Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards 2014 Finalists

Originally posted on Filipino ReaderCon:

So that was an exciting voting period, don’t you think? A record-breaking one, too, because we hit 30,000+ responses which is more than 3x last year. (This means we’ll be aiming for 3x of that next year — can we hit 100,000 votes for FRCA 2015? Why not? :D)

Thank you to all who nominated, voted, and told their friends (and random strangers!) to vote. The FRCA committee really got overwhelmed with all your support! Thank you for your patience, too, as you waited for us to post, and to update and to answer your inquiries.

Yes, this is me stalling a little bit. But if you were in the ReaderCon kick-off event at the Manila International Book Fair, then this shouldn’t be really new to you, right? =)

On to the finalists for this year’s Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards!

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Book: The Rule of Thoughts

"The Rule of Thoughts"

Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life–and the world–completely upside down.

He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine–and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. Unfortunately, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than anyone anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears.

Kaine is a Tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality.

The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring Tangent minds. And the takeover has already begun.

But the VNS would rather pretend that the world is perfectly safe. So it’s up to Michael and his friends to root out Kaine and stop him before, one person at a time, humanity falls prey to artificial intelligence and its sinister desire to run our world.

This book was, quite frankly, a disappointment. And it didn’t help that I picked this book up after reading the hold-on-to-your-seat romp of The Revenge of Seven. Compared to the most recent book from the Lorien Legacies series, the cyber thriller promised by the premise of The Rule of Thoughts felt laid back and lackluster.

I can’t help but wonder what happened to Dashner in between his series of novels. The Maze Runner trilogy had a wonderful sense of action and adventure, while treading the tricky balance of drama and that always present coming-of-age theme of a young adult book. In comparison, The Eye of Minds felt like a retread of The Maze Runner–up until the last part of the book when we are promised a new exciting world to play in. A promise that was not realized by The Rule of Thoughts.

Whatever menace main villain Klaine had in the first book completely disappears in this mess of a sequel. You can barely feel his presence in this book, and that takes a whole lot away from the urgency of what our heroes are supposed to do. And I feel it’s because Dashner decided, midway into writing this installment, that Klaine isn’t the ultimate be-all and end-all of villains. He wanted to insert the thought that maybe there’s another evil out there, one that isn’t as starkly malevolent.

Which is probably why Klaine transformed from the slightly scary villain of the first book, into a caricature of one in this book. And no, pointing it out in book doesn’t make it seem like the author knew it was going there all along. The Klaine we have in this book is definitely not the Klaine we met in the first book.

And then there are our characters. Michael, Sarah, and Bryson might be awesome hackers, but they are terrible people. Because Sarah’s parents get abducted, and the first thing they think to do is to chase after Klaine without any clue how to do so. Yes, they would rather go on a wild goose chase than try to get help.

Yes, I understand that Michael wouldn’t be able to help. I did read the book. But Sarah? Gambling her parents’ safety, after seeing all that blood? It made her unsympathetic. And seeing as she was the only one that really makes you care about our three main characters, it really made me lose any good will I had for the book.

Reading The Rule of Thoughts became a chore. And seeing as books like this is supposed to be a form of entertainment… Well, a chore is a bad thing to be.

But who knows? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way. Maybe other people liked the book. Why don’t we check out what other people are saying about The Rule of Thoughts:
Kirkus Reviews
Alice Marvels

Book: The Revenge of Seven

"The Revenge of Seven"

They will not rest until we are dead. They will not stop until your planet is theirs.

We are all that stands in their way. We know secrets they thought hidden. We have power they never expected.

The time has come for them to fall.

I would say the I Am Number Four series of books is my guilty pleasure, but you don’t really admit to a guilty pleasure, do you? Unless you’re anonymous, but in this case, I’m not. So I will proclaim that– Yes, I enjoy reading the I Am Number Four series, and I really, really had a wild ride reading its latest installment, The Revenge of Seven.

You know what the best part of this books are? It’s that their fast reads. You don’t need a whole lot of time to absorb what you’re reading, things just happen: action upon action, reaction upon reaction– I’ve said it before, the I Am Number Four series is the book equivalent of a movie blockbuster–and, hey, it’s released during the American Summer season too.

Now, I’m not throwing shade at the book. The Revenge of Seven is unapologetic in being fluff. Sure, we get introspection about forgiveness and redemption, but let’s be real; these books are all about the forward momentum. The quiet moments are few and far in between, and before you know it, you’ve already devoured the whole book.

