Book: Bits & Pieces

"Bits & Pieces"

Benny Imura’s journey through the Rot & Ruin is well known, but who were the others navigating the ravaged, zombie-ridden landscape? Jonathan Maberry returns to fill the gaps in what we know about First Night, surviving the plague, and the land of Rot & Ruin.

Comprising brand-new short stories from Nix’s journal as well as previously published short stories, this collection shows a side of the Rot & Ruin series readers have never seen before.

I didn’t know I missed the Rot & Ruin until I cracked this book open. And I’m never getting tired of saying Rot & Ruin is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever. Even when the succeeding books didn’t turn out to be as heart-wrenching as the first one, the series continued to tug at the heart strings. As the characters grew up in the Rot & Ruin series, as they lost their innocence, so did we, the readers. Bits & Pieces allowed for the innocence to come back.

And Bits & Pieces broke another piece of my heart… In a good way.

Guided by journal entries from Nix, this collection of short stories present new facets to the events of the Rot & Ruin series. We meet other characters who had their own adventures alongside the ones Benny and his friends were having. And, and this is the best part for me, we get some back stories on some of the characters we met in the series.

The book does a great job at coloring outside the lines of the series without feeling like it’s just reliving the glory days. The stories are new, as are the insights. And the best part? The characters we revisit, in different eras of their lives, never feel off. They help the character grow–and the situations they are placed in add to our understanding of who they came to be.

Jonathan Maberry built a really solid house with the Rot & Ruin saga. Bits & Pieces is just the fixings that adds to the beauty of the house–emphasizing and accentuating, without changing what the house looks like.

My favorite in the collection has to be the story of Rags. Or should I say the stories of Rags? There’s two. One told a a year after the events of First Night, and another one unfolded during the events of the first book. They very different stories with one single message.

Hope doesn’t die.

And I’m now holding on to hope that Jonathan Maberry would continue revisiting the world he created with Rot & Ruin. Because I feel like there are more stories from this universe that still wants to be told.

Book: Abangan – The Best Philippine Komiks 2014

"Abangan 2014"

What is Abangan: The Best Philippine Komiks 2014? It’s an attempt from comic creators Rob Cham, Adam David, Carljoe Javier, and Elber Or to collect some of the best works to come from the local comics industry–and introduce it to people who aren’t aware that there is still a local comics industry. Oddly enough, most of the people who are interested in the book are those who already know most of the contents inside.

On the one hand, I applaud the effort. Really. I discovered a liking for a few titles within the pages of this book that I normally wouldn’t have looked at whilst browsing through the many, many, many wares being sold during the bi-annual comic convention held at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig. The book isn’t trying to hit a single target market/demographic–it really is just a collection of what the editors thought were the best that the comics industry is offering for the year. But I’m not a fan.

See, when I saw the title of the book, I was expecting excerpts for works that have yet to be published. Or works that have just been published, since the book came out in the fourth month of 2014 already. I wasn’t expecting to find a Trese story that already appeared in Manila Noir. I wasn’t expecting a reprint of a chapter from the second Filipino Heroes League. If there were no new works to be published, why include them at all? Or, you know, why not just put in teasers for their upcoming releases?

Curation-wise, I have nothing to say. The collection is a mix of stuff I like, don’t care for after one reading, and stuff that I skipped over. I’m not a prolific reviewer of comics to say which ones are bad and which ones are good. I’m just a reader who, as I was closing the book, thought that the book could’ve been better, but I don’t regret spending the dough for it.

Hopefully though, next year’s would be better. And would be more accessible for people who might enjoy reading comics again–but are not aware of the industry’s resurgence.

Book: How They Met, and Other Stories

"How They Met and Other Stories"

Where did they meet? It was on a plane. It was at Starbucks. It was in physics class. It was during the war.

How did they meet? It was a setup. It was completely random. They were dancing. One of them ordered a pizza and the other showed up.

What happened? It was instant. It took time. It was a disaster. It lasted.

In this new gathering of stories, award-winning author David Levithan writes all about love, and about all kinds of love. From aching for the one you pine for to (reluctantly) being the one pined after, from standing up and speaking up for the one you love to the pure joy and happiness delivered on the smile of someone else, these stories explore the mysterious magnetism that draws people together in ways both expected and unexpected.

Love is a varied, complicated, addictive, volatile, scary, wonderful thing…and it’s all on display in How They Met, and Other Stories.

How They Met, and Other Stories cements David Levithan as one of my favorite authors. It’s not because I think he can do no wrong, I still haven’t forgotten how much I didn’t like Every You, Every Me. It’s because he knows how to make love real in situations that are very much fantastical.

In this collection of stories, I found myself tearing up a lot while wearing a big smile on my face. The stories are that affecting.

