Book: High Tide at Midnight (Trese 6)

"High Tide at Midnight (Trese 6)"

The unceasing rain muffles the screams of the victims being pulled down, down into the murky flood waterse.

In the places too high to be reached by teh flood, the party continues for the priviledged, who indulge in a new designer drug which grants them the supernatural abilities of enkanto and aswang.

These are the murders and mysteries Alexandra Trese needs to solve as the tide continues to rise at the stroke of midnight.

I subscribe to the belief that rain washes away the past and affords us new beginnings. And what better way to start a new beginning here at the blog than with a book that revolves around rainfall–and the things that come with it? Trese‘s sixth installment: High Tide at Midnight.

In this collection, the Trese siblings and their allies face off against the growing threat of evolved monsters–and paves the way for an actual big bad that sets out to make the world of Trese more complicated. And engrossing.

Now, I am not blind to the dissatisfaction some readers are feeling from the recent releases of Trese. Some readers feel like the novelty has worn off, and that the stories are too fast-paced. Rushed, even. Personally, I like the no-time-to-breathe storytelling that Trese employs. But I do see why there might be unrest with other readers.

Because as fast-paced as Trese is, there is still that unshakable feeling of statis. That no matter how dire things become, the status quo will remain the same. One, because the main characters are too invincible. And two, because you do not actually care about said main characters. Especially the titular one.

Alexandra Trese can die and you’ll only feel sad because it means Trese is probably done as a series.

Trese stories are fun because of how writer Budjette Tan and artist KaJO Baldisimo bring to life old mythological creatures in our modern world. But if the novelty is no longer enough for a reader, then I think the series has nothing else to offer.

Yes, I really mean that.

Trese, six installments in, is about the adventure and the action. It is not about the characters. If it were, our heroine Alexandra Trese wouldn’t be as one-note as she is. There would be more peripheral characters whose lives would actually be changed by the supernatural goings-on. And you will actually fear for the lives of said characters. Because we do not have these, any development that happens will be plot-related, and everything continues to feel… unmoving. Static. But fun. And thrilling. And still.

The sixth book is no exception. I love the introduction of the new one-note characters: the gruff guardian, the chaotic-good husband-and-wife team, the metal smith, and even Manang Muning. It all feels exciting. Especially when they fight with the flurry of sea monsters who want to take over the mortal world. But at the end of the book, there was no lesson to be learned. There was no emotion to be felt. Just exhilaration. And the desire to see what happens next, not because I cared, but because I wanted to satisfy my curiosity. How will the creators end the story? How else are they going to twist the world of Filipino mythology?

But I could care less if Trese 7 completely revolves around Maliksi and the Kambal. Or Hank defending the Diabolical while the Trese siblings take care of the action off-frame. I will still feel the adrenaline regardless of who is in the pages. The Trese siblings don’t make the Trese books. The modernized mythologies do. And while I continue to love it, I know and accept that I will also lose my interest in the series eventually.

Yes, I worry that if the creators don’t push the story beyond the plot twists and the big bad, then there will come a time when I will stop feeling excited for the new releases. And like with some of my friends, Trese will become just one of the comics I used to read.

Book: Assassin’s Code

"Assassin's Code"

When Joe Ledger and Echo Team rescue a group of American college kids held hostage in Iran, the Iranian government asks them to help find six nuclear bombs planted in the Mideast oil fields. These stolen WMDs will lead Joe and Echo Team into hidden vaults of forbidden knowledge, mass murder, betrayal, and a brotherhood of genetically engineered killers with a thirst for blood. Accompanied by the beautiful assassin called Violin, Joe follows a series of clues to find the Book of Shadows, which contains a horrifying truth that threatens to shatter his entire worldview. They say the truth will set you free… Not this time. The secrets of the assassin’s code could set the world ablaze.

I picked up Assassin’s Code because it was the fourth book off the Joe Ledger series of books. Which is a good thing. Because I don’t think I would’ve picked this book up based on the above synopsis.

Then again, out of the four Joe Ledger books I’ve read, I think this one is the weakest off the bunch. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not up to par with his other books. Especially not with the Rot & Ruin series. After four adventures, I think I’m starting to feel some fatigue for the shenanigans that Joe Ledger and his Echo Team keeps getting into.

Or maybe it’s just this book.

Unlike in other Joe Ledger books, author Jonathan Maberry’s pacing for this story seems off. Maybe because there are way too many things going on, too many characters need to process things, too many plot threads are let loose in the wind. The result? Chaos.

Ultimately, when you read the book, that seems to be the intent. But for a reader looking for a break from real life? Chaos needs to be reigned in. Doled out in small doses. Chaos needs a little order, to be easier to take it in. And that’s what I found lacking in Assassin’s Code. Order.

I think it became harder to read when the book reached its second part. When the interludes began? I didn’t need the backgrounder. And, spoiler alert, the interludes are spelt out in the end. So there really wasn’t a point in writing the interludes.

And don’t get me started on the fake chapter enders. Where characters would discover something important–but it wouldn’t be revealed to the reader. It was frustrating. More than pushing me to move on to the next chapter, I kept having to put down the book to remind myself that it would be worth it in the end.

But was it?

I don’t know. On the one hand, I didn’t find the book bad. As I already mentioned before. It’s not bad. It’s just not as good. And when you’ve already shown readers how good you can be… Well, let’s just say I would be a little more wary when I pick up the next book off the Joe Ledger series.

Book: Project 17

"Project 17"

Lillian is merely looking for a babysitting job for the summer, but a desperate man named Paul Dolores hires her to look after his 28-year-old brother, Caleb. Caleb is suffering from schozoaffective disorder, and Paul, who is about to start on his first office job in a long while, wants to make sure his brother takes his medication on time. Lillian, at first hesitatn, accepts the job for the pay and the perks, but soon starts to wonder about the brothers she is working for. How come she can’t find any information online about the drugs Caleb is taking? And how come the national central database lists them as dead?

Where have you been all my life, Project 17? Well, all my life might be pushing it. Since I’ve started reading locally-produced novels, I mean.

Oh, right. Languishing in my bed, because I kept reading other stuff first. Now I regret not getting to this book sooner. Because not since Naermyth have I read something that has a good premise, a good plot, and a near perfect execution. (Okay, so maybe Naermyth doesn’t have a near perfect execution. But I still have my fingers crossed for the sequel. But we’re not here to talk about that book.)

This is the first Filipino novel, I think, that I’m posting about here with no complaints whatsoever. The book cover is nice and intriguing, and so is the title. The synopsis is slightly misleading, but it doesn’t really lie. And our plucky heroine, even though she’s a little too nosy for her own good, isn’t annoying. She’s just the perfect blend of curiosity, spunk, and general niceness.

The world-building Eliza Victoria does for Project 17 is just right. It doesn’t veer away too much from what is real, so her world actually does feel real. It doesn’t dive too much into sci-fi territory, dealing instead with technology that is entirely plausible–give or take a decade or two. The point is, it doesn’t overpromise. Technology has gone far, but it doesn’t forget the fact that the Philippines is a third world country. It doesn’t forget our penchant for idolatry. It doesn’t forget that it is Filipino.

How Project 17 deals with family is a very Filipino concept. I mean, I’m not saying if something is family-oriented, it’s already very Filipino. I have seen Italian films, and Jewish films, and Greek films… and I’ve also read novels from all over. But how author Victoria handles family is what makes it Filipino.

There’s a sense of loyalty that sometimes border on begrudging while being completely rooted in love. And it is this that makes Victoria’s Project 17 work. You care about the characters because the characters care about each other. You want to see them succeed, even before you know what they need to succeed from.

You want them to have a happily ever after, even though the odds are never in their favor.

If there’s anything to complain about the book it’s actually just the fact that it’s too short. I think Eliza Victoria could’ve snuck in a few more chapters in there just to further develop main character Lillian’s relationship with everyone. And with the discoveries and uncovering of conspiracies.

