Hello 2011!

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Well, it’s 2011 in my side of the world, and I know some of you are already there too, while others are still waiting for the clock to strike midnight. But whatever time you get to read this, I hope you are having a splendid 2011 so far.

Now that I am done with my 10 for 2010 lists (and believe me, it was very hard to make those lists – fun, but very hard!), I can rest from choosing among the many, many books I’ve read last year and now focus on…the math. I know, why am I starting my new year with math?! But this is fun math, anyway, and it doesn’t require much complicated stuff, only statistics. :)

So, presenting, my reading stats for 2010:

Total books read: 118
Total pages read: 32,973*
Total print books: 50
Total ebooks:
* Includes 558 pages from The Message Bible

Written by male authors: 29*
Written by female authors: 94*
* Books written by a male and a female author (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Ilona Andrews) count twice

Reviews written: 114

5 stars – 24
4 stars – 47
3 stars – 33
2 stars – 13
1 star – 1

2010 Challenges Status:
118 out of 100 books read
20 out of 20 fantasy books read (I stopped counting after 20)
3 out of 10 classic books read (6, if you count C.S. Lewis’ books — are they considered as classics already? No? Okay)

TBR Challenge: 2 out of 12
Project 20:10: 16 out of 20
YA-D2: 5 out of 5 (but not all in my initial list was read)

Okay, that is enough numbers, I think. Overall, it is a very good year in reading, despite not having finished all my challenges. I mean, 118 books is already so many books read, and I know I’m not stopping anytime soon.

I know I won’t be doing a quantity challenge again for the 2011, because I think I’ve already proven that I can read a lot. Plus in the end, it’s not really the numbers, anyway, but the quality of books read, right?

I am pretty sure I will try to top my 3 classic books this year and try to make it to 4 or 5. I will also keep on reading as many local fiction possible, not only because I’m Filipino, but because I believe in our literature, and I want to be one of the reasons why Filipinos will keep on writing. I will probably try a genre specific challenge, or at least something that will help me get out of my reading comfort zones.

Like what I said, 2010 has been a great year in reading, and I’m sure a lot of people agree. :) Here’s to a greater reading year in 2011. *cheers*

P.S. I finally moved all my blogs under one domain, so, plugging my personal blog – tinamats.com . Non-book related posts and other life stuff will be here. Do join me every now and then. :)

tinamats.comP.P.S. Anniversary giveaway is still ongoing up to January 9, so keep the comments coming. :)

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 146
My copy: paperback from National Bookstore

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last-minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

* * *

I attended my godsister’s wedding yesterday, the second wedding I attended this year. I came out of my brother’s wedding last October relatively unscathed with questions about my own wedding, but this time around, I wasn’t so safe. For one thing, I was called for the bouquet toss even if I was trying to make myself scarce at that point (my godsister called me out). Then as we were saying goodbye to the newly weds and my godsister’s parents, they were all saying to me, “Don’t forget to invite us to your wedding.”

Sigh. Sure I won’t forget. I figure it would be less exasperating question if I was actually nearing the altar, but alas, I’m not.

That is probably what Carla in Mina V. Esguerra‘s latest novel, No Strings Attached, felt, especially when her friends started getting married and having a life very different from her own. It doesn’t help that the only remaining single in her group of friends was Tonio, the guy who likes to play the field. Carla is tired of being set up with stable banker types that she doesn’t really like, and at the same time, she doesn’t like how Tonio does it. Then she meets Dante, and things go from cold to sizzling hot between the two of them. The only catch is Dante is five years younger. Does she stay or does she go?

I’ve been hounding the bookstores ever since Mina announced in Twitter that her new book would be out soon, and I was giddy when I finally got my hands on it (boo on Eastwood stores for not having them in stock as fast as the other branches). This is another light and quick read from Mina, albeit a little different from her first two novels, My Imaginary Ex and Fairy Tale Fail. I can’t really pinpoint if it’s more serious or not, but it is certainly different. Like what Chachic said, the story focused not on how the love story unfolded, but on the complications of the relationships, especially to the people around Carla and Dante.

Mina shows how chick lit does not always have to deal with heroines finding their soul mates or wanting to get married. Sure, it has romance and there is the set-ups and talks of weddings, but No Strings Attached has a different kind of romance. It’s one that we don’t really get to see on movies or TV or read in any other books. I liked how No Strings Attached tackles a different kind of love story, one that I am pretty sure some Filipinas experience as well. I liked how Carla seemed like a very real person, and her friends offer enough contrast to her for the readers to see the different sides of the story without telling it to them in a long monologue of sorts from the heroine.

I can’t really relate to Carla’s predicament, but I do know I see myself in her best friend, Mary’s shoes. I don’t necessarily set my friends up with stable banker types, but I’d probably react the same way she did if I find out that some of my close friends are in a relationship similar to Carla’s. I’m not proud of it, but the good thing about books is some characters act as a mirror, and it helps me to realize or remember things about myself that I need to keep in check (or sometimes even get rid of) in order to be a loving friend.

It’s not my favorite Mina book (that slot still belongs to Fairy Tale Fail), but it’s another good local chick lit to be lost in for a couple of hours (or days, if you’re not a fast reader). I guess I don’t have to say that I am her fan now, but if it needs saying: if there’s a Mina Esguerra fans club, I am definitely in. ;)

Oh, an in case you were wondering, I didn’t catch the bouquet. :P

Rating: [rating=3]

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Undercover Tai Tai

Undercover Tai Tai by Maya O. Calica
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Number of pages:  224
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

Amanda Tay thinks she is losing her mind or starring in a surreal film by Stanley Kubrick.

You would be too if you’ve been knocked unconscious on your first date in 27 years only to awaken in a beautifully appointed apartment that looks like a page from Tatler Magazine.

Last time she checked, the film student-turned-book researcher was renting a tiny room in a flat, so what was she doing sprawled on a king-sized bed with 600-thread count bed sheets and a ponkan-sized bump on her head?

The Undercover Tai Tai is a hilarious journey of a young woman who, while pretending to be someone else, makes connections with her past and discovers parts of herself that she never thought existed.

* * *

Undercover Tai Tai is my first Maya O. Calica book, and I bought a copy as a thank you to her for giving us a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month. I have been wanting to read another one of the Asian chick lit novels republished by Anvil in the Philippines after I read Amazing Grace, so I thought it was just timely to get this, too.

Amanda Tay is a small, quiet girl who hates her job and her roommates, does capioera and dreams of something exciting to happen in her life. Her prayers get answered when she accidentally knocks CID Agent Brian out, and soon she finds herself as a new undercover agent mingling with Singapore’s rich and famous socialites to find out what really happened to tai tai Jasmine Kwong.

Undercover Tai Tai is a fun and surprising novel. Surprising, because I was expecting to read one of those typical chick lit stories where the heroine goes through one mishap after another to find herself, but instead I found something a little deviant of the usual chick lit formula. I like watching undercover movies and shows, so this book was a real treat for me because it appealed to the adventurous part of me that liked espionage. It’s fun, because even if the plot is highly unbelievable and requires suspension of disbelief, I thought it was well written and the mystery part of the story was kept well under wraps up until the end. The cast of characters added to the fun of it all, too. I am particularly fond of Agent Omni, who works on Amanda’s designer gadgets (such as diamond bracelets that has hidden surveillance cameras and binoculars) and doubles as her personal stylist as she goes undercover. Oh and let’s not forget Alexis, the crime fighting chihuahua. Gotta love it when there’s a dog involved in the story. ;)

Like I said, it’s a fun novel, and it was a good and quick in-between read. While I don’t hold it in the same regard as the other chick lit novels I liked this year, I thought it was still pretty good. If you’re looking for a usual chick lit novel you may want to skip this, but if you’re in for something a little bit different, then I suggest you pick this up and enjoy the ride. I am pretty sure Maya wrote this as her NaNoWriMo novel because Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo’s founder, is cited in the acknowledgments, and that explains all the craziness that happened in the story and, of course, the crime-fighting dog. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Girl Meets World

Girl Meets World by Claire Betita de Guzman
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 143
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

From the author of No Boyfriend Since Birth comes another modern-day romance that’s sure to tickle your funny bone—and touch your heart. Mia Tupas is your typical shy girl daunted by the idea of talking to strangers and content with a humdrum routine of shuttling between work and home. But right after a fortuneteller spies a man in her future, Mia meets Leo, and the two hit it off immediately. There’s just one problem: Leo lives in Bangkok, and Mia balks at the mere thought of getting on a plane—she’s never even been around the country!

