Event: The Cast Comics at Indieket 2014!

"Cast, the Comics Issue 12"

Cast Comics is back! And they’re bringing a very special cover of the long-awaited twelfth issue of their series to this Saturday’s Indieket!

Why is this a big deal? Because this variant cover won’t be available in bookstores or comic shops. Oh, and because it’s drawn by Harvey Tolibao, a superstar artist who has already done for Marvel titles!

Aside from this rare variant cover of Cast #12, Nautilus Comics will also launch the reprint of Arnold Arre’s Trip to Tagaytay, one of the best graphic novels that became hard to find as the years went on. Well, you don’t have to look any further–just drop by this Saturday at Indieket, at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig!

But don’t limit yourselves to the Nautilus titles when you get there. Bring extra cash. Discover new works and new worlds at this year’s Indieket!

Book: The Hangman’s Revolution (WARP, Book 2)

"The Hangman's Revolution"

Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent not known for obeying the rules, has arrived home after a time-trip to Victorian London where she helped an orphan boy named Riley escape his murderous master. Present-day London is very different from the one she left. England is being run by followers of a Colonel Box, who control the territory through intimidation and terror. Chevie is absorbed by this timeline and cannot remember fully the history she once belonged to. Though a part of her senses that something is wrong, she moves on with her life as a junior cadet in the Boxite police.

The day Chevie is ordered to confront Professor Charles Smart, the inventor of the time machine, she finds herself thrust back into the past. There, with the help of Riley and a few unlikely allies, she must venture into London’s catacombs and derail the plans of the charismatic leader who is intent on using his knowledge of the future to seize power.

I had such high hopes for this book. Seriously. Although the first book was, by any means, no Artemis Fowl, it was still entertaining. It was still a fun romp. This second book, on the other hand, had none of that fun. The stakes are raised, the consequences are harsher–and the few cheeky dialogue came off like an attempt at diffusing tension more than actual fun banter.

My main problem with it, I think, is the fact that author Eoin Colfer refused to tone down his humor despite of the story’s heavy theme. The Hangman’s Revolution talks of a future gone wrong because of one small change in the past. Our present becomes a dystopian future come early. And you can understand why Chevron would cling on to her acerbic tongue, but not the other characters. Not the villains, certainly.

I felt a disconnect. Instead of getting absorbed into the action, into the world, I felt displaced by the light tone given to the grim reality being presented. And I can’t help comparing this book to any of the latter releases from the Artemis Fowl series.

That series became more serious as the story progressed, but the characters kept their wits and their humor. And it felt organic, even during the times the characters were reset, memory-wiped, or meeting past selves. That’s because their humor came from the situation. The tone continued to be serious, and the dialogue can be taken seriously–but it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s situational comedy.

The Hangman’s Revolution‘s humor felt more like slapstick forced into a macho-action thriller. It was out of place. And that affected my overall enjoyment of the novel. And this saddens me. Because I like Chevron and Riley as characters. They have a tendency to be like Holly Short and Artemis Fowl, but they have enough personality of their own to not be a carbon copy.

I will still, however, keep my eye out on a possible third installment from the W.A.R.P. series. Because I believe that, with the time travel arc closed, we could start to have fun with just Chevron, a Native American girl from the future, being in Victorian London.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about The Hangman’s Revolution:
Dark Readers
Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books
Shelf of Melanie

Book: Una & Miguel

 

"Una & Miguel"

Una and Miguel are total opposites! He’s the village heartthrob, part of the good-looking ‘in’ crowd while Una is popular for the wrong reasons. She writes songs, plays the harmonica, wears a hemp anklet, and has equally eccentric friends–not at all the type of girl Miguel and his friends go for. They call her and her friends outcasts.

For these two, love is truly a long shot. But when they’re forced to work together as punishment for a prank-gone-wrong, they find that falling in love might not be impossible after all. Will opposites attract? Or will they repel?

I have a few questions of my own to add: Why was this book reprinted? Was there a serious need for a young adult romance novella back in 2012? And why did Adarna House think to reprint this particular title? Because, honestly speaking, Una & Miguel is not a very likeable book.

My main problem with the book, I think, lies with the fact that it isn’t timeless. The story of Una & Miguel feels very dated, even though the author updated the story with so many 2011/2012 pop culture references. And for a book with a universal theme of love and acceptance, feeling dated is quite the feat–and not in a good way.

Then there’s our main couple: we never get to know Una & Miguel enough to actually root for them. And during the time where we’re supposed to empathize with them, we don’t. I, personally, found it very hard to root for either one of the protagonists because they were so damn unlikeable. Both are hypocrites, wanting the best of both worlds–standing out and still being accepted. Still being popular.

