c/o Kwesi)

And because it had to be commented: what kind of answer is 42, anyway?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
Book Rhapsody

Ender’s Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Number of pages:  324
My copy: paperback, gift from Monique

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

* * *

So everyone who’s ever read and loved science fiction has read and loved Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. My friends who have read and loved science fiction also were true to their responsibility to push this book to everyone, particularly people who are curious about the said genre. Particularly, me.

But a little commercial first: I’ve always thought that I never read any science fiction book in my entire reading life. But it turns out, one of my favorite young adult series growing up was science fiction: Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. Five kids and one alien with the power to morph into any animal they touch against an alien race of parasite slugs set to invade the world? If that is not science fiction, I will eat my hat.

And so Ender’s Game. It was duly recommended, but for some reason a copy eluded me until my friend Monique found one for me. Of course, as luck would have it, I end up seeing copies of the book everywhere after I got the copy. But anyway! Of course, it takes me another year to read it, but I don’t really think it matters now.

The Wiggin children, Peter, Valentine and Andrew aka Ender, were all candidates for the soldier training program in their childhood, but only the youngest, Ender, makes the cut. Ender has always been distant with his family so joining Battle School wasn’t much of a difference in his young life. Ender’s skills made him a leader in Battle School, admired and hated at the same time by his classmates. But Ender’s brilliance in the Battle Room had a price — isolation, loneliness, and the fear that he is becoming like his older brother who he despises. But there are secrets around Ender’s training, secrets that could very well mean the survival of the human race in a war against an alien race for the last hundred years.

Here’s one thing about Ender’s Game: it’s so readable. I’m initially apprehensive of reading science fiction (and high fantasy) novels because I’m afraid of not being able to fully immerse into the world. If it’s not very obvious yet, I’m really a contemporary reader and most of the books I read are set in the real world, so reading something set in a different world, or set in the future is quite a challenge for me. Orson Scott Card made Ender’s Game very accessible, though, and it was easy enough to understand what was happening in Ender’s world. Oh, I didn’t really understand much of how the Battle School worked, or the space travel later into the book, but I had a pretty okay grasp with it early in the story, so reading it slowly became a breeze.

I loved the military set-up over the sci-fi aspect. People say this is really more of a military novel, and I kind of agree with that. Reading this reminded me of those Citizen Army Training days back in high school, where we’d practice rifle drills and do other activities during camp, like Search & Destroy and Escape & Evade (I hate the latter, btw). I liked reading about the strategies and the platoon (toon) set up and the promotions. I love reading about the war games in null gravity — it made me wish that laser tag games here were done in the same environment! I would probably be the first to be frozen in that, but it would be so much fun. It was fascinating to see how Ender came up with strategies to confuse his enemies in the games and wonder at how he was able to see it and make it work. And there isn’t just the military thing either. The political aspects of war — in space and on earth — were discussed, too, and it makes readers see that some well-placed words said (or written) on a platform can be enough to start a war. A bit of suspension of disbelief might be in order for the part of the novel is needed, but if you can believe that a six year old is the hope of the world against an alien race, then believing that part should be easy enough.

Poor Ender, though. I keep on forgetting that he was just a kid (six years old at the start of the novel) as the story progressed. He always seemed older, especially with all the military school talk. Ender’s fighter qualities were admirable and oftentimes scary, but it was hard not to root for him in the story. I sympathized a lot with Valentine, Ender’s sister, with how she cared for him because I wanted to take care of Ender too, and keep him a kid longer because he deserved to be one. I also liked Ender’s friends, too, especially the ones who were with him at the end. There was this one particular scene that really made my heart swell with happiness for Ender that involved his friends, and it shows that true friends are those people who are with you in your darkest hours.

There is a fair amount of violence in this book, so a fair warning to those who think that this is about some kids who get roped into a “save the world” thing. Even more horrifying is that these are just kids beating each other up. Despite that, Ender’s Game is pretty, well, darn good. I know I’m not a credible judge of science fiction since (like I said) I barely read the genre, but I think Ender’s Game is science fiction at its simplest and maybe at its finest, too. It’s no wonder why people kept on recommending this to me. If you’re a newbie to science fiction and you’re looking for titles to start with, then listen to everyone who has recommended this book to you because trust me: they are right about it. If it’s not enough, then let its awards push you to the right direction. Also, a movie is coming out next year. Enough reasons? Get a copy and remember: the enemy’s gate is down! :)

Rating:

Required Reading: March

Other reviews:
SF Reviews
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac