Faves of TwentyEleven: The Scenes

It’s time for another installment of the Faves of TwentyEleven series. This is hosted by Nomes of Inkcrush and it’s all about our reading favorites for the past year. :) If you missed my other posts, here they are:

I’m really a day late from posting this, but Nomes said to have fun and not worry about being on schedule…so there. On to the next list!

Day Three: The Scenes

Note: I can tell from now: this list is really going to make me wish I made notes about the books I read this year. *facepalm* Oh well. :)

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Faves of TwentyEleven: The Characters

From books, we go to characters! Today is the second day of the Faves of TwentyEleven series hosted by Nomes of inkcrush. :) Characters are my favorite part in a book, and sometimes I think they may even be more important than plot. I believe strong characters can revive an overused or boring plot, so I always pay attention to them. Here are some of the characters that stood out for me in the books I read in 2011. :)

Day Two: The Characters

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Angelica’s Daughters

Angelica's DaughtersAngelica’s Daughters by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Susan Evangelista, Veronica Montes, Nadine Sarreal, Erma M. Cuizon
Publisher: Anvil
Number of pages: 201 pages
My copy: paperback, birthday gift from Ariel

Angelica’s Daughters is a collaborative novel by five established Filipina writers, called a “dugtungan.” A dugtungan is a genre of Tagalog novel popular early in the 20th century, in which each writer creates a chapter and hands it off to the next, who writes another chapter without direction. The result, in this case, is an ensemble performance that contains something of the exhilaration of theatrical improv. One watches these accomplished authors inventively weave a historical romance, creating gripping heroines and turns of plot, crossing decades and national boundaries, tapping into cultural roots of the Philippines, Spain and America. Reading Angelica’s Daughters is a gripping experience.~ Brian Ascalon Roley, Author of American Son (W.W. Norton)

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One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It was a story about a group of friends that we started passing around our group, leaving a part hanging so the next person could continue the story. We never finished the story, but I remember we had a colorful cast of characters, and I ended up continuing the story and posting a snippet of it somewhere that I cannot remember for the life of me. Anyway, we also had the same kind of exercise during my college literary folio days — one would start a story and then another would pick it up. I adopted that exercise for our NaNoWriMo group, and although it never really flew, it was a fun project.

So that’s really one of the reasons why I was curious about Angelica’s Daughters. This book is a collaborative “dugtungan” novel by five authors: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Susan Evangelista, Veronica Montes, Nadine Sarreal, Erma M. Cuizon. They are all writers on their own but their friendship (and writing classes) led them to collaborate on different short stories. One day they decided to upgrade into writing a novel, passing on an idea and a chapter to one another, until they came up with the story of Angelica.

Angelica’s Daughters revolved around three female descendants of Angelica de los Santos. First was Tess, whose 8 years of marriage dissolved after she found out her husband Tonio has left his mens wedding ring behind and was dating a younger woman. She flies home to the Philippines to gather her thoughts and herself and spends time with her Lola Josefina. Josefina had secrets of her own, one that she wasn’t sure that her granddaughter (or anyone else in the family would understand). In the course of Tess’ stay, a cousin gives her a bundle of letters from their Angelica, a distant grandmother who was the subject of many of her childhood stories. They were never really sure if all those stories about Angelica were real or not — like how a guy killed himself when Angelica refused to give him her love, or how wives were often jealous of her because of her beauty. Through the letters, Tess got to know her better but there were holes in the story that she longed to be filled. On the annual Tayabas fiesta, Tess meets her younger cousin, Dina, who carries a darker secret that is eating her alive.

As I was thinking of how I was going to review this book, I realized one thing: Angelica’s Daughters could pass as a perfect comfort read. It’s like the local version of a Sarah Addison Allen novel, but maybe even a bit better because it hits closer to home for me. There’s a certain grace and lyricism in the prose that makes me immediately sink into it, and marvel at the familiar feelings it evoked. There’s really something about a well-written Filipino work that just hits the right spot, like how a perfectly cooked dish can satisfy the strongest craving. Case in point, this particular line:

She served herself generously from the garlic fried rice and daing. She took her first bite and closed her eyes with pleasure.

I totally started salivating for garlic fried rice and daing (dried salted fish, for my non-Filipino friends) after I read this line. :) The entire novel had that feel of home that made it such a good comfort read.

