Minis: Eliza Victoria

So it’s been months since I read all of these, and I apologize for the late, late, late reviews. I’m just catching up, you see, and since the following books are all form the same author, I thought I’d go and put them all in one post. :)

I’ve heard of Eliza online through some fellow writers in NaNoWriMo, I think, but I can’t remember if I ever sent her an email or talked before the 2nd Filipino ReaderCon. I’ve read her work in Alternative Alamat, and it was one of my favorite stories in the collection. It reminded me of those days in my college literary folio (the short times I’ve spent there, anyway), and it made me want to read more of her work. We follow each other on Twitter, but I was always shy in talking to her because I feel like I’m just going to fan girl. Haha. Imagine my surprise when she approached me during the ReaderCon. :D And then I did not even get to fan girl properly. :P

Anyway, these are three of Eliza’s works that I got and read after the ReaderCon was done. And I’m going to spoil you right now: I liked all of them. Very much. :)

Lower MythsLower Myths by Eliza Victoria
Publisher: Flipside Publishing
Number of pages: 87
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Lower Myths features two compelling novellas of contemporary fantasy from Eliza Victoria, one of the most talented young writers in Asian speculative fiction today. In “Trust Fund Babies,” children of two warring witch and fairy families face off in the final round to a centuries-old vendetta.

In “The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol,” an aristocrat and his daughter consult a famous lawyer-sibling pair about a mysterious crime. But in the lawyers’ hilltop mansion by the sea, they uncover sinister hints that their reality may not be what it seems.

Eliza Victoria’s fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications including High Chair, The Pedestal Magazine, Expanded Horizons, Usok, and the Philippine Speculative Fiction series.

* * *

I got this one as a sample first, and this was one of the cases where I loved the sample so much that I had to get the book soon after.To be quite honest, I was not sure what Lower Myths was all about, except that it contains two short stories/novellas and the sample just made me want to read on.Trust Fund Babies is a fun, with and fairy story that totally had that mafia feel. It’s violent and can be quite gory, but all done in a tasteful way. I liked the relationship of the families and the idea of the glamour. I can imagine this as a short film with all the effects and the mystery.

The second story, The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol is kind of confusing because of the shifting realities, but the world building is superb. There’s a certain disconnect at first, but when things start falling into place, I found it so engaging that I just have to find out what happened next. While it’s not really as fun as Trust Fund Babies (for me, anyway), I liked how this one played out. This is the kind of world that I cannot imagine writing on my own, but I love reading. :)

Lower Myths is a good starter for Eliza’s works, if you’re into quick, fantasy reads with a local flavor. Of course, it could also be too short for you, but that’s why you’d end up looking for her other works just to satisfy that craving. :)

Other Reviews: The Girl Who Read and Other Stories

A Bottle of Storm CloudsA Bottle of Storm Clouds by Eliza Victoria
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 209
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Award-winning author Eliza Victoria mixes magic with the mundane in this special concoction of 16 short stories. A girl meets a young man with the legs of a chicken. A boy is employed by a goddess running a pawnshop. A group of teenagers are trapped in an enchanted forest for 900 days. A man finds himself in an MRT station beyond Taft, a station that was not supposed to exist. A student claims to have seen the last few digits of pi. Someone’s sister gets abducted by mermaids.

Includes stories that have appeared in the critically acclaimed anthologies Philippine Speculative Fiction and Alternative Alamat, and stories that have won prizes in the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards and the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Literary Contest.

Lower Myths got me craving for more of Eliza’s stories, so when I found out that Visprint released an anthology of her stories, I knew I had to get it. A Bottle of Storm Clouds contains 16 short stories that have appeared in various anthologies, all with the same local fantasy goodness. I was so excited to get this one after the 2nd Filipino ReaderCon (I really, really wanted to win one, but alas, I didn’t) — and I wasn’t planning to read it immediately to save me some local fiction goodness, but I couldn’t wait, either. And so I read.

A Bottle of Storm Clouds is one of those books that you can’t help but keep on reading but you also don’t want to end just yet. I tried not to read this book too fast because I wanted to savor each story. There’s something interesting and entirely different in each story — some of them were creepy, most of them sad, but all had really good fantasy elements that stretched my imagination wider than it did before. :) I liked how Eliza hinged most of the stories with real human experiences like grief and sadness, family and friendship and love and even selfishness and life crisis. It’s a good balance between magic and reality, and there are certain lines that meld them together nicely, like this one:

Magic. Amanda thought of clear skies and stars, steamed rice and fish, bagoong soaked in vinegar. A cup of coffee in the early morning, the feel of grass, the city lights. Clarissa. Her brother carrying her on his back, her parents dancing on the cool patio as it rained. The ground pounding with life. A poem humming in her head. (Siren Song)