Still, the possibility of romance is tantalizing, and Mia manages to keep in touch with Leo through e-mail. But when she finally works up the courage to fly to Bangkok and find out where she stands, she discovers that Leo has left for Bali on the very same day.

Will Mia get her much-awaited chance at love? Join her on this entertaining, cross-country quest through Bangkok, Bali, and Vietnam for the man who just might be The One.

* * *

I wasn’t very impressed with Claire Betita de Guzman’s first novel, No Boyfriend Since Birth. It was my first local chick lit read as a research for my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, and I ended up getting irritated at the heroine and the story because none of it felt real to me. When I saw that the same author has a new book out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it because of her debut. The excerpt seemed pretty interesting, but I didn’t know if it was a justifiable impulse buy.

I eventually gave in and bought it last weekend using some expiring National Bookstore GCs and read the book in a couple of hours. Girl Meets World is the story of Mia Tupas, a homebody who writes brochures for a local tourism company and is perfectly content with her routine life – home, office, with the occasional restaurant delivery meal every now and then. One day, she meets her colleague’s friend, Leo, and they have an instant connection. Egged on by a fortune teller, homebody Mia decides to go to Bangkok to visit Leo to see if he is indeed The One, and finds herself on a sudden trip to Southeast Asia, following the guy who may or may not be The One.

Altogether now: what is wrong with that picture?

The moment Mia decides that she’s going to Bangkok to visit Leo in the story, I immediately wanted to shake her. Okay, the going to Bangkok was forgivable, and no matter how much she denies it, I know she knows that her goal there was to talk to Leo…but when she goes to Bali, well…I wanted to smack her. The Mia from the excerpt was interesting, but as the story went on, I found her too romantic. Perhaps it’s my pride talking, but I think anyone would know that Mia running after a guy she only really bonded over through chat is not a good idea.

Girl Meets World is a typical chick lit with love as the main goal, and while it is better than No Boyfriend Since Birth, I feel that it still lacked on what other good chick lit stories have. Mia’s growth and realizations about herself felt unnatural and flat, almost like she was reading it off some book. The supporting characters were interesting, but their exposure was too little that I couldn’t really connect with them. I’m willing to suspend by belief over the sudden change of course in traveling, but the different situations Mia encountered in the different places she went to felt too forced that I can’t buy it. I know chick lit is supposed to be fluff and this one has a lot of it…but I think chick lit must also be substantial, and I think the book kind of failed in that aspect.

This book had a lot of similarities with Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering, which I really liked, so maybe that’s why I did not like how this book turned out so much. That, and maybe because I kind of have too high standards sometime. ^^ Girl Meets World isn’t a total waste of a read, so if you want to read something really light and fluffy, give this a try. Otherwise, go for something from Tara FT Sering, Marla Miniano or Mina Esguerra.

Rating: [rating=2]

Other Reviews:
Girl Next Cubicle

Never were they myth

Naermyth by Karen Francisco
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 304
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Never were they myth in the first place…

The world ended. It was not because of a comet, prophecy, natural disaster or whatever garbage foretold on the internet, but because every myth ever written turned out to be an account of historical fact. These monsters we’ve read about as children waged a war that lead to the human race’s downfall. And the unlucky who survived are hunted down or, worse, tortured.

In these dark times, people could only turn to the Shepherd for help. I am one such Shepherd and I thought my only task was to protect the few humans who still thrived on this desolate world. But when I rescued Dorian from Dwende captivity, I discovered that not only is he the most dangerous thing to have around, but he could be our one hope for redemption. I now find myself protecting a born killer, but in doing so, I’m turning my back on everything human.

* * *

I spotted Naermyth by Karen Francisco in Fully Booked by sheer accident. I was supposed to get The Giver by Lois Lowry when I felt like ambling over to the Filipiniana section of the store and then I saw the black and orange spine of the book. I thought it was just a new local comics or something but when I read the blurb, I was sold. Could it be? Local dystopian fantasy? This I have to read.