Besides that, the book also had an interesting angle of history. This kind of reminds me a bit of old history readings in school, or watching movies based on Philippine history. Note that it didn’t really have the “required reading for school” feel, but it provided a sense of nostalgia for the early Spanish era in Philippine history. Angelica’s letters to her aunt and her stories were vivid and she felt very much alive in those letters. She may not be the nicest or the most honest character, but she is a well-formed character that it’s hard not to be curious about her as the book goes on.

I had a few nitpicks though. For one thing, I felt that Lola Josefina’s angle wasn’t really that explored, up until she admitted her secret to Tess. I wasn’t even aware that she was the third person in the story until I finally figured it out. Also, I thought Dina was introduced a little too late in the story, almost like she was an afterthought, like she was only there to be the receiver of Tess’ wrath.

Also, there was the dreaded insta-love. I wished there wasn’t an insta-love thing between Tess and Luis — I could accept Tess liking/lusting after him during the first time she met him and danced with him in the disco, but the idea of her falling in love with him felt a little too quick for me. I was never a fan of insta-love, anyway, and personally, I would’ve been fine if Tess ended up not having a love life in the end. After all, she still had to find herself after her marriage disintegrated.

Nevertheless, I thought Angelica’s Daughters was a well-written and enjoyable novel that deals with family, love and moving on from past mistakes. It’s chick lit, but it’s not really hardcore fluffy chick lit that I think even guys will like to read this. Plus that recipe for Angelica’s special tsokolate-espeso is a must-try. This is one of the good ones in Filipino fiction, and I hope more Filipinos get to read this book. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Brush Up On Your Reading

More info:
Re: Angelica’s Daughters


Rage by Jackie Morse KesslerRage by Jackie Morse Kessler
Riders of the Apocalypse # 2
Harcourt Graphia
Number of pages: 213
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

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Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. She didn’t mean to, really. All she wanted was the comfort of the blade against her skin, the pain and the blood. She didn’t want to hurt herself seriously, she just wanted to make the pain of being humiliated by her ex-boyfriend go away. But as she lay dying, Death intervenes and gives her a new blade – the sword of one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, War. Now Missy is also War and her sword can cut down anything and anyone that goes in her path. The power was addictive, but Missy must learn control else she is rid of her title and will be back in her room dying from cutting herself too deep.

It’s been a while since I last read Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler and I almost totally forgot about having its sequel, Rage in my Kindle. I enjoyed Hunger a lot, so I was looking forward to reading the next book about War even if I had to read the last few pages of Hunger first to remember what happened to Famine.

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. This line alone was an indicator of what kind of issue book Rage will be. Rage deals with self-mutilation, where the person deliberately injures themselves without any intent of suicide. I remember there were days the older sister of a friend was showing us how to cut out a name on her arm so the scars would form the word — a different kind of tattoo. It was kind of fascinating, but I was too chicken to really do it. That, and I don’t have any name to carve on my skin, anyway.

But that was the closest I got to seeing self-mutilation face to face. I’m ashamed to admit that this has become a little joke among my friends and I, especially when we talk about something sad or “emo” and we’d often make slash-wrist movements to emphasize the point. I realize now that that may not be the most sensitive thing to do after I read Rage, especially since self-mutilation is really no laughing matter.

I liked Rage. It was different from Hunger, mostly because of the main character. Missy is angry and sad and her reactions to things around her. The War persona fit her personality because she bore so many grudges. They weren’t senseless grudges, though — what happened to her was really bad, and it saddens me to think that it may happen or have already happened in real life. I couldn’t relate to Missy, but I really sympathized with her so bad and I wished the people around her would give her a break. The main issue was handled well enough that it gives the reader information on what it is about and why they do it, and how to find a way out of it, all creatively wrapped around the idea of what War can do not to bring war but peace. That being said, though, the fantasy elements took a bit of time getting used to and it took me a while to connect how War could be helpful instead of destructive. Nevertheless, it was still pretty cool and engaging.

Rage falls into the category of books that are important to read because of the issues it tackle. I really applaud the author for doing this, and I can’t wait to read about Pestilence (the book is entitled Loss, and the premise sounds awesome) and Death in the next installments of the Riders of the Apocalypse series.

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
All of Everything
The Book Smugglers

Reviews of other books in the series:
#1 Hunger

Faves of TwentyEleven: The Books

I remember making my own set of best-of lists for last year, but this year I don’t have that same gimmick, so I’ll ride on other bloggers’ gimmicks instead. Ha. Here’s my first post for the Faves of Twenty Eleven hosted by Nomes of inkcrush! :)

Day One: The Books

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