I’m not going to list down the stories I liked and the ones I didn’t. I think that would do a disservice to the collection as a whole. I believe they were included for a reason. Besides, I think I only disliked two. And it was more like I didn’t care for them more than me not liking them at all.

Overall though, this book is for anyone who is looking to fall in love. Even with fictional characters. Even for a short time.

Actually, saying that, I do have a qualm about some of the stories being too short. But it’s what makes the whole collection work, I think. The fact that it gives you the groundwork for where the story is going, but leaves it to you to see the characters through to their happy endings. Or self-actualization.

But the stories that really affected me, I think, is the one about the families. Well, the love stories that affect the families. What can I say? I really like it when writers don’t forget that there are other characters in a story too. That our heroes don’t exist in a vacuum, a bubble. People are affected by every decision that a person makes.

When ripples are shown in stories, I applaud.

There are times when readers would complain, that giving attention to other characters take away from the main story. Some times this is true. But when done properly…

When done properly, it’s beautiful.

Now, before I go on gushing about this, I’m going to end this here and point you to other blogs that wrote about How They Met, and Other Stories.

My Tea Time is Book Time
Finding My Forever
Teen Book Review

Book: Heroes and Villains

"Heroes and Villains"

‘Heroes and Villains’ offers 17 racy, true stories about remarkable people who lived and interacted and did extraordinary things in the Philippines

There’s Enrique, Magellan’s slave, who stayed in the boat while Lapu-Lapu killed his master. And Philip II of Spain, after whom we were named, who married five wives without having to cut anyone’s head off. And the Hero of Makati, Pio Isidro del Pilar, farm boy from Culi-Culi, arrested and left for dead by the Spanish police, an early Katipunero who rose to become general of the Revolutionary Armyy and the Filipino Republic, traveling scandalously with a pretty mistress.

The stories may read like a tale of adventure or a gossip column, but they’re fully documented and supported by historical facts.

It does read like a gossip column, and the stories are supported by historical facts. But then again, for years and years, we’ve been taught falsified history by teachers and professors that were also supported by historical facts. Not that I’m discounting what Carmen Guerrero Nakpil has written. I’m just saying that, since none of us lived during the time these events happened, none of us can actually claim what really happened and what didn’t.

But that’s beside the point.

Heroes and Villains is mostly a fast read, mainly because of its gossip column type of writing. Which is genius, because masking history with gossip is one surefire way of people intrigued. If this was by design, I have to say that author Nakpil is a genius.

Unfortunately, not all of the stories are as juicy. And most of the stale stories appear near the end, which makes the read a bit disappointing (and boring) as the book winds down. I know the articles were presented in chronological order–arranged by when they happened–but I must wonder if it would have been had the author decided to jump around time, so the duds didn’t have to come one right after the other.

The last three articles were particularly sleep-inducing. The last one, the seventeenth “true story” especially so because it reads like a recap of the other sixteen stories.

That said, Heroes and Villains is still a must read. Especially if you’re looking for something that would help you remember our history. Gossip lasts longer than lectures, and Heroes and Villains provide gossip-like information with great style.

Book: Zombies versus Unicorns

"Zombies versus Unicorns"

Which is better, the zombie or the unicorn?

Some of today’s finest writers have chosen their side, creating dazzling stories about both creatures. Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

This took me forever to finish. Forever and a day. And I am totally going for the dramatics here, but the fact remains that–I am neither Team Zombie nor Team Unicorn, if these are the stories to argue for their cases.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of them have really interesting premises, some of them have a good handle at story telling. In the case of Carrie Ryan’s Bougainvilla, it’s a mix of both. But none of the stories really stand out. I mean, save for Bougainvilla, but after that story, I couldn’t find another one that interested me enough to have me keep reading.

I especially loathed the unicorn stories. Save for Meg Cabot’s Princess Prettypants which was a very fast read, but offered nothing in terms of brilliance; and Kathleen Duey’s The Third Virgin which was pretty bleak, the rest felt…ordinary, uninteresting, and a chore to read. I fell asleep a lot of times while reading the unicorn stories, save for the two I mentioned.

Not that I’m saying the zombie stories are any better. Well, they are–but only a little. I already singled out Bougainvilla as the best of the lot, but Scott Westerfield’s Inoculata was interesting too. Cassandra Clare’s Cold Hands deserve credit for being different, but I thought the story itself was extremely lacking. Libba Bray’s Prom Night stands out as the worst of the bunch.

I don’t believe in regrets–but I sure wish I trusted my first instinct when it came to this anthology. I put off buying (and reading this) for a year. I should’ve stuck with that decision. This book is definitely not for me.