And that sealed the book’s fate with me. I didn’t care for the characters, so I didn’t care how their story unfolded. And, if you read the book, it feels like the author doesn’t care all that much either. Because as soon as Una and Miguel admit their feelings for each other, the story ends.

We already know that story. So many books have written that story. What we want to know is what happens next, and what happens despite. Eleanor & Park told us why the boy straddling the line between being ‘in’ and being an outcast cannot be with the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. And yet it gave us a story worth falling for. Worth crying about. Alex Sanchez’s Getting It had a third non-love interest character play up the conflict about a guy trying to get the girl of his dreams. Heck, Tall Story was able to tell the same story better, and it was a story about siblings, and not a love story ripe with conflict.

So, once again, I ask: why reprint Una & Miguel?

I’m not trying to be a book snob. I love that local publishers are actually publishing books again. But why not push the boundaries? Go ahead, sell romance. But give us something new. Something we can proud of. Something that will say, hey, Filipinos can write fiction that’s just as good as the international titles–if not better.

So let’s quit with the Una & Miguels, the She’s Dating the Gangsters, and the Every Girl’s Guides. Let’s have more of the Roles, and Vince’s Life, and After Edens. Please.

Book: Landline

"Landline"

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply–but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her–Neal is always a little upset with Georgie–but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal int he past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

A friend asked me to tell him what I think of Landline as soon as I finish. Thing is, when I put the book down, I couldn’t quite decide if I think the book is as good as Rainbow Rowell’s earlier efforts–or if I’m just being buoyed by good will from her better books.

Yes, I said better books. Because now that I have slept on it, I’ve realized that Landline isn’t as good, or as emotionally-gripping, as Eleanor & Park, or Attachments… Even Fangirl, with its over-long narrative is better than Landline. Why? Because in those books, more than the falling in love, we also get glimpses of our protagonists’ lives outside the love story.

With Landline, we begin with the problem. Georgie and Neal are married, but she could tell that her marriage is falling apart. And then it does. And then we go through the motions of their courtship through flashbacks, and the gimmicky premise of having Georgie talk to Neal from nineteen years ago. And she falls in love again. Until she realizes the gravity of talking to someone from so long ago. The power she has to change his future–her present.

The premise isn’t new, but the protagonist’s stake in it, sort of, is. You are giving a woman, who knows that her marriage is not working out, the power to change that. To see if there could be a better future for both her husband and her. And I feel like the novel wasted that potential by… Well, I won’t spoil the book for you. It’s still a well-written novel, even though I ended up not being a fan.

Landline is for the romantics. If you do not care about the characters’ backgrounds beyond how it affects the central love story, then this is the book for you. This is no Eleanor & Park. There is no epic love story that propels to teenagers to defy all odds. This is no Attachments, where our male protagonist is caught in a moral dilemma of how he fell for the love interest. This is no Fangirl, where, besides the love story, you have your female protagonist debating between the lifestyle she has and the lifestyle she thinks she ought to have. Landline just is.

It’s a simple story of falling in love all over again. And it can be enough.

Just not for me.

Now, let’s see what other people are writing about Landline:
Books and Swoons
Angieville
prettybooks

Book: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

"The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line"

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappearance from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I’ve been looking for this book for ages! Okay, that’s an exaggeration: the book has only been out for a couple of months. But I was starting to lose hope that I’d find it here in the Philippines. So… Much thanks to National Bookstore in Quezon Avenue for stocking up on books that no one else has heard of… and books that should get more attention. Like this one.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is Veronica Mars’ debut on print form. I was a little scared at first, I admit. Novels based off television franchises tend to not match the show we loved watching. Thankfully, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas is also a novelist. And he’s co-writing the series of books that follow the events of Veronica Mars the movie. And the book is crackling with the wit and zingers that made me love the television series.

Mystery-wise, the novel follows the format that an episode of Veronica Mars would employ in delivering the clues, the twists, the red herrings, and etcetera. And this is one of the things I really loved while I was reading the book. Rob Thomas and co-writer Jennifer Graham didn’t go crazy with the story-telling just because they’re no longer limited by production budgets. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line will fit right as an episode of Veronica Mars the TV series because it didn’t go big–it went right back to what fans loved about the show: Veronica being Veronica.

Another things I would like to rave about in A Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is how the writers developed the father-daughter relationship that was central to the television series. How they act around each other felt like a natural progression of where the television series and the movie left off. Veronica’s relationship with friends Wallace and Mac also felt natural, and don’t feel in any way tacked on.

