Book: Kick-Ass 3

"Kick-Ass 3"

Teenager David Lizewski loved comic books and superheroes. So why couldn’t he be the hero?

He tried. Lacking training and armed only with a pair of batons, Lizewski foolishly donned a costume of his own design and took to the streets to stop crime. His reward for taking on a gang of thugs? A trip to intensive care after he got his ass kicked.

But after intense training from the black belt tween prodigy Hit-Girl, David became the hero known as Kick-Ass. And Kick-Ass went viral in the public consciousness. Overnight, seemingly everyone wanted to be a superhero.

And of course, every superhero needs and archenemy. Chris Genovese, mafia son and the super-villain known as Red Mist, raised an army and tried to raze New York’s Times Square. Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl took them down…barely. But there were consequences: Superheroes were outlawed and Hit-Girl went to prison.

Now Dave must step up and lead the superhero team known as Justice Forever, just as a major threat appears on the horizon. Rocco Genovese, an old-school don whose weapon of choice is a golden pickaxe. He’s got 99 kill-notches on that axe. And he’s saving the 100th notch for someone very special.

I thought I was going to be able to predict the ending… I thought wrong. For a grim and gritty comic book series about the pratfalls of being a superhero in the real world, the series sure ended on a whimsical note. Not that I’m complaining. I like that the series ended on hope, even if not all the characters we’ve grown to know survived to the end.

But isn’t that what Kick-Ass has been about since it started? Superhero stories make it seem like everything will always be all right in the end. Even when the odds are obviously not in the hero’s favor. I mean, just take a look at the Superior Spider-Man title. Peter Parker died. Doctor Octopus took over his life. Thirty odd issues later and Peter’s back in his body, and the whole thing is about to get swept under a rug. So long as people need superheroes, they will always prevail. They will always get back up from their graves. Or, if they’re a DC title, they get rebooted for the nth time.

The best thing about Kick-Ass is that his creators, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., granted him something no other superheroes have: an expiration date. David Lizewski gets an actual ending. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why Kick-Ass will live on in fans’ hearts as a great work. Because the plots didn’t need stretching. Because the characters were allowed to grow, and to keep growing until they reached their natural end. And because no weird subplot had to be introduced just to keep the title alive.

There really isn’t a lot to say about Kick-Ass’s final foray into superheroics. It kicked ass. Spectacularly. And I will remember it fondly.

Book: Dwellers

"Dwellers"

Rule No. 1: You don’t kill the body you inhabit. Rule No. 2: You should never again mention your previous name. Rule No. 3: You don’t ever talk about your previous life. Ever.

Two young men with the power to take over another body inhabit the bodies and lives of brothers Jonah and Louis. The takeover leads to a car crash, injuring Jonah’s legs and forcing them to stay in the brothers’ house for the time being.

The street is quiet. The neighbors aren’t nosy. Everything is okay.

They are safe, for now.

Until they find a dead body in the basement.

Exciting. That was what I thought when I read the back synopsis. And, well, reading the book was an emotional roller-coaster for me. And not in a good way.

The first few chapters bored me. I understand the need to pace the readers for the mythology of body swapping in a Philippine setting, but I couldn’t stand the main character. He was bordering on whiny, and his woe-is-me act took the pages that should’ve been given to universe-building. And it’s not like I’m looking for an explanation for the ability to swap bodies. I’ve read Every Day. I liked Every Day. What I needed was investment. I needed to invest on the main character, and I couldn’t do it. I preferred the other guy. The quiet one. The one who did things. I probably would’ve liked this book better had it been told from the other guy’s perspective.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

From being bored at the start, I became curious as to what was up with the dead body. A positive change. This was the book’s promise. The premise. To hell with the lack of emotional pull, the mystery might be enough. Except, it’s not. The detective work was done by the other guy, not the main character. Because our main character is stuck in a wheelchair. Yes, he’s in a wheelchair. And it’s one of the main reasons why he can’t be on the move. And while I understand the need for the character to feel trapped, as a reader, I didn’t want to be trapped with him.

I was promised a mystery, and I was getting a whiny narration about being trapped in something I had no control over.

And then, suddenly, there were spells. And there was an extensive back story that, I felt, wasn’t really needed except to push the plot along, to give a sense of urgency to a meandering storyline that was clearly going to end soon.

Curiosity became annoyance. I was annoyed at the digression. I didn’t care for the past lives. It didn’t feel important. It felt tacked on. It was taking time away from what was more important. The dead body. The mystery. And, then, finally, the digression was done. We were back to the main storyline. And from being annoyed, I just became angry.

The mystery wasn’t solved. It was cut. The answers were given without further ado, just so the whole thing can be wrapped up. It felt like an episode of Scooby Doo, except, without the fun factor.

I felt gypped.

And while I think I understood the exercise in futility and the feeling of entrapment, which might be the book’s themes–I still finished that book with a feeling of disgust. The book did not deliver on its promise. The book did not live up to Project 17.

I seem to be the only one who wasn’t a fan though. The Last Girl, in her very short reaction, liked the book enough to gush about it. And Good Reads users have rated the book 3.91 stars out of 5. So this could just be me.

Book: Horns

"Horns"

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician, the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star. Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more–he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone–raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances–and Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed of horns, and a terrible new power–he can hear people’s deepest, darkest secrets–to go with his terrible new look. He means to use it to find whoever killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. It’s… It’s more than I expected. And I already had expectations, after reading the equally astounding N0S4A2.

