Book: Tabi Po, Isyu 2

"Tabi Po, Isyu 2"

When I read Tabi Po the first time, I was amazed by the art that I didn’t really give the story a lot of thought. The story entertained me, and made me think–and that was enough because the drawing and the colors evoked emotions–and horror–splendidly.

But I don’t think it will be fair for the second issue of Tabi Po for me to continue waxing poetics about the art. Especially since this time, we finally see that the story does plan on going somewhere; and the destination looks good.

In “Isyu 2” of the series, we don’t immediately start with Elias–the main character we met in the previous issue. Instead, we are introduced to a different monster; a monster familiar to a lot of people, whether they believe in the supernatural or not. And, for the first time, we get to see Elias as something other than just an Aswang.

Elias continues to be a monster, but he is not THE monster in this story. That role falls to new characters who are a little familiar to anyone who has had to read Jose Rizal’s works: Pade Damaso, Padre Salvi, and even Quiroga. Characters from Noli Me Tangere.

Now, I don’t know what writer/artist Malonzo’s reasons were in deciding to use these characters, but it does ground the story in a very specific timeline–with a very specific political air. And putting the three Aswang we got to know in the first issue smack dab into a familiar tale, is very intriguing for me. Especially since they’re starting to have different views on how they should survive–without turning their backs to who they really are.

I am definitely very curious to see where Malonzo takes this story from here, but I’m sure that the road there will be very interesting.

Book: Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang

"Si Janus SIlang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang"

Apat na buwan na si Janus sa mansiyon nina Manong Joey sa Angono, pero naroon pa rin ang sakit ng dilang-karayom ng manananggal sa puso niya dahil sa pagkawala ng mga mahal sa buhay at sapilitang paglayo kay Mica.

Sumula ng Christmas break nang mawasak ang proteksiyon ng mansiyon laban sa Tiyanak at sa mga kampon nito. Matinding barang ba ito? Nawawala rin si Mira, ang isa sa kambal na baganing kasing-edad ni Janus at inampon din nina Manong Joey. Ipinagtapat naman ni Renzo kay Janus ang matagal na palang sinusundan ni Manong Isyo: bumalik sa mapa ng utak ng dalawang manong ang brain imprint ng Papa ni Janus at maaaring buhay pa pala ito!

If you don’t understand the Tagalog synopsis, it goes like this: time has passed since the events of the first book. Janus has already spent four months in Manong Joey’s mansion in Angono, but he can still feel the needle-tongue of a manananggal that was left in his heart by the loss of his loved ones and by him abandoning Mica. During the Christmas break, the protection around the mansion has been breached–and no one can explain why. Mira, one-half of the twins who are waiting for their powers to develop, has disappeared. And Janus finds out from Renzo that their elders are investigating the possibility that Janus’s father is still alive.

And now, the verdict:

Book 2 of Janus Silang is still very bottom-heavy. It took me three days to get through the first half of the book, and less than an hour to finish the last third. But unlike the first book where the bottom-heaviness could be fixed by a rearrangement of events that doesn’t change the plot structure at all, I don’t really know how to improve the second book.

Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang has a very solid plot structure. It makes sense why certain things happen when they happen. And although I disagree with some of the actions made by the main character, I can’t fault the reasons behind why Janus does what he does. My problem with the book actually stems from the digressions.

Teacher Cris, of the Teacher’s Pet blog, commented on my post for the first book about how the attention to detail contributes to the twist in the plot. And I agree to a certain extent. But I don’t think the same can be said for the digressions in this book.

Yes, certain events need to be set up. Yes, we need to learn more about the histories and background of familiar creatures because they are being remade into something different from what they were. But the digressions feel disjointed for me. Mostly because we are presented with pressing dangers, our characters are rightly alarmed, and yet none of them are acting like there is an emergency. They’re all so relaxed. That is, until the last third of the book, when the action finally picks up–and the exposition no longer feels like digressions, and flow organically from what is happening in the present.

I’m on the fence about this book. Unlike the first book that’s teeming with potential, Book 2 feels like a retread on a formula that was already problematic the first time. Which is a shame. Because, more than a year later, the first Janus Silang book is still the best local young adult novel I’ve read. And I was really looking forward to this one being better than the first book because we need less set-up than before. And yet…

And yet I will still pick up the third book when it comes out. Because I have to admit that I have higher expectations for Janus Silang than I do for other local published works. Because there is potential here. Because, although I am not completely in love with the second book, I can still say with confidence that this is better and more original than a lot of imported young adult series that I’ve been reading. And because I look up to the author in real life, and I believe he can churn out something better than this.

So I continue to look forward to the next book. And I’m crossing my fingers that the next book will, indeed, be better than the first two books in the Janus Silang series.