But what we got is just right too.

And we wouldn’t want to mess with something that’s already good, right?

So, hurrah, Eliza Victoria, for giving me an awesome first Filipino Friday read for 2014! May you write more quality novels with substance that would (hopefully) sell well.

I look forward to reading more novels from you. In the meantime, I’m gonna get my hands on your A Bottle of Storm Clouds.

Movie: My Little Bossings

"My Little Bossings"

When millionaire Babu is put under the bus for a pyramid scheme she isn’t even involved with, she tasks her personal assistant to hide her son with his family. But Torky, her assistant, will have family issues of his own to deal with when he brings his boss’s son home, only to find an estranged relative with a strange ward.

Okay, so I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It helps, I think, that the direction was good. But the best part of the film for me has to be the fact that Vic Sotto’s character is not the main focus of the story.

My Little Bossing do actually focus on the characters played by Kris Aquino’s son Bimby, and Ryzza Mae Dizon. Neither of whom are good actors, but deliver solid enough performances that will tug at your heart strings.

The best part of the film though has to be Jaclyn Jose, who seems to just be enjoying the film for what it is: good fun. Her acting here is by no means awards-worthy, but the fun she’s having with role is positively contagious. You can’t help but have fun alongside her.

And for the first time in a Vic Sotto movie since the second Enteng Kabisote movie (the only one with Alice Dixon and Marian Rivera), we actually get a lot of heart. Now, I have some complaints about the lines and some set-ups, but I love how the film underlines how important talking is in families.

It’s no secret to my friends how much I’ve wanted to write an Okey Ka Fairy Ko movie; one that puts the franchise back on what really made it work before: its emphasis on family values. Watching My Little Bossings, I think I can let go of that dream now. Because this film actually actualizes the story I’ve been wanting to write for Okey Ka Fairy Ko. And although it’s not perfect, it hits the right notes.

There is actually just one thing I want to complain about in this film. (Surprising, again, for a Vic Sotto film.) It’s the characters. Some of them have questionable principles (Vic’s being on the forefront of this one), most of them are not consistent, and some of them have unclear goals. I think, had the screenplay clarified the characters and made them more whole, the whole movie would’ve been better.

But the movie’s already out there. We can only be thankful for the parts they got right.

Hopefully, this starts a trend for Vic Sotto movies to start focusing again on what made his old films something we remember fondly: the right family values.

Book: The Eye of Minds

"The Eye of Minds"

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. and recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific–the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.

And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom–and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.”

If you’re looking for something exactly like The Maze Runner, then this book is for you. If you’re looking for something similar but has its own trajectory– Well, you might want to look somewhere else.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. The Eye of Minds is a good enough novel. Nowhere near as good as James Dashner’s previous trilogy, but The Eye of Minds is shaping up to be a very good follow-up. But that’s also the thing. It follows The Maze Runner. Too much, if I’m to be honest.

Sure, they don’t exactly share the same elements. But the journey that our main protagonist takes to get to where he needs to go? It’s way too similar, and although months have passed in between me reading The Maze Runner and The Eye of Minds, I couldn’t help but connect the parallels. And it is distracting.

Things do improve, a lot, once we reach the end game. This is when The Eye of Minds completely leaves the shadow of The Maze Runner to finally stand on its own.

It’s just too bad that it takes us almost the whole book before we finally see that this is a different story. That this is not a retread of something that had worked before.

Although, if we had a more interesting protagonist, I don’t think I would have minded the parallelism between the two stories as much. But as it is, our main protagonist is pretty much one note throughout the whole book. Of course, we find out why in the end–but, once again, when everything happens near the end and during the end, then you don’t win. You’ve already lost your reader.

But seeing as I did finish the book, I am looking forward to see where James Dashner takes this story. I am curious as to how this whole thing will unravel.

Now, before you go, why don’t you check out a few other reaction posts on the book?
Alice Marvels
Book Twirps