I do have a request though: I hope we get to meet some new people in Veronica’s life too. We meet a Stanford professor in this book, but what about classmates? Friends? Enemies? I would also like to see Duncan and Piz show up again. The former, just to see how much Veronica has grown as a person, and the latter, to help us fill in the missing years in Veronica’s life.

And lastly, and I might be alone in this, I loved how we didn’t have a lot of Logan. Although I preferred Veronica to end up with Piz, I’m not against the Veronica-Logan relationship. But their relationship also tend to take away from the drama of whatever mystery Veronica is solving when they’re together, so I’m glad that Logan took a backseat in this story. Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham are reestablishing the status quo, it’s nice to see that love–however epic–is not their first priority in a female-centric mystery series like this one.

Book: The Silkworm

"The Silkworm"

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel is published, it will ruin lives–so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

If I were to sum up my reaction to J.K. Rowling’s first novel as Robert Galbraith in one sentence, it would go something like: “the mystery is simple, but the characters and how the author writes them make the book an enjoyable read.”

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was expecting a more elaborate mystery in the follow-up novel. But I didn’t want it to be at the expense of the characters we grew to love in the first novel.

Strike and Robin made a great partnership in The Cuckoo’s Calling. But the same cannot be said for The Silkworm because author Rowling decided to put an obstacle between them that readers are not privy to until halfway through the novel. And that’s when their partnership reboots to where it was at the end of the first novel.

Until you get to that point, you have to struggle through a number of chapters where it’s just Strike trying to make sense of things–and Robin being relegated to just a secretary. A set-up that doesn’t work for the budding detective. And it doesn’t work for me, as a reader, too.

This is not to say The Silkworm is bad. If we were to rate it by Harry Potter books, this would rank between Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince. It is a good enough book, but it’s not going to be a favorite.

Heck, the mystery itself is a lot like the aforementioned Harry Potter books. In which the author has already given the main clue that would unravel the story from the get go. And it’s up to the readers to catch up on the supporting clues before the grand reveal in the end.

Unlike Harry Potter though, or the first Cormoran Strike novel, this installment is devoid of characters you would want to root for. Cormoran is at his hard-headed best, and Robin is mostly in a snitch throughout the novel. And this saddens me because their non-romantic relationship in the first novel was what made me want to pick up a second book.

I’ll still be picking up a third book, I’m sure. I just hope that, with the Cormoran-Robin relationship back to what it was at the end of the first novel, their characters would be growing forward and not going back to what it was when they first met.

Now, these are just my thoughts. Let’s check out what other netizens are saying about the book:
Dark Readers
Mugglenet
London24

Movie: The Fault in our Stars

"The Fault in our Stars"

Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them – and us – on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.” (C) Fox

I understand that The Fault in our Stars is a love story. I do. But the thing that sets it apart is not that it’s a love story between teens with Cancer. What sets it apart is that their love story helps them understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. That life will go on for the people who love them. This is why The Imperial Affliction plot thread was important, because it was a representation of their fears. But the only thing we got out of this very important plot thread was lip service.

The film version of The Fault in our Stars focuses on the love story between Augustus Waters and, our protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster. And, if I’m going to be honest, it’s not really any different from other doomed love stories. Boy meets Girl. They fall in love. But can’t be together because of ‘reasons.’ And yet they still get together anyway, making the most of the time they have together. And then one of them dies. The end.

Oh, come off it. That’s not a spoiler. They’re people with cancer. You know one of them is going to die.

Going back to my point: The Fault in our Stars distilled down to just romance isn’t special. Not for me. Because it was the relationships of this two star-crossed lovers to people other than each other that really made their love story special. Because they were learning from each other not to better themselves, but to be better people to those around them.

The source material deals with death. The book is brimming with death. Not explicitly, but we feel it with the way characters stop being mentioned. We feel it when one character loses his eyes. We feel it whenever Hazel Grace looks at her mother watching over her, caring for her, rushing to her if she so much as gasps out of air.

Yes, the film did take said scenes to the big screen version. But most of it was played to comic effect. The rest became merely words that needed to be said.

Unlike some people online, I don’t think John Green is infallible. Nor do I think that The Fault in our Stars is the be-all and end-all of books. But it was a book I recommended to people because of the fact that that it was a love story not just between boy and girl, but between the main characters and their family and friends too.

Because the book was bigger than just another love story.

Separate from the book, the movie was decent enough. But it’s not a good adaptation for me. I already had more, so I wasn’t going to expect less. I just hope that the film encourages people to read the book, for a better experience with The Fault in our Stars.