Book: Royal Wedding, a Princess Diaries Novel

"Royal Wedding"

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity: living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend, Michael, managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course, Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: her grandmother has leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone–especially herself–that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

I picked this book up because this is the end of the Princess Diaries story that I sort-of grew up with. Which makes it embarrassing for me to admit now that I, apparently, only read the first three books of the series. The rest of my Princess Diaries knowledge comes from the Disney adaptation that the series of novels actually make fun of.

Fortunately, Meg Cabot has always this knack of drawing you into the action even without prior knowledge of what has happened before. Her characters, Mia more than the others, have a very distinct sense of the now that you can’t help but be caught up in what is happening rather than what has happened before. That’s why it’s easy to pick up where the last book left off. Doubly easy, I think, because Cabot offers a little refresher at the start, seeing as it has been years since she last wrote a Princess Diaries book. Maybe she was reminding herself of what had happened as well.

Cabot weaves in a child-like maturity into Mia in this final installment of her series. A reflection of her journey, and that of the readers who grew up reading her books. Out of Cabot’s characters, it’s always been Mia who spoke clearly to the Tumblr generation. My generation. And it’s satisfying to see, to read, that Mia hasn’t changed who she is. Yes, she’s older. Yes, she’s more responsible. But she’s still the same Mia. She didn’t suddenly turn into a Kate Middleton or someone along the likes of. And that makes me, and I’m guessing a few other readers, feel better, because it makes Mia more like a real person.

It makes Mia continue to reflect who we are as a generation. The ones who are working our asses off to better ourselves, to do better for our community–and not always succeeding. Mia is an inspiration. That even fictional princesses don’t get to sail smoothly into the horizon. Although, and I don’t know if this requires a spoiler alert, we all know she’s going to get her happily-ever-after sooner or later.

Royal Wedding, much like the other books in the Princess Diaries series, is a book that makes you feel good about yourself. Finishing this book, all I could think of after was that we need more books like this again. Books that will tell a new generation of readers that it’s okay to fail–so long as you pick yourself up and do better next time. That you should never give up. And that while you maybe the star of your own story, you shouldn’t forget that your supporting characters are the main characters of their own stories too.

I don’t know if that makes as much sense to you as it does to me. But that’s the best I can do.

Most Princess Diaries fans would’ve already read this book. If you’re new to the series, you might want to pick up the first couple of books before diving into this one. If you’re not a fan… Well, there’s nothing here that will change your mind.

Book: Displaced


When Elay’s
to pack her bags,
board the airplane,
and fly back
to Manila,

Elay’s glorious hours of

The harder she struggled
to return to how things were,

the greater the forces
that took her farther.

Displaced is a little unconventional as coming-of-age novels go. For one thing, the story is told through poetry– A genius move, in my opinion, that’s also very frustrating.

Poetry is a genre that leaves a lot to reader interpretation. Each line cut, each extra space, has a meaning to the writer that may not mean the same for the reader. Which is why I think it’s genius that author Aneka Rodriguez uses this medium to tell her story of adolescence–that confusing point in time when every little thing can make or break relationships.

We all have our own set of experiences when it comes to growing up, to falling in love; we all have different relationships with our parents, with our guardians, and with the families we chose to surround ourselves with. And Displaced tries to capture our feelings as it tries to tell its story. Especially when you read it out loud. Every change in how you pause, in how you cut off every line– It tells a different story each time.

Which brings me to my frustration.

Displaced is the story of every one told through the story of one person. Although I feel that the format is genius, it doesn’t change the fact that the story itself isn’t special. It relies too much on how you read it to make it something more than what it is.

The thing is, I don’t know what else one can do to make this novel something more than just a novelty. The premise is sound, but not special. And I’m left with a dilemma where I don’t want to put down a good book–but I don’t know how to promote it because, aside from the poetry, there’s really nothing to make it stand out from other releases.

But here’s where you can help.

There’s a comment section below. If you’ve read this book, tell me (and the others who have stumbled upon this blog) why Displaced is a must-read. What other things, aside from its form, sets it apart? Let’s have a discussion.

Book: Doctor Who and The Blood Cell

"The Blood Cell"

An asteroid in the farthest reaches of space–the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the cruellest murderers, so he’s not impressed by the arrival of the man they’re calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

But when the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape, and keeps trying, the Governor sets out to find out why. Who is the Doctor and what’s he really doing here? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers…

I haven’t read many Doctor Who novel tie-ins, but the ones that I have read haven’t really been all that memorable. Still, I picked this book up because it was one that starred the Twelfth Doctor, the latest incarnation of our titular character. You see, I wasn’t really happy with the stories since he came into the picture, and I felt like this latest version of the Doctor was getting short-changed. I figured, if I still didn’t like him in book form–then maybe I just wasn’t interested in the Doctor anymore.

The thing is: I fell in love with the Doctor again while reading The Blood Cell.