As I always say though, I am but one voice and people should make up their own minds. I’ve thrown my two cents into the bin, let’s see what other people have said:
My Books. My Life.
The Spotted Mushroom
This Ain’t Livin’

Book: I Am Number Four The Lost Files, The Legacies

"The Lost Files"

Talk about a mouthful. I am at an actual loss as to what to call this book. Should I call it The Legacies? The Lost Files? Or the really long I Am Number Four The Lost Files: The Legacies? Anyway–

You know we’re out there, living among you. You know we’re waiting for our day to come. You have seen the power of our legacies. You know this is why they hunt us. You may think you know our stories. You are wrong. We each have our own story. We know the time has come to share them with you. Our legacies are your only hope.

This book collects three novellas that is supposed to, I guess, bridge one Lorien Legacy book to the next. In it we have a back stories for Six and Nine, as well as a story that tackles the coming war from the other side of the fence. Now, if I hadn’t already read The Power of Six and The Rise of Nine, this book would’ve been much more valued. But I have read Books 2 and 3 of the Lorien Legacies–and that makes the novellas Six’s Legacy and Nine’s Legacy sort of obsolete. Both get tackled in the second and third book, respectively, and in a more succinct manner.

What does make this book a gem though is the last novella: The Fallen Legacies.

I mentioned, while writing about The Rise of Nine, that me reading the series has now veered away from being a guilty pleasure to actual enjoyment. That’s how I felt, reading The Fallen Legacies. It’s something that was enjoyable to read–and not because I was treating it as an action-adventure summer blockbuster film turned into a book. As I have already said, it tackles the coming war between the good guys and the bad guys–from the perspective of the bad guys. And, for the first time, we get a main character that we can empathize with.

Notice how I said main character and not protagonist?

Another thing that I enjoyed about The Fallen Legacies is the fact that while it retells a couple of stories that were already referred to in the three published books from the series, it manages to do so in a fresh way–with new information. The opening of I Am Number Four gets explored further, and we get to meet the characters that fell before the series even began.

Reading this last novella, I felt disappointed that the author hadn’t decided to write it into a full-fledged novel instead. I think that would’ve been more interesting to read than the rehash of what happened to both Six and Nine prior to them meeting Four.

But that’s just me. Let’s see how other people reacted to this collection:
Teen Reads
The World of Argon
Tales of the Ravenous Reader

Book: Fragile Things

"Fragile Things" by Neil GaimanA mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night…

Two teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams–and nightmares…

In a Hugo Award-winning story, a great detective must solve a most unsettling royal murder in a strangely altered Victorian England…

These marvelous creations and more showcase the unparalleled invention and storytelling brilliance–and the terrifyingly dark and etnertaining wit–of the incomparable Neil Gaiman. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most original writers of our time.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for over a year now, but for some reason I never got round to doing it. As evidenced by the photo, I haven’t even gotten around to doing the blue background thing yet on the books I read. But that’s really not the point of the post, is it? So let’s get on with talking about Fragile Things.

Reading Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I thought the book was a collection of his award-winning short stories. It’s not. Not that any of them are any less better than the ones they’re with. You kind of know that when you’re reading a Gaiman story, he’s given it his best–whether or not it won an award. That said though, I’m not a fan of all the stories in this book. I thought some of them cut off way too early. And some of them made little sense to me. But then, this is Neil Gaiman.

I don’t want to subscribe to the idea that if something is hard to understand, it must be good. That’s the wrong way to go about things, I think. Sadly, it’s a popular notion here in the Philippines. But the thing is, I really do think the stories in Fragile Things are good–even if I don’t understand most of it completely. Why? Well, mostly because the stories are well told. And because they evoke emotions and memories.

I like reading stories aloud. To myself. When there are other people, I tend to keep quiet. But I like hearing the words. Also, it’s good practice for public speaking–which I don’t really do a lot of. Oh, wait–where was I? Ah, right. Reading stories aloud helps make a story more tangible for me–at the same time, it keeps me tethered to reality. When I read quietly, I get absorbed so much into the story that I forget things, like eating and sleeping… So yeah, I sometimes read aloud–especially when alone.

And by reading aloud, you get a grasp of how well a story is written. Neil Gaiman’s texts have a rolling quality to it. They’re so easy to say. They literally roll off your tongue. If you have a Gaiman book nearby, give it a try. You’ll see what I mean.

The rolling quality of his text makes it melodic. And the melody makes it easier for you to travel to his world–wherever it may be. And that’s why, I think, his stories are very well-written–even if I don’t completely understand it. Because Gaiman isn’t just a writer. He’s a storyteller. And this book, has some of his most well-written stories.

And I didn’t really talk about the book at all, did I?

No matter. Let’s see what other people have said about the book instead:
The Green Man Review
Jar of Juice
The Short Review