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: A Bottle of Storm Clouds

"A Bottle of Storm Clouds"

Award-winning author Eliza Victoria mixes magic with the mundane in this special concoction of 16 short stories. A girl meets a young man with the legs of a chicken. A boy is employed by a goddess running a pawnshop. A group of teenagers are trapped in an enchanted forest for 900 days. A man finds himself in an MRT station beyond Taft, a station that was not supposed to exist. A student claims to have seen the last few digits of pi. Someone’s sister gets abducted by mermaids.

Take this bottle of storm clouds and explore the worlds within.

I just realized that I’ve run out of Filipino books to read, and I still have a couple of dozen imported books to go through! That needs to be remedied, and fast! But in the meantime, let’s settle in and talk about Eliza Victoria’s collection of stories: A Bottle of Storm Clouds.

I’m not going to be objective here. I’m not a fan of the short story format when it comes to fantasy, as the payoff usually doesn’t satisfy the investment you’ve put into the world-building. Fortunately, A Bottle of Storm Clouds features only a couple of stories that don’t live up to the expectations they set you up with. Most of the time, author Victoria sets up her world quickly with a few choice words, leaving the rest of the very short stories to make you fall in love with her characters, before they break your heart.

My personal favorites of the bunch is “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” “The Just World of Helena Jimenez,” and “Once, In a Small Town.” Those are the stories that, while perfect as is, would also do well in a bigger scale–as their own novels. Although, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez” is very reminiscent of Eliza Victoria’s own Project 17 already. So maybe just the other two.

In “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” Victoria creates a wonderful world of mythological creatures co-existing with human beings. The idea of bartering for something more valuable than money? It’s not original, but the author infuses it with so much earnestness, and so much loneliness, that you can’t help but feel for the characters. Even the unassuming protagonist whose point of view we follow.

Meanwhile, “Once, In a Small Town” creates such a rich world of stories that I think author Victoria can further mine. The idea of a town full of people with magical abilities? A gift that automatically doubles as a curse? These are great hooks and plot points for a bigger story that’s just waiting to be told.

I must say: Eliza Victoria has a great handle on creating mood with her words. And although I’m not a fan of short story collections, I must say this is a book that’s truly recommendable.

Book: Stories from the Diabolical

Filipino Friday is back! And I’m not participating in the first topic discussion. Not because I don’t think it’s a topic I want to discuss, but more because I don’t really know how to define myself as a book reader. Instead, I’m going to write about Stories from the Diabolical.

"Stories from the Diabolical"

Welcome to The Diabolical! My name is Hank. I’ll be your bartender for tonight. What will it be? Don’t tell me. I know exactly what you want to drink.

So, what’s on your mind? You have a story to tell? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve got some interesting stories as well.

Have you heard the one about the ghost who walked in the bar? The one who kept coming back, waiting for the arrival of that certain someone?

What about the guy who had coffee with his dead girlfriend? Or the story of the spectral Christmas carolers?

And then there’s that strange tale of all those senior citizens who watched the last full show and never came out.

No? Haven’t heard those? Well, have another drink and I’ll tell you all about it.

I liked it. To a point. I mean, I love how the team of Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo continue to build the world of Trese. But at the same time… There’s something missing from this collection of stories. I don’t know how… but it lacks the spark of a Trese release.

Obviously, this judgement is colored by the fact that I’m a fan of the Trese series. On its own, the stories here are exceptional and original. They’re properly creepy… and sometimes poignant. But they’re not very exciting. And that’s something we’ve come to expect from each Trese release. The anticipation for something bigger at work. The thrill of the chase. And those aren’t present here.

For me, Stories From the Diabolical suffers from its connection with Trese. Because I’m expecting something akin to Trese, I’m disappointed after I realize that I’m not getting it. And I understand that this release really isn’t supposed to feel like a Trese book–that’s why it doesn’t have her name on the cover. But because she is in the stories, and it takes place in the same universe, I can’t help but associate.

And that’s a bad thing for the anthology. As I said, I think the stories are exceptional and original. They would just work better if they weren’t related to Trese.

I don’t know if I’m still making sense here. I guess you’ll just have to grab a copy of the release to make your own mind up about it.

To the Trese fans, tell me if you feel the same way as I do. To those who’ve never picked a copy of Trese up, tell me if you liked the stories without a backgrounder on what the world they’re inhabiting is like.

Book: Is It Just Me?

"Is It Just Me?"

Of all the books on the shelf, just look wahat you’ve gone and picked up! Give yoruself a round of applause, even if you’re in public. I dare you. What a lovely moment that would be. I advocate that as much as adults galloping or people wandering into an optician to try on the most unflattering and amusing glasses for no good reason. It’s what I call ‘making your own fun’. Because you have to really, don’t you? Let’s face it, life does have a tendency to throw up difficulties…

That’s not a lot to go on, I know, when deciding to buy a book. But I didn’t really need to rely on a book synopsis to know that I will enjoy reading Miranda Hart’s sort-of autobiographical book that’s also trying to be a self-help book.

Is It Just Me? is Miss Hart’s recounting of her attempts at navigating life–and, for the most part, failing humorously.

I admit, the only reason I even bought this book was because I was seriously missing my dose of Miranda-flavored laughs. Ever since I saw a clip of her sitcom on YouTube, I was hooked. Her humor might be a little self-depreciating at times, but she wears her freak flag high. She’s proud of who she is and who she has become, so you don’t feel bad for laughing at her mistakes and other mishaps. Because you feel like you’re laughing with her, instead of at her.

And if you enjoy watching her sitcom, you’re bound to enjoy the book as much as you do the television series. It’s basically the same thing, except, instead of watching, you’re reading what’s going on. Oh, and the fact that the sitcom’s fictional, and the events in the book really did happen in real life. Or so our dear author chum writes.

One thing though. Miranda really does write for a specific audience–the British variety. Fortunately for me, I’m pretty up-and-up with British po culture, having grown up with a preference for British music (thanks to Smash Hits and Top of the Pops), and having been exposed to a lot of British telly (in the past, and even until now). Also by preference. I don’t think the rest of the world’s population can say the same thing. I doubt if, my sister for instance, would get most of the things I found funny in the book. And that’s even after the fact that she also enjoys Miranda’s sitcom.

Also, the book has a tendency to be quite tiring. Not in a bad way. It’s just that, as a reader, I got caught up with the author’s excitement. And after reading each chapter, I kept finding myself in need of a lie down.

The good thing is, this being a biography of sorts, there’s not really a lot of room for cliffhanger-type chapter endings. You can put the book down. And in fact, the book might even have been more enjoyable for me had I opted to put it down from time to time.

But that’s just me.

Let’s see what other people have said about Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me?:
Jason’s Book Reviews (which I must link, because–look at what the blog’s called!)
bookoxygen
The Big Issue