And then comes the one thing I really don’t like about this series: the wait. Because I don’t need the time to contemplate on the things happening, I go through the whole thing in a flash, and I’m already wanting to read what happens next. I already want to get my hands on the next book.

I want this series to end so bad. Just because I really, really want to know what happens in the end.

But wait, I must.

In the meantime, let’s check out what other people are saying about the book:
My Book Musings
Lunch Break Adventures

Book: Call Me Irresistible

"Call Me Irresistible"

Meg knows that breaking up her best friend’s wedding is the right thing to do, but no one else agrees. Faster than Lucy can say “I don’t,” Meg’s the most hated woman in town–and stuck there with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, without her famous parents watching her back, Meg believes she can survive by her own wits. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll lose her heart to Mr. Irresistible?

Not likely. Not likely at all.

Reading a romance novel written by a female author, you see where male romance writers usually get the romance wrong. The latter makes it a point to make their romances dreamy, ideal…perfect. Women writers like to deal with the mess of true love–and that’s why, I think, they’re the better writers. Because they understand that a love story doesn’t end with the realization of true love, it ends when your lead characters have realized exactly why they can’t be together–and yet work things out in a way that they still end up with each other.

It’s always a little clean-cut by the time the novel ends, but if it’s written well, you wouldn’t really mind. And in the case of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Call Me Irresistible, you wouldn’t even notice.

I don’t really read a lot of romance novels anymore. The recent ones I remember are from Rainbow Rowell, Jude Deveraux, and Nicholas Sparks. Rowell’s Landline failed to impress me as much as her other works, and I would say the same for Deveraux. As for Sparks… Well, I haven’t been impressed with his works for a long time. Guy likes to cop out on his premise.

Reading a romance novels means I’m in the mood to escape reality totally, and to surrender my imagination to the (always) quirky world that these books usually contain. It also means that I can be overly critical when I don’t get absorbed by the book. I’m happy to report that I have no critiques for Phillip’s Call Me Irresistible. I’d even go as far as to say that this is the most fun I’ve had reading something that isn’t young adult for quite a while.

I couldn’t put the book down.

The banter between the main characters is fun, and the development of their love story doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural that the most beloved man in town would find an unlikely confidant with the girl most reviled by his adoring constituents. (Oh, yeah, I forgot to say, Mr. Irresistible is the town mayor.) And, eventually, it feels natural that said confidence would bloom into romance.

Although, I must say, I wasn’t really a fan of the sex scenes. We can argue that it’s important in the development of both characters, that it’s a feminist approach in reclaiming sex as a power that both woman and man can hold–but, I felt that the author could’ve found a different way to push the relationship between Meg and Ted closer, so that it would fall apart.

But that’s just me.

Here’s what other people have to say about the book:
Dear Author
A Romance Review
The Washington Post

Book: Mga Tala sa Dagat

"Mga Tala sa Dagat"

Isang pag-iibigan ang nabuo sa pagitan ng prinsesa at ng isang mangingisda. Isang bata ang kailangan isuko ang paglalaro at pag-aaral, alang-alang sa pagiging pinakamahusay na mangingisda ng bayan. Nauugnay ang lahat ng ito sa isang pangako, isang pangako tungkol sa higanteng-dagat na may dala-dalang mga tala.

Translated, the synopsis reads as follows: “Love blooms between a princess and a fisherman. A child sacrifices his childhood to become the best fisherman in town. And all three of them are beholden to a promise: their promise to the giant of the sea, the one who holds the stars.

Annette Acacio Flores’s story is a haunting love story between a child and his parents, as much as it is about the sea-giant who doesn’t really become a part of the story until much later. I haven’t read the original text, but Nanoy Rafael’s translation of Mga Tala sa Dagat is a beautiful telling that really touches the heart.

To those who are thinking of picking this book up, a warning: the narrative is not linear. To tell the story effectively, Flores (and Rafael, in his translation) weaves her love story through time–with mostly the same characters–to effectively strengthen the characeterizations, and to make an already likeable character, a hero amongst his contemporaries, into an even more tragic figure.

Also, Mga Tala sa Dagat is not a children’s book, but it’s something you can read with children. The story deals with themes of responsibility, personal and social, and the importance of happiness in life. Lessons that, goodness knows, children need nowadays.