Story-wise, The Blood Cell isn’t really anything special. It’s a space thriller with conspiracies and timey-wimey stuff. But it worked–because we weren’t seeing The Doctor through Clara’s eyes. It worked because we were getting a new perspective on the adventures of The Doctor and his companion–from someone who is just as flawed as they are.

Sure, the Governor bordered on annoying at times, but he never broke character. Not that there was a lot to begin with. He was the perfect reader surrogate; reacting when we’re supposed to react, and discovering the mystery of the prison along us.

But what I loved most about the book was how The Doctor was written. I could imagine Peter Capaldi saying the lines. And I loved that he didn’t have a lot of interactions with Clara, allowing him to have a personality that isn’t reliant on this particular companion. And there was a sense of suspense. Something that was missing in most of Series 8.

After putting the book down, that’s when it clicked for me: I wasn’t really tired of the Doctor after all. I was just tired of the epic adventures that he seem to be getting sucked into every episode. That’s why I loved Time Heist–when he just had to penetrate a bank and steal something. And the Flatliners, which, although it threatened the existence of the world as we knew it, also had a sense of smallness.

I’m tired of grandeur. Epic isn’t special when it happens all the time.

And until the television series learns to scale back on what’s big and what’s making a splash, I think I’ll pick up more books to balance out the program’s too-fast-too-furious take on Doctor Who.

Book: The Fate of Ten

"The Fate of Ten"

This is the day we’ve been training for. The day we’ve all feared. We’ve spent years fighting the Mogadorians in secret, never letting the world know the truth about our war. But now all of that has changed.

Their ships have invaded Earth. If we can’t find a way to stop them now, humans could suffer the same fate as our people: annihilation.

I wish I could be with John on the front lines of the battle in New York City, but I am hoping–praying–that the key to our survival lies within the Sanctuary. This is where the Elders always meant for us to go when we came of age. This was their plan for us. There is a power that has been hidden here beneath the earth for generations. A power that could save the world or destroy it. And now we have awoken it.

They killed Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
Number Three in Kenya.
And Number Eight in Florida.

I am Number Six–but our numbers don’t matter anymore.

Because now we are not the only ones with Legacies.

Much like the previous books in the Lorien Legacies series, The Fate of Ten is a fast and fun read. An escape from the real world, if you will. But compared to previous installments, this one felt a little lackluster.

Maybe I’m starting to feel fatigue. Maybe it’s because the last book was so amazing that my expectations were set much higher. Or maybe the material was just a tad too stretched than usual.

In The Fate of Ten, we get three perspectives: Number Four’s, Number Six’s, and Number Ten’s. While I loved the pacing of Number Four’s and Number Six’s separate stories, Number Ten’s point-of-view felt a little too convenient. It’s as if the author saw the page count and realized he still had a lot of things to cover, so he used up two chapters to just explain why certain things are happening.

I wasn’t a fan of the extensive flashback to things I never actually wondered about as well. And I felt like some of the characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of the books got short-changed in this installment. And these concerns colored my enjoyment of the book a little bit. Especially Sarah, Number Four’s girlfriend. I feel like the book would have been better with one of the point-of-views being hers.

My biggest concern with The Fate of Ten though has to do with the fact that nothing big actually happens. Well, a handful of big things did happen–but they felt more like a holdover than a precursor to bigger things. Things that shout “grand finale!” Instead, this book feels like the publishers are just trying to milk the readers’ money for one more book.

Well, at least I hope it’s just one more book. Because I am definitely ready for this series to end.

Web: The Origins of Tala

"The Origins of Tala"

I’m going to warn you right off the bat: this is an advertisement. I’m promoting something I made with a bunch of friends who are into the same weird stuff as I am: Super Sentai, cosplaying, and Filipino mythology. We call this project: Mythos.

Mythos will be an online series that revolves around a group of people who must bond together as a team to prevent the all-powerful Bacunaua from waking, effectively stopping the coming of a new dark age. Inspired by both Super Sentai and Power Rangers, Mythos marries together the Japanese tokusatsu genre with a twisted version of our local folklore.

Now, what does Mythos have to do with The Origins of Tala?

Producing an online series, it turns out, is a lot of hard work–and a lot more complicated to schedule. Especially when you don’t have a budget to begin with. So instead of going full steam on the series right away, we made a detour to see just how well the series will be received by netizens. We made The Origins of Tala.

Tala is one of the characters we created for Mythos; a plucky girl who gets waylaid by a sudden change in her life, she finds a new purpose when she goes head to head against the supernatural forces hiding in the shadows of everyday life. In the four episodes we produced, she journeys from being clueless to bad-ass.

Obviously, I’m not going to nitpick something I had a hand in making–even if I know that there’s a million things we could’ve still done to improve it. But this was a learning experience for us. And now we know that there are a lot more things we have to take into consideration when we finally begin production on our main series.

In the meantime, please boost our confidence by watching the episodes of The Origins of Tala on YouTube. Here’s the trailer, to get you started: