Book: The Shadow Men

"The Shadow Men"

From Beacon Hills to Southie, historic Boston is a town of vibrant neighborhoods knit into a seamless whole. But as Jim Banks and Trix Newcomb learn in a terrifying instant, it is also a city divided–split into three separate versions of itself by a mad magician once tasked with its protection.

Jim is happily married to Jenny, with whom he has a young daughter, Holly. Trix is Jenny’s best friend, practically a member of the family–although she has secretly been in love with Jenny for years. Then Jenny and Holly inexplicably disappear–and leave behind a Boston in which they never existed. Only Jim and Trix remember them. Only Jim and Trix can bring them back.

With the help of Boston’s Oracle, and elderly woman with magical powers, Jim and Trix travel between the fractured cities, for that is where Jenny and Holly have gone. But more is at stake than one family’s happiness. If Jim and Trix should fail, the spell holding the separate Bostons apart will fail too, and the cities will reintegrate in a cataclysmic implosions. Someone, it seems, wants just that. Someone with deadly shadow men at their disposal.

The Shadow Men starts strong. Authors Christoper Golden and Tim Lebbon dive right into the premise of their novel, and our protagonists don’t wait around before taking action. And, this is a good thing, I didn’t even realize until after I finished the book that the entire story happened in just two days. Suffice to say: a lot happened, and there was no point in the novel where I paused, annoyed or otherwise, because of long pauses in action just to deliver exposition.

The clincher? The Shadow Men actually had a lot of exposition to cover. Especially since it had to establish two other Bostons existing with the one that’s supposedly in our world. But authors Golden and Lebbon are such experts at their craft that the exposition is delivered with the action–something you would think is more common in action novels, especially popular ones, but you’d be surprised.

But The Shadow Men‘s strength in delivering the action is also its one weakness. With so much happening, there were times that I had to go back and reread certain passages because I was starting to get confused. That, and there were moments when the action felt repetitive. Get caught. Run. Rinse, and repeat.

Aside from (just) one instance of this though, The Shadow Men is a stellar book. It ranks as my second favorite Hidden Cities novel, following the London-based Mind the Gap. It pulls no punches, never dilly-dallying when it comes to hitting the plot points, which had the effect of making readers (me, specifically) feel the adrenaline coursing through the characters–leaving us breathless.

I use the term “summer blockbuster movie” a lot when it comes to the I Am Number Four books, because of its penchant to prioritize action over character development and still remaining very entertaining. Following this logic, The Shadow Men would be something akin to an “epic movie” in which the action serves to make the viewers’ pulses race, as much as it pushes the characters to develop.

The Shadow Men came out in 2011. No other Hidden Cities book came out again after this. I hope that it’s because Golden and Lebbon are still looking for the perfect city and the perfect story to continue their series, and not because the publishers don’t want another one. Because I want another one.

Book: Hold Me Closer

"Hold Me Closer"

Watch out, ex-boyfriends, and get out of the way, homophobic coaches. Tiny Cooper has something to say–and he’s going to say it in a song.

Filled with honestly, humor, and ‘big, lively, belty’ musical numbers, Hold Me Closer is the no-holds-barred (and many-bars-held) entirety of the beloved musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the award-winning bestseller by John Green and David Levithan.

Tiny Cooper is finally taking center stage…and the world will never be the same again.

What in the world did I just put down?

Hold Me Closer: the Tiny Cooper Story spins off from one of the few John Green novels I could stand: Will Grayson, Will Grayson–and I credit David Levithan for this. So when I found out that Levithan was releasing a book based on the most entertaining character off the Will Grayson book, I thought it would be a fun read. I wish I could say I was right.

I wasn’t wrong, let’s be clear. Hold Me Closer is not in any way a bad book. It is entertaining. But it’s definitely not the book I was expecting from David Levithan. Then again, I wasn’t expecting Every You, Every Me either–so it’s not like this was unprecedented. But unlike Every You, Every Me, I can’t fathom why Levithan would write this book. It’s not experimental. It’s not ground-breaking.

Hold Me Closer brings nothing new to the table, and I feel like I wasted the five hours I spent reading it.

The book isn’t actually a book in the most traditional sense. It is a book–for a musical Tiny Cooper wrote in the Will Grayson, Will Grayson book. But it’s not a new story. Its Tiny Cooper’s life told with songs. And we’ve already had a glimpse of Tiny Cooper’s life in the aforementioned book. The worst part is how this book ends before the source book does. So there really is nothing new in Hold Me Closer.

I guess that’s the risk of doing something like this: publishing a plot device, and pushing it to stand on its own. You have to rely on readers’ nostalgia and good will. But you know what else you can do? Give something new. In the source book, we only get glimpses of Hold Me Closer. So it shouldn’t have been hard to do. But the spin-off didn’t spin. It just took parts of the source book we already know and put it to song. And dialogue. And stage direction.

Hold Me Closer is entertaining. I’ll still give it that. But at the end of the day, for a book to be good, there has to be substance. Which I didn’t see or feel while reading this book. I guess I’ll just have to be grateful that the book wasn’t longer.

Of course, other people will have other opinions about the book too. Let’s check some of them out in the following links:
Caught Read H&nded
BookieMonster
The Young Folks

Win Two (2) Tickets to a block screening of Mockingjay, Part 1 on November 23!

"Mockingjay Part 1"It’s been a while since I posted, and an even longer time since I had a contest. But a friend of mine sold me a couple of tickets to a block screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 that I won’t be able to go to. Since it’s for a good cause, I didn’t return the tickets–and I thought to give it away instead to someone else.

The details are as follows: the block screening will happen on November 23, Sunday, at Cinema 1 of SM North EDSA’s The Block building, at around 9:30 p.m. There will be food, and the tickets will also serve as discount coupons to a shoe brand… If I remembered correctly.

Obviously, I’m giving the tickets to a commenter who lives in the Philippines.

What do you have to do to win the tickets? Just comment on this post and tell me you want it. That’s all. And using Random.org, I will raffle off the two tickets to one lucky winner on the midnight that welcomes November 19. That’s next Wednesday. So if you want the tickets–comment below!

Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards 2014 Finalists

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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Taking a Break supports ‘Saving Sally’

"Saving Sally"

image used with permission from Avid Liongoren

Marty, the geek, is an aspiring comic-book artist who is secretly in love with his beautiful best friend, Sally, the gadget inventor. Like every love story, there are complications: Sally has abusive monster parents and a literal dick for a boyfriend, while Marty has the innate ability to do nothing about everything despite his vivid fantasies of defending the love of his life from the big bad world.

That’s the synopsis creator Avid Liongoren provides TousCoprod, the European Kickstarter where a Frenchman is campaigning for the completion of the film.

A bit of background, I first heard about Saving Sally when Rhian Ramos mentioned it in passing during an interview around three or four years ago. Oh, yeah, in case you didn’t know, I used to interview celebrities for a living. Digression aside, what Rhian said about the film had me intrigued. Unfortunately, waiting for Saving Sally was like waiting for Godot.

I wanted to support the film then, but I’m not really rolling in cash. And then I left that job and, well, I forgot about Saving Sally.

Until someone posted about it on Facebook. And then I remembered. And now I had the means to support the film. Unfortunately, TousCoprod wants Euros. Of which I have none. So I e-mailed creator Avid Liongoren and asked how I could help out financially without having to go through the European Kickstarter.

You can find out how by visiting the website for Saving Sally.

In exchange, creator Liongoren agreed to answer a few questions for my blog:

Taking a Break (TaB): What inspired you to make Saving Sally? Where did the story come from?

Avid Liongoren (AL): I wanted to produce a project that combined actors & lots of drawings (since I’m an Illustrator first & foremost). As for the origins of the story, it’s nothing amazing. The story was written by an old friend based on collective experiences of us & our other friends. Every boy (or girl) has once (or many times) carried a torch for someone special who was with a jerk (or a dick).

TaB: Has the story changed at all from when you conceived it and shot it? How different is the Saving Sally you’re making now to the one you started out with?

AL: Refined, but not changed. If Saving Sally started out as a cheese omelet we ended up with an omelet with mushroom & onions & bacon bits & more cheese… but it’s still an omelet.

TaB: You’ve done a lot of things since you started Saving Sally. You’ve directed ads, mainstream short films (like Party Pilipinas‘s ‘Red Mask’)–has that affected how you’re editing the film?

AL: Our edit has been locked for almost 3 years now. A necessary thing since all we have been doing is building & refining the world around the edit. So no, my other work does not affect our pipeline.

TaB: Why the decision to mix live action with computer-generated images and effects?

AL: Because that is what I’m good at? Also, it was the best way to tell our story.

(“Computer-generated” creates this image of high end visuals, we don’t have that, the film is very low-fi in terms of vfx, we are workig on the other end of the vfx spectrum & we are going for warm charm & not the woah factor, since we are incapable of that)

TaB: Have you seen Tiktik: the Aswang Chronicles? What are your thoughts on the movie, and do you think it will affect how people will receive Saving Sally when it comes out seeing as they employ the same idea of mixing live action with CGI?

AL: I’ve seen it & thought it was great & I’m so happy for them because they took a risk of spending a lot of money on a non Star Cinema type film & it paid off. I have no idea though how it will affect how people will receive our film, my mind is not there at all.

TaB: Aside from budget/finances, what has been the biggest challenge in getting Saving Sally off the ground?

AL: Finding a girl to replace our first Sally & doing the film again from scratch (story told here by the screenplay writer).

TaB: If you could go back in time and tell your past self all the problems that Saving Sally would face–would you have still gone through with making it? Assuming you say yes, what would you have changed then to make the whole thing easier for you without sacrificing the quality of the film you want to make?

AL: Tito Boy Abunda is that you, nasaan ang Magic Mirror? : D

If I could go back in time, I’d still do the film BUT give myself winning lotto numbers : )

And… that’s it. Obviously, I’m a little rusty on the interviewing front. Apologies.

But before I completely sign off, I encourage those who are looking for a project to support to, well, support Saving Sally. They have rewards for donations/financial help, so you don’t feel like you were cheated off your money. But trust me, seeing this film completed would be reward enough.

Check out the Saving Sally website to find out how to donate!

Exclusive: Teejay Marquez for ‘Pagari’

"Teejay Marquez for Pagari"

Apologies for not having a Filipino Friday post last week. I wasn’t able to take a break *wink* from work. That said, here I am now with what I was supposed to upload last week: an exclusive interview with tween actor Teejay Marquez about his upcoming independent release, Pagari.

What is there to be said about Pagari? I’ll let Teejay fill you in on that one. So here we go: video time!

Much thanks to Teejay for the time (and the patience). My DSLR wasn’t cooperating well that day, and we had to do a lot of do overs and take twos during the interview–as you can probably tell from while watching the interview. Much thanks too to my friend Ceres who was my camera person for the day!

And before I completely end this post, I have a question to ask you: what should I improve on for my next interview/video feature?

Event: A Book Launch for Papa Jack

"A Book Launch for Papa Jack"

Well it was just a matter of time before Papa Jack entered the publishing industry; and after the success of Chico, Delamar, and Gino’s The Morning Rush Top 10 compilation, it makes sense that another popular radio disc jockey would get his chance at releasing his own compilation.

Last Sunday, February 17, Summit Books invited a few press people and bloggers for an intimate launch with radio disc jockey Papa Jack. And from the point of view of someone covering the event, I liked this one better because it was more quiet than the last event I went to–which was the launch for The Morning Rush Top 10 Book 2.

The event itself was short, which was good. And as an inteview subject, Papa Jack was honest and to the point–which is how he is even in his radio show. But why waste time trying to describe how he was, when you can just watch him here–

After the Q&A, Papa Jack signed autographs for the present press people, and answered a few more questions in one-on-one interviews, before the event fully gave way to the fans who were early for their 2 p.m. autograph signing session.

And because I don’t like seeing good press releases go to waste, here’s the one Summit Book gave:

This month of hearts, Summit Books launched Papa Jack of 90.7 Love Radio’s new book, Everything I Learned About Love I Learned from Papa Jack, at Bestsellers in Robinsons Galleria. Last February 17, 2013, the Papa ng Bayan met with the press and his kabisyo fans to eagerly talk and answer questions about his book, and met each one to sign their copies.

With a compilation of 365 love quotations from his hit programs True Love Confessions and Wild Confessions, this book is definitely a must read for the entire year–one quote a day really keeps the heartache away! Everything I Learned About Love I Learned From Papa Jack will really teach you years worth of wisdom whether you are single, dating, in a relationship, “it’s complicated,” or heartbroken.

This book will take you on a journey as you ride with Papa Jack to 6 stopovers in the subject that is mostly-complicated, sometimes-“oh-so-sweet:” LOVE — from courtship, to healing that broken heart, to learning to love again. You will surely laugh and cry with the stories of the most memorable callers on Papa Jack’s radio program. This book will surely teach you to love better, not just to your significant other, but most importantly, to love yourself even more.

Everything I Learned About Love I Learned from Papa Jack is out now in bookstores everywhere, and costs a cool Php 143. And by cool, I mean figuratively. I love how a compilation of quotes about love costs Php 143. Points for Summit Books.

If you want to meet Papa Jack in the flesh, you can catch him on March 3 at SM Naga, on March 17 at SM Manila, and on April 7 at SM Gaisano Davao.