Monthly Wrap-Up: Atta Girl! April

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If beauty is in the eye of the reader, what is your definition of an excellent heroine?

Is it someone with otherworldly charm that makes her an instant standout among the crowd? Or is it someone with superior intelligence and a natural talent for sass? Would it be someone who is as mysterious and profound as a wallflower? Or would she be fierce and fearless as a fighter? Is it someone with extraordinary kindness of heart or someone with an admirable sense of resilience against hardships? Is she noble and self-sacrificing for the sake of the ones she love or is she bravely pursuing independence because she appreciates her self-worth and her entitlement to freedom?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years. Hence, I vowed to dedicate at least a month to celebrate the many types of young women in fiction—a hurrah for the heroines, because why not? And so I decided April would be the perfect time for this mission: when summer is at its zenith and the promise of hot heroines can set the whole world on fire.

Seven books later and this is the most important thing I learned: there is no such thing as a perfect heroine. Sometimes they are capable of being stuck-up, annoying, intimidating, conceited, distant, insecure, and unlikeable. But these flaws are important because it makes them real; it makes them representatives of our hurts, our dreams, and our passions. The best heroines are the ones that make us understand that no matter how ugly the world could be, there are still infinite ways of being beautiful, if only we search deeper than what meets the eye. Continue reading

Monthly Wrap-Up: Misfit March

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Fact: I am in love with strangeness.

I am forever fascinated with all things weird mostly because I believe it is everywhere, in everyone.  Sometimes we’re so blinded by our mundane everydays that we fail to see an outrageously simple reality: There’s no one else like you in the world. All the sappy self-help books in the planet would tell you that despite all our similarities, every single one of us is unique.  These days I’ve been finding myself pausing a lot and just mulling over the gravity of that fact and letting it play carousels inside my head.

What makes you weird makes you extraordinary. Hot damn.

For March I have read six wonderful books featuring characters with varying levels of quirk; people who are, in many ways, different from the society or the world they live or grew up in, whether they meant to or not. People who never seemed to fit in or belong anywhere besides the shell of their own selves. People who have stories that transcend the bizaare, the macabre, the wildest of imaginations. People who defied to be forgotten by becoming one-of-a-kind—in good ways, in bad ways, in OMGWTF ways.

You and I, we are all misfits just wanting to find our places under the sun. Some of us find it in the hollows of the high school hierarchy, or a house full of strangers, or in the pursuit of possessing things. Some find it in letters from the future, or an imagined memory of a jungle several oceans away, or even just a place to safely dream of freedom.

Me? I find it in between the pages of books. Continue reading

Perks of Insanity

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“Why are we here? Well, we’re peeking up the skirt of the ineffable now, and the answer is hidden by the poetic panties of language. We can’t formulate an answer because the question is its own answer. What’s going on? What’s going on. Existence exists. Division is a false dichotomy. Why does the universe exist? Because that’s what it does. It exists. It’s like asking why words mean anything, Because that’s what they are, what they do. Because we say so. Why is the universe here? Because it is, because it says so. It is what it is. I am who I am.”

-Tony Vigorito, Just a couple of days

The Game That Plays Us

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I tried looking for the best word that could describe this book yet failed big time not because of my limited vocabulary but because this book resisted, no, defied, being boxed in a one-word description. At first I decided ‘thought-provoking’ is accurate enough because it had me thinking from the first page down to the last, had me conflicted about the multitude of themes it touched on, had me revisiting things I learned from college (I graduated with a degree on Consular and Diplomatic Affairs, what a coincidence!). But then I also like to tell you that it’s also just as equally intense, compelling and just well, for the lack of a cooler adjective, fantastic. So kindly excuse the lengthy, pretentious-sounding review ahead, friends. You are warned. Continue reading

Five stars for Fantasy

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A confession: High Fantasy books are some of my greatest fears as a reader. They intimidate the hell out of me. 

Through the years, I’ve been unknowingly estranged and on the fence with this genre because of several reasons. I have always been afraid that I wouldn’t get the hang of the world created by the author. I’m constantly scared of the possibility of my brain falling short at memorizing the long list of odd-sounding names and remembering who is who, because in my silly, prejudiced head, I have always envisioned High Fantasy as an overpopulated country of sword-wielding people with different supernatural powers. Yes, I can be narrow-minded like that.

Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘Name of the Wind’, at just a couple of pages shy from being a 700-pager novel, is one of the most celebrated and critically-acclaimed works in high fantasy. Hence my excitement and anxiety over it in pretty much equal parts. Daunting? Yes. But if there’s one thing I have learned from years and years of reading, it’s this: Some books would really require a leap of faith, and even though some of them might be a total waste of time on the end, eventually you’ll come across books that are so worth it you’ll find yourself grateful and begging for more.

Oh merciful tehlu, The world needs more books like these! Continue reading

The Unbecoming of a Reader

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The thing about sleek and sexy covers, like pretty faces, is that the attraction comes too easy. There’s not really much of a struggle, more so if you are plain clueless about what it’s all about—you’re just lured into wanting it, blind to its contents. The thing is, we were warned, to never ever judge a book by its cover, but we still do, despite. And the worst part about it is that we hope—that it’ll be just as pretty inside.

The gorgeous book design of Michelle Hodkin’s ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ is a prime example of why beautiful book covers are my kryptonite. Right off the bat it hands you the promise of a good old paranormal romance: the essentially troubled heroine, the possibly broody but definitely sexy and all-kinds-of-impossible lover and ultimately, the  eerie supernatural backdrop of the world they live in.  I am smitten, no questions asked. But did it sweep me off my feet and had me marching into the sunset of happily ever after? Did I love it?

THE GOOD:

To be fair, this novel gets brownie points for its efforts to really place the emphasis on its female protagonist, Mara Dyer. It has to, because they had her name on the title, right? If I may be so bold to say, the reason why I really stay away from YA paranormal romances is because of the tendencies of stories falling under this genre towards male bias. The lead guys are always central to the plot because they’re always the paranormal other-half (Vampires, wolves, angels, demons, faeries, whathaveyous) whereas women are always the plain-janes whose only roles are to be the quintessential damsel-in-distress. It’s formulaic and it’s wearisome in a sense because there’s really not much room for some character development, right? So I appreciated that the author went out of her way to shake things up a bit by turning the tables around this time: the hero is the one at the mercy of the heroine, which is come to think of it, quite refreshing for a change.

I loved the author’s little touches on the secondary characters, particularly the quirks of Mara’s family. I especially adored her little brother Joseph’s affinity for reading WallStreet journals and the stock market. Hee, cute. There were also glimpses of humor that had me laughing and there were even moments when I thought I’ll finally find a connection with the characters.

Also, Noah Shaw, Mara’s love interest is SMOLDERING HOT in all capital letters. He’s your usual most popular guy in high school, sure. But then he’s also the SMARTEST guy in class and speaks several languages fluently, secretly lives in a mansion-cum-palace, son of a multimillionaire, great kisser and as if he’s not yet perfect at that, he also has a freaking library in his room. Of course he has to be perfect, or this is not YA paranormal. Excuse my jadedness, friends. Haha. But aaaah Noah Shaw, you make me feel like a hormonal teenage girl again! I know it’s fluff but I said (and admitted to myself) not too long ago that I need fluff in my life too, sometimes.

THE BAD:

I tried, I really did, but it still feels like Twilight vibes all over. Girl moves to a new state and transfers to a new school, becomes a walking freakshow that everyone ogles on her first few weeks, meets hottest and most elusive school heartthrob, and then the instant attraction that draws them together like magic. And then they run into some creepy, paranormal hijinks together that place both their lives in danger and then at the end they’ve got no one but each other to survive and fight for. Different characters but same old plot. The book tried too, and I give it credit for that, but it just sort of complicated things further in the end to the point of confusion. The second half of the book went in an oblivious blur because of reality and hallucinations overlapping each other. Or maybe that’s just me, being too slow on the uptake to keep up with the direction the story wanted to take. Oh, and it’s also the first book in– yes, you’ve guessed it right–a series. Of course we saw that one coming.

Reading this felt like being on a summer fling in so many ways, or at least how I am imagining it will feel like: It was sweet, sexy fun but I never really took it seriously. It is, to be consistent with my choice of metaphors, a steamy yet brief one night-stand; it didn’t take my breath away nor had me professing undying love.  Ask me now how it felt when it ended, and I’ll probably stare into space, pondering plenty of what-could-have -beens and I’ll smile and tell you, ‘Well, like what they all say, it’s only good while it lasted.’