Knowing Joe Hill’s background, I always assumed I wouldn’t like his works. See, while I respect Stephen King and I love his premises, I was never a fan of his writing. I don’t know why. So when I picked up N0S4A2 before, it was with trepidation. After all, Joe Hill was being hailed as someone who is carrying on his father’s legacy. I was wary. But I ended up liking his style of writing. Horns, my second foray into Joe Hill’s world of horrors, cements the fact that he is not like his father at all.

Yes, he has Stephen King’s knack for creating a mythology so complete that anything that happens within the story is unquestionable. But in their handling of words, I would lean to Hill as being the more accessible one. Maybe because he has a younger voice, and has a better hold on how readers now take in words. But that can’t be true, right? After all, Stephen King continues to be widely read. More widely read than his son, if you think about it. But this is a topic that’s separate from Horns, and this is a post about said book, so let’s get on with the discussion.

Horns is a book of ironies: the devil performs miracles, while the good guy is awarded horns. And what I like about the book is that it plays with these ironies, it explores these characters, and we are not spoon-fed information about why something is happening. Things happen. Shit happens. And everything is taken in stride. The story is messy. Realistically messy. Nothing feels preordained, even when you think you know where the story is finally going.

I loved how Hill presented Ig as someone who doesn’t see himself as a good guy. He is presented as the most hated man in their community. And yet, as we get to know him, page by page, we decide for ourselves who Ig really is. That he isn’t the devil he’s being painted out to be.

And I love how Hill tackles the idea of people doing things that aren’t the things they want to do; that their innermost voice can say vicious things while presenting a virtuous front. It’s the idea of identity, and how we consciously shape how other people see us. And what happens when that ability, to create our own identity, is taken away from us.

Horns tells the story of Ig, but at one point in life or another, Ig has been us. Subjected to judgment by the court of public opinions. Given a verdict without the proper trial. And all we can do is to keep on keeping on. To live our lives despite what other people are saying. To give the effect of not being affected, while doing our best to set things right–to set us right.

Horns is a study of people at their most base form: as creatures who want to be liked.

Suffice to say, I loved the book and I think people who share my taste would too. If you find yourself agreeing with most of my reviews here at the blog, then this book is probably for you too.

But, if you need more opinions, then why not check these blogs out:
The Write Place
The Horror Hotel
Empires and Mangers

Book: Magkabilang Mundo

"Magkabilang Mundo"

The book didn’t come with a synopsis, just a scene excerpt at the back. An excerpt I should’ve read, so I could’ve had a little warning at the horrors waiting for me between the pages.

No, the story isn’t scary. The writing is. And I know I shouldn’t judge the book harshly, as it was written by someone who just wants to write, but this was an actual published book. The least the publisher could’ve done was to clean it up. It’s a thankless job, but hey, someone has to do it. You don’t just publish something just because it’s popular online.

This is the first Wattpad novel I’ve read outside of Summit Books’ Pop Fiction line. Seeing as I was already having problems with how Pop Fiction was hacking into the Wattpad novels and publishing less than stellar books, I thought I should look into other publishers to see if they were doing things differently. Based solely on Magkabilang Mundo, Summit Books has a leg up in the competition.

Magkabilang Mundo, or Opposite Worlds, tell the story of star-crossed lovers who transcend death and reincarnation to find their way back into each other. It’s a solid plot for a romance novel, but the execution leaves much to be desired. None of the characters are likeable, and the writer can’t seem to decide whether he (or she) is writing a love story, or a horror novel. How so? His main female protagonist alternates between a lovesick ghost, and a malevolent one hellbent on driving away the people who live in the house haunts. It’s a characteristic you can marry together, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t have been surprised if the book ended up saying there were two different ghosts in the house. The character was that disjointed.

And, to be fair to publisher Lovelink, I don’t think Magkabilang Mundo is something an editor could salvage without demanding major rewrites from the author. This isn’t like Pop Fiction’s The Bet which just needed some tweaking and expanding, but was pretty much okay for a non-professional writer’s work. Or He’s Dating the Ice Princess which would’ve worked with a few cuts, and some rearranging of events. Magkabilang Mundo is a mess of a story because the writer doesn’t really know who his main characters are. Half the book is told from the point of view of peripheral characters who end up not really doing anything except provide fake tension!

So I go back to blaming Lovelink. What made them think that this book was worth publishing?

Yes, I would like for more Filipinos to read books. Yes, these new generation of published works are generating more readers. But why can’t we provide something that wouldn’t turn them off from reading? Pop Fiction books make me want to strangle someone, but I can see the potential. This one just makes me want to strangle someone and stop buying local books altogether. And I’m not just being haughty and elitist here. Magkabilang Mundo is hard to read, not because it’s in Filipino, but because it meshes words that no one really uses anymore with expressions that are very, well, crudely 2013. Nothing jives.

I’m fine with Magkabilang Mundo existing online. I swear. If it gets read, then well and good. But I feel offended that it’s been mass-produced and given a prominent place in bookstores, when books like Karen Francisco’s Naermyth, Eliza Victoria’s Project 17, Edgar Samar’s Janus Silang, all of these better (and just as accessible) books, have been relegated to the back of stores. Heck, a Precious Pages book is easier to read than this. More enjoyable too.

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