My personal favorites: Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St., Intersections, Sugar Pi, Parallels, Monsters, The Storyteller’s Curse, Siren’s Song. I think there’s a story for each and every reader in this collection, and probably even for every mood. I liked this collection a lot, and if you want to read good, local fantasy with different flavors, get A Bottle of Storm Clouds. I’m sure you’ll find a favorite in one of them. :)

The Viewless DarkThe Viewless Dark by Eliza Victoria
Publisher: Flipside Publishing
Number of pages: 56
My copy: ebook, requested from the publisher

When Anthony found Flo dead, locked overnight in one of the reading rooms of the university library, he knew it must have something to do with Mary. Mary Prestosa, fourth year graduating Philosophy student, whom they had been investigating. Mary, who surprised her roommate one night by suddenly standing up from her bed, throwing the windows open, and jumping down, headfirst, to the dormitory grounds below. Mary, whose memory marked the trail of mysterious deaths and bizarre occurrences that followed her own fateful fall: the fifth-year Computer Engineering student who prowled the campus on all fours, thirsty for blood, believing he was a wolf; the revelation of an all-girls’ satanic cult; the demonic possession of a fourth-year student from the Department of Psychology; and now—Flo, dead.

* * *

So I read The Viewless Dark around October, because it was supposed to be a horror novel and the best time to read a horror story is during Halloween, right? I was kind of wary, though, because I’m not a fan of anything scary, so I made sure I read this in broad daylight.

The Viewless Dark is about Anthony’s friend, Flo, who was found dead in the university library. He knew his friend’s death had something to do with Mary, who committed suicide some time ago, and whose death Anthony and Flo were investigating. Here we see what really happened, and what Anthony knew about Flo that no one else knew and what exactly Flo had been going through the night before she died.

Of course I ended up reading this at night, anyway, because I need something to lull me to sleep. And even if I read this in broad daylight, I still felt creeped out every now and then with the story. I liked how the story unfolded from the death of Flo and into flashbacks that pointed just to how exactly Flo ended up that way to what happened to Anthony’s family. I liked how vivid the setting was and how sufficiently creepy the “possession” they set up until the final twist in the end which undid everything I thought I knew. And then Eliza wraps it up in a different way, giving it a poignant, almost hopeful ending.

I’m pretty sure I’m just chicken, and other friends might not think that this is as scary as I thought it was. But even so, I have a very good feeling that some of my friends will like this book just as much as I did. :)


Mythspace Lift Off

Mythspace Lift OffMythspace Lift Off by Paolo Chikiamco, illustrated by various artists
Mythspace # 0
Rocket Kapre

Kapre. Nuno. Manananggal.

They are monsters of the past, remnants of primitive fantasies.

UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrials.

They are hallucinations, creations of modern science fiction.

Or are they?

Evidence unearth is debunked…or disappears. Witnesses who speak are ridiculed…or silenced.

We are alone, say our leaders.

There are no Manananggal that consume our children. There are no Kapres who watch in the night.

There are no aliens that abduct our neighbors. There are no UFOs with dazzling lights.

We were never alone.

These are not your Lola’s monsters.

These are not your children’s aliens.

They are one and the same. They are here.

You know how I said that I probably would not drop by Komikon if the Trese 5 release wasn’t announced? I take it back — I realize that I would have probably gone there anyway, just to support Paolo‘s newest release, Mythspace. It’s not that I did not know about his newest project. I heard of it, but I was too busy in the past weeks before Komikon to check the Mythspace Monday posts he had up on his blog leading to the release. In a way that is a blessing in disguise, because now that I’ve read the sampler they released last Komikon, I’m catching up on the posts which I hope will tide me over until Mythspace fully launches.

What is Mythspace, anyway? Pao talks about it in detail in this post, but if you want the quick, one-line summary: Mythspace is what happens when Philippine folklore meets science fiction, specifically aliens. This new series plays on the idea that the creatures we know from folk tales and movies not simply monsters from our grandparents’ stories, but you know, creatures from outer space. Sounds crazy, yes?

But you know what? It actually works.

Mythspace #0 is the preview issue for the science fiction anthology. Here we can read a bit of two stories from the anthology, as well as preview of the art from the different illustrators: Koi Carreon, Borg Sinaban, Jules Gregorio, Mico Dimagiba, Cristina Rose Chua, Paul Quiroga. I’m not a good judge of art, but I liked that each story seemed to have its own personality because of the artist. I also liked reading the previews for the two longest stories there, with Liftoff having that mystery-in-space type of story with a somewhat angst-ridden hero, and Unfurling of Wings reminding me so much of the chimaera world in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There’s also a bit of information on the aliens we will meet in the issues. My favorites are the Kapre and the Manananggal – somehow, these versions are less scary than what I heard from stories growing up.

Overall, I loved this preview. The booklet is short, so everything ends before you feel like you really know things, but it’s a good thing because I am totally looking forward to the release of the first installment of the anthology in 2013. Now I’m pretty sure that the world will not (and cannot!) end on December 2012 — after all, we still need to have the rest of the Mythspace anthology in our grubby little hands. :)


My copy: signed, bought from Komikon

Other reviews:
Jumper Cable
Hawkers Magazine
Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Publisher: Random House
Number of pages: 509
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

* * *

If you asked me a year ago if I knew who David Mitchell was and if I have plans of reading any of his books ever, I probably would just give you a blank stare and then shake my head. I had no idea who he was, and his books weren’t really my type of books. So when my friend Monique reviewed Cloud Atlas early this year, I liked the review but I didn’t think that I’d go and get it because it felt like a “serious” book and I was still attached to my YA.

Then…I don’t know, peer pressure? Word of mouth? Hype? I see more and more of David Mitchell’s name on Goodreads, and more and more people raving about him and so I wonder — what’s the deal with him? Is he really that amazing? Will I like him too? Curiosity won me over, so I decided to finally try a Mitchell book. Since Cloud Atlas seemed to be the most popular, and the fact that its movie is coming soon, some book club friends and I set up a reading buddy session with the fans eagerly eavesdropping on our mini-discussion.

Cloud Atlas contains six stories that span across different eras and set in different places all over the world with completely different characters and story lines. At first it seems that each story is independent from one another, until after I finished the first chapter and I was all, “Huh?”. As it turns out, the six stories were structured in a way that each is connected to the other despite the differences in settings, characters and genre. Yes, genre. Curious yet?

We start with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, a journal of an American notary from Chatham Islands back to California set in 1850. From Adam we meet Robert Forbisher in Letters From Zedelghem, who writes to his friend Rufus Sixsmith about his time as an amanuensis to an old and blind musical genius, Vyvyan Ayrs, who can’t distinguish a piano hinge in his condition, but can talk and make good music despite it. Decades later, in Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, there’s Rufus Sixsmith again, and he meets journalist Luisa Rey who attempts to blow a conspiracy wide open. After we are left hanging with Luisa Rey, in comes the British Timothy Cavendish, a publisher who gets in all sorts of scrapes which he thinks could form a movie on his life entitled The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, if he can get out of it alive. Even more years later, in An Orison of Sonmi~451, we are transported into a dystopian world set in a new Korea called Nea So Copros, and clones called fabricants are employed to do all sorts of dirty work for everyone. Sonmi~451 is a clone who is up for execution and she is given the chance to tell her stor before she goes to the Litehouse. Finally, set into the very distant future, there’s Zachry and the story of his tribe in Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Everythin’ After. From there, the story goes back to Sonmi~451, Tim Cavendish, Luisa Rey, Robert Forbisher and finally back to Adam Ewing.

Here’s the thing about Cloud Atlas that made me realize that I will like it: it’s like a novel of spin-offs stories. And I like spin-offs. I liked how Mitchell surprised me in every story, and I wasn’t sure what to expect every time a chapter ends (and more often than not, I’m left wanting more with every chapter because it just ends). I liked how he stretched my imagination with every story, I liked the way he writes and how the novel switches from one genre to another seamlessly. By the third story, I knew I would like the book — the question is how much I would really like it. As I read the last few chapters, I thought this would just be a four-star book…and then I got to the end. You know how you don’t want the book to end, but you want to keep on reading because you want to know what happens? Then when you get to the very final line, the chills just come? And they were awesome chills? Really awesome chills? And then you want to read the book all over again? That’s what Cloud Atlas did to me.

I know this review is being a bit vague, but this book is not the kind of book that you’d want to be spoiled when you read it. The structure may seem like a gimmick, but I think for this story, it’s an effective way to tell the story and make connections. As a whole, I think Cloud Atlas is a book that deals with connectedness. Each character’s story can stand on their own and can be taken as it is, but once you start putting them together, we see that their stories become richer, more meaningful in several ways. It’s just like how each of us has our own story and we can live with just that…but once our lives cross with one another and our stories touch…everything changes.

To summarize: I loved Cloud Atlas. I loved it, I loved it. And from how my friends have raved about Mitchell’s other books, I am now looking forward to reading the rest of his works. Especially if his other characters make a cameo in his other novels! :) I think that’s the best part of this Cloud Atlas reading experience: discovering a new author whose works will make you just want to read more and more and more.