And for those who doesn’t want to pick the book up– I won’t question your taste, but I implore you to just give the book a try.

Because in Mga Tala sa Dagat, I found the book I’ll be nominating for the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards next year.

Which reminds me– Voting for this year’s Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards is still open. Do check out the nominees at the Filipino Readers’ Choice website and vote!

Book: Assassin’s Code

"Assassin's Code"

When Joe Ledger and Echo Team rescue a group of American college kids held hostage in Iran, the Iranian government asks them to help find six nuclear bombs planted in the Mideast oil fields. These stolen WMDs will lead Joe and Echo Team into hidden vaults of forbidden knowledge, mass murder, betrayal, and a brotherhood of genetically engineered killers with a thirst for blood. Accompanied by the beautiful assassin called Violin, Joe follows a series of clues to find the Book of Shadows, which contains a horrifying truth that threatens to shatter his entire worldview. They say the truth will set you free… Not this time. The secrets of the assassin’s code could set the world ablaze.

I picked up Assassin’s Code because it was the fourth book off the Joe Ledger series of books. Which is a good thing. Because I don’t think I would’ve picked this book up based on the above synopsis.

Then again, out of the four Joe Ledger books I’ve read, I think this one is the weakest off the bunch. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not up to par with his other books. Especially not with the Rot & Ruin series. After four adventures, I think I’m starting to feel some fatigue for the shenanigans that Joe Ledger and his Echo Team keeps getting into.

Or maybe it’s just this book.

Unlike in other Joe Ledger books, author Jonathan Maberry’s pacing for this story seems off. Maybe because there are way too many things going on, too many characters need to process things, too many plot threads are let loose in the wind. The result? Chaos.

Ultimately, when you read the book, that seems to be the intent. But for a reader looking for a break from real life? Chaos needs to be reigned in. Doled out in small doses. Chaos needs a little order, to be easier to take it in. And that’s what I found lacking in Assassin’s Code. Order.

I think it became harder to read when the book reached its second part. When the interludes began? I didn’t need the backgrounder. And, spoiler alert, the interludes are spelt out in the end. So there really wasn’t a point in writing the interludes.

And don’t get me started on the fake chapter enders. Where characters would discover something important–but it wouldn’t be revealed to the reader. It was frustrating. More than pushing me to move on to the next chapter, I kept having to put down the book to remind myself that it would be worth it in the end.

But was it?

I don’t know. On the one hand, I didn’t find the book bad. As I already mentioned before. It’s not bad. It’s just not as good. And when you’ve already shown readers how good you can be… Well, let’s just say I would be a little more wary when I pick up the next book off the Joe Ledger series.

Book: “Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults”

"Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults"

Perhaps the first of its kind released in the Philippines, Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults was conceived solely with the Filipino young adult reader in mind, with stories taht explore the concerns and fears of today’s youth through the lens of horror written by new and experienced authors.

Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults is the first of a series of anthologies covering science fiction, fantasy, and other genres, presented by award-winning editors Dean Francis Alfar and Kenneth Yu.

I found this gem of a book at the Quezon Avenue branch of National Bookstore. I must say, I love how this particular bookstore display their Filipino literature prominently alongside their imported counterparts.

That aside…aside, Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults is a breath of fresh air from the anthologies I’ve read in the past. Not that I’m dissing the other anthologies. It’s just that, I found this collection easier to read. It’s friendlier to casual readers.

My favorite story off this bunch is “Mommy Agnes” because of its twist. No, I’m not talking about the Shyamalan reveal. I’m pertaining to the dramatic twist at the end, which I totally did not expect this being a horror collection. It was well done. Subtle and not overly dramatic. Not very Filipino, come to think of it.

And if I picked the one I liked best, I have to pick one I liked least too–and that has to be “Eat Me.” Let’s just say it’s a matter of preferences, because I can’t really say anything bad about the short story. I just don’t like it.

What I love most about this collection though is the fact that it doesn’t try to explain its existence. It’s a book of horror stories for readers. Sure it says its Filipino Fiction, but it really doesn’t matter what nationality you are when you’re reading the stories. They are what they are. And no matter who you are, or where you are, some of this stories will spook you out of your seats.

But, of course, I cannot end this post without shamelessly plugging my other blog: Filipino Scares. If you’re into horror stories, do check my stories out!