Archive for September 2009
In the first chapter, the man who has all the secrets and mysterious plans is murdered…. and all because he took things for granted.
Jayne Heller is a 22 year old college dropout who inherits her murdered uncle’s vast estates, and unfinished business. A ruthless cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for power and world domination. A realist, Jayne found it difficult to believe in the cabal’s existence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t share her reluctance, and is quite convinced she is a threat to their goals.
Collecting an assortment of allies—cursed chef, ex priest, Buddhist mystic, and attractive scientist, she sets out to continue her uncle’s legacy, and to survive the attacks against her. Unlike most urban fantasy heroines, she has to operate in a totally clueless-about-the-monsters-within-us society, meaning she has to work around or break some rules not just to survive but also succeed. An unexpected ability to dodge magical spells and kick ass makes the job easier, but piles up more unanswered questions.
Throughout the book, there were references as to how smart, resourceful, but secretive her uncle Eric was. Irritated, I would think, “but he was offed so easily in the first chapter!” He doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence from me, and yet Jayne’s present and future survival depends on the empire of properties, information, and secrets the uncle collected over the years.
But, there is hope, mine, that nothing is what it seems. The death of Randolph Coin, demon leader of the bad guys, bothered me. He was in despair, over dying or over the death of something he also is fighting for. This book may not be as exciting to read as others in the genre (the romance elements sucked, it dragged sometimes, the heroine is courageous but a cry baby…) but it has complexities that will certainly bring me back to the sequel, Darker Angels.
Now, if only her group of unlikely companions had more personality beyond the labels we conveniently set them apart with, this book would rise above the crush of urban fantasies in bookstore shelves.
Sure, but I’ll take two only please. The other two aren’t very cute.
Featuring four all-new tales of devilish dogs by four urban fantasy bestselling authors, Must Love Hellhounds was a welcome snack in between meals—while I recuperate from intense reading experiences, taking the edge off my appetite for favorite authors while I wait for the next titles.
Charlaine Harris is always delightful to read, though her tongue-in-cheek fantasy, The Britlingens Go to Hell, does not really inspire me to pursue further the adventures of paranormal bodyguards, Clovache and Batanya, through whatever world their assignments take them. I view this more as a writing exercise, a grabber so fans will buy this anthology. Expecting Sookie and her entourage of vampire hotties, they will be disappointed.
Angel’s Judgment by Nalini Singh introduces me to the Guild Hunter universe. If first impression counts, then I would advise these archangels, vampires, and guild hunters to get their acts together and act more like what they’re supposed to be and not spoiled brats on a game of tag so they could rack up more star points with me. As it is, this romance between two minor characters of the series fail to impress me.
Magic Mourns by Illona Andrews develops the relationship further between Andrea of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid and shapeshifter warrior Raphael. I loved the Kate Daniels series, and I love the tense relationship between Kate and pack lord Curran. But this story had me reviewing the series not because of the major characters but for nuances and details of Raphael’s tenacious pursuit of Andrea I may have missed. A very fun read.
Meljean Brook’s Blind Spot intrigued me. A blind man who can see through the eyes of others joins a vampire’s bodyguard/assistant to rescue the vampire’s niece. The writing was deft and left enough hints of that world’s mythology to make me want to buy the series the short story spun off on.
If anyone had something in common to say about me, it would be, “I have a huge appetite, for food and books!” But rich fare can be overwhelming, so anthologies like this, giving us just a taste, are a welcome break. Like munching on cookies or sipping an apéritif.
The romance is secondary to the story, I know, but I’m convinced Ben Traina would make an awesome star of a spinoff gritty detective series where something fishy is always paranormal.
Reading this fast and furious, I was blown away by the dark and edgy storyline, the strong characters, the sharp lines between good guys and bad guys. The characters’ emotions were violent and powerful and the writing was compelling, engaging me with its flair for the dramatic. Then I took a moment to breathe, sat down for a more detailed read, and discovered the gaps in the plot, the weak links, and the soft spots.
The Sign of the Zodiac Series follows the adventures of Joanna Archer, a freelance photographer and reclusive heiress who finds out she belongs to a supernatural group of beings calling themselves the Zodiac. Set in glitzy Las Vegas, an age-old battle between the Light and the Shadow sucks in innocents and villains alike. Brutally raped as a teenager, Joanna survived to prowl the streets after sunset, seeking for answers, and revenge. On her 25th birthday, she got her wish, transforming into the Archer, at the cost of a dear one’s life.
Yes, this is superhero stuff, complete with trading cards, lurid comics-style scenarios, and geeky fanboys in a corner comic shop where Joanna goes to research on the mythology of her race. A little corny, but the twists got me cornered into continuing. Apparently, Joanna learns, she is more than a Zodiac Sign; she is the Kairos, of Light and Shadow both. Both sides want her, dead, alive, fighting with them, away from them… Sorry, it gets a bit tricky determining which way the wind blows.
This aspect is important, because Like Jean-Babtiste Grenouille of Perfume (The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind), these creatures track by scent. Their superhero senses could smell light and shadow, innocence and cruelty, everything in between as naturally as breathing—a talent that makes them sharp. Supposedly. So why these flaws?
- Joanna’s age that she was raped keeps shifting from 15 to 16 then back again.
- If the Shadow and Light can’t read each other’s comics, why don’t they ask/torture mortals who easily can for the story?
- Joanna’s glyph should glow when true enemies are around, not only at cinematic moments with her “true father.”
- The Tulpa, head of the Shadow Zodiac, sent a minion to rape and kill Joanna. Even if her scent was camouflaged afterward, they could have done basic research to figure out whose family she belongs to and that she survived.
- Was it such stretch for the Tulpa to consider his affair with a Light Agent may have born fruit and that he was the father of the Kairos?
- If a child of the previous Archer was so hated by the Tulpa, why didn’t he target Joanna’s sister Olivia, too?
I noted several more, but noting them all down would take up too much blog space. But what the heck, this is comics stuff. We love these glaring discrepancies so we will have the pleasure of pointing them out, filling them up with our own imaginative conjectures. In my book and In Scent of Shadows, the visuals and olfactory-rich narrative made it well worth the read.
Kuha-kuhang ng komiks na ito ang panlasa ng Pinoy, pati na ang kabaduyan. Uy, enjoy kaya maging baduy!
You never know where you will encounter emotions or higher principles that rock cultural and social boundaries. They may be lying under a pile of curlers, in the bottles of makeup and coloring agents, within the pages of a superhero comic book, or right from the hilarious antics existing inside Ada’s Beauty Salon, home of Ada, a gay beautician, a person just like us…..
But who also happens to transform into the very buxom and powerful Zsa Zsah Zaturnnah, defender of the weak, protector of the oppressed, kick-ass champion against zombies and kitschy pop icons-turned-amazon warriors (Nora, Dina, Vilma, Sharon, and, queen of all, Femina, with the body of a goddess, secretly a chauvinist pig).
Written and illustrated by Carlo Vergara, Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah has captured the hearts of Filipinos’ extremely discriminating tastes for reading material (so discriminating that local publishing is pitiful from lack of patronage). Since it was first published in 2003, this graphic novel, or, simply, comics, has been adapted into a stage musical (by Tanghalang Pilipino) and movie (by Regal Films), in 2006.
The movie starred Zsa Zsa Padilla as Zaturnnah and Rustom Padilla as Ada. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did catch the musical. Eula Valdez was fabulous as the red haired super heroine, Tuxc Rutaquio refined even through the crazier scenes, but just like in the comics, Didi, portrayed by Joey Paras, stole the thunder from everyone.
This pear-shaped character has impeccable comedic timing wherever she goes, pulped or croaking on stage, I see.
I enjoyed both comics and theater. My reading palate is usually receptive only to edgy urban fantasy and historical mysteries these days, while the staging encountered a few technical snags, but, I know now, I am not immune from slapstick fun that inadvertently piggy-backs a few profound insights along the way, and I’m not overly critical about light and sound as long as I see and hear well enough what is going on.
When Carlo Vergara graced one of my book club’s discussions, someone asked him who reads his comics. To our surprise, he said (if he were to conclude based on readers who approach him about the book), all sorts and all ages, from teenagers to seniors, from shy ladies to straight guys, from masa to intellectuals. With a gay beautician for the hero-heroine, what would guys from a macho-oriented society like about it, I wondered. Carver (author’s nickname) explained that, apparently, girls felt titillated with the love story angle and the guys found the antics makulit.
In between our half-joking commentaries (wickedly meant to bring on nosebleed to unsuspecting authors) on the deeper meanings behind some of the scenes and elements from the book…
“are you trying to convey an ecological critique, protesting against the insensitive handling of non-human life forms?,” on the attacking-giant-frog-born-