Oh, and I am definitely looking forward to the movie. Have you seen the five-minute trailer?

YouTube Preview Image

Awesome, awesome chills. :)


Required Reading: September

Other reviews:
Book Rhapsody
A Thought On Each Page

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?


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

Minis: Outbreak, Goodbyes and a Prince

I have some books lined up for review but I thought I’d get the shorter ones out of the way with another round of mini reviews. :)

Countdown by Mira GrantCountdown by Mira Grant
Newsflesh # 0
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 84
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

The year is 2014, the year everything changed. We cured cancer. We cured the common cold. We died.

This is the story of how we rose.

When will you rise?

* * *

This is actually one of the last books I read for 2011, and I got this because I’m such a loyal reader of Mira Grant and her Newsflesh universe. Countdown is the a prequel to her story and it narrates just how the Rising happened through the different perspectives involved in the story. I liked how the story wasn’t really as simple as how it seemed when Georgia talked about it in Feed. There were so many people involved, some that were already known such as the developers of the cure, and also some unknown people like the activists that caused the virus to go out. It had just enough detail without being too scientific or too political, and the growing terror of what just might happen because of the chain of events was very well conveyed. The slow unveiling of the effects of the new virus strain was horrifying at its best and you just know that it’s too late when it all comes down.

While there’s no Georgia or Shaun in this book yet, we get a glimpse of their parents and how they got involved and what happened that could have led them to adopting the two. It wasn’t really narrated as a whole, but when the book is done, it’s easier to connect the dots.

This isn’t a required reading to fully understand the series, but for fans who are itching to read the last book in the trilogy, Countdown is a good pick to satiate this hunger.


What is Goodbye? By Nikki GrimesWhat is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Raul Colon
Publisher: Hyperion
Number of pages: 64
My copy:  hardbound, gift from KD

Jerilyn and Jesse have lost their beloved older brother. But each of them deals with Jaron’s death differently. Jerilyn tries to keep it in and hold it together; Jesse acts out. But after a year of anger, pain, and guilt, they come to understand that it’s time to move on. It’s time for a new family picture-with one piece missing, yet whole again. Through the alternating voices of a brother and sister, Nikki Grimes eloquently portrays the grieving process in this gem of a book that is honest, powerful, and ultimately hopeful.

* * *

I read and loved Nikki Grimes’ A Girl Named Mister so I was very excited to get this book from Kuya Doni during one of our Goodreads meet ups. A slim volume with illustrated pages, this is a book that discusses griefs and its different effects on people struggling with it. Jerilyn and Jesse just lost their older brother — too much too soon that they are at a loss at how to deal. Jerilyn holds it all together, showing an unruffled exterior but inside she is just as broken as how Jesse acts out. Questions about life, death and family surface and we get to see how the siblings and the rest of the family dealt with this loss. It will never be the same again, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be whole.

Nikki Grimes’ poetry was easy to read and the illustrations were a good complement to the story. True to form, I found myself shedding some tears at a certain page, and I honestly cannot imagine losing my one and only brother too soon to death. While this book offers no solutions on how to handle grief and death and loss, it shows a hopeful picture that someday, it will all be okay.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExuperyThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Publisher: Egmont
Number of pages: 96
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

A pilot forced to land in the Sahara meets a little prince. The wise and enchanting stories the prince tells of his own planet with its three volcanoes and a haughty flower are unforgettable.

* * *

I read this book sometime during high school, I think, not because of a school requirement but because people around me were quoting it and such. I remember being partly fascinated by it, but not so much to make it a favorite book. I just know that this book had a memorable line that everyone seems to know: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

I ended up reading the book again for our book club’s discussion, and seeing that it was a short book, I read it just a few days before the discussion happened. Still the same — the book had that whimsical feel, with the little prince’s innocence and stories bringing the pilot (and the readers) to wonder if this little prince was the real thing. The book didn’t bring any new emotions, but it reminded me of just how sad I felt when I got to the end. I remember not knowing the answer to the question: what do you think happened to the little prince?

Nevertheless, the book gained more meaning to me after my friends and I had a very good (and brain-frying) discussion on it. Despite its thinness, The Little Prince is one of those books that pack a pretty heavy punch with its different adages that is pretty much applicable to so many things in life. I’d like to believe that people of all ages will be able to pick something interesting in this book, even if it gets a wee bit childish for older readers. After all, this was written as a children’s book.

However, I would have to agree: the meat of the book really happens with the prince’s conversations with the fox. Don’t get me wrong — the rest of the book was pretty lovely as well, but if you need the most popular quotes in the book, just look for that chapter. It’s pretty much all there.