Naermyth is a word play on the phrase “never myth”, which is what the people used to describe creatures that caused the apocalypse after they attacked the human race. These are creatures from Philippine mythology that we have often watched or heard stories from as children — aswang, duwende, kapre, nuno sa punso, diwata, etc — that we thought were just that: myths. However, it turns out they were never myths at all, and they attacked defenseless humans, quickly wiping out civilizations and most of the population. The only remaining resistance against these creatures are the National Bureau of Conflict and Transport or the NaBuCAT, informally known as the Shepherds, who find remaining survivors and give them refuge against the Naermyth.

The story is set in the Philippines 5 years after the war between human and Naermyth started. We meet Athena “Aegis” Dizon, one of the best Shepherds on their way back to the Ruins after a rescue mission. Aegis is one of the best Shepherds in their NaBuCAT branch, but she is also one of the least affectionate and most brash among all of them, an issue that her brothers often tease her with. Aegis doesn’t mind, because she knows that if she wants to live in the world now, there is no room to be soft. On their way back to their headquarters after a particularly bad night with an aswang and a duwende in the morning, Aegis rescues Dorian, a mysterious man who has no memory of the last five years and no knowledge of the Naermyth at all. Aegis brings him to the headquarters, and despite her usually brash nature, she finds herself connected to Dorian in ways she could not explain. When they find out what Dorian is, Aegis goes against all she believed in as a Shepherd to protect him. As Dorian tries to find out about his past, Aegis finds out more about hers, and they uncover a conspiracy that could destroy everything they had worked for.

I think the best thing about Naermyth is its realistic world building. It’s often hard to get into dystopian fiction especially if the world is does not feel real, but Karen Francisco managed to create a very believable post-apocalyptic Philippines, making the different places in the country come alive as a setting. I liked how she used Ruins as a fortress from its bazaar status in the past, and how Makati is Naermyth territory because of how it used to be a swamp. It wasn’t contained in Manila, too, but in other provinces in the Philippines: Baguio is a dead spot for Naermyth because of its altitude, as is Pangasinan being the country’s salt center (salt was used as a weapon against aswang because it stops them from regenerating), while Capiz is obviously Naermyth headquarters. And it didn’t stop there, too, because it’s not post-apocalypse if it doesn’t involve the rest of the world, right? Other countries were also affected by the uprising of these creatures, but each country has their own kind of Naermyth based on their folklore. Norway has dragons, and yes, even the Loch Ness monster is alive. With all these elements securely in place, it’s easy to believe in the world that Aegis lives in, and I don’t get surprised when weirder creatures surface.

That being said, however, Naermyth suffers from attempting to cover so much ground in one book. Don’t get me wrong — I liked a good mystery, I liked conspiracies, I liked betrayals in my dystopian fiction. However, I felt a little bit overwhelmed with all the events happening…and then, that feeling would be abruptly interrupted with information overload, in the form of a dialogue. It seemed like some parts of the book were too much tell rather show, and even the encounter with the bad guy at the end felt more telling than showing. Also, while I liked Aegis as a heroine, I wasn’t sold on her past. I felt that it was opened up a little too late. If Aegis’ past was so important in the end, I didn’t feel it was stressed too much at the start since most of the focus was on her family and Dorian’s past. The romantic angle was kind of weak, too, and personally, I could have done without it. And if you would allow me to nitpick a bit — I was very distracted at how many synonyms of “said” were used. I’d like to believe that the characters don’t always roar or scream when they’re in a normal conversation. It is true what they said: replacing “said” a bit too many times in the text is very distracting.

I think Naermyth is the first of its kind that is not a graphic novel (correct me if I am wrong, though), and I think it’s a feat in itself. This book is a fulfillment of what some friends and I were wishing for a few months back: a fantasy novel written by a Filipino that makes use of the plethora of creatures from our own mythology. Despite my slight issue with the plot and the pacing and that little nitpick, I still enjoyed reading Naermyth. This is not YA, but I think YA dystopian fantasy fans will like this well enough. It’s a solid debut, and this book gives me hope that we will see more Filipino fantasy books on shelves (virtual or not) soon. It’s about time, don’t you think? :)

You can find more info on the book on the official website, and look, a book trailer!


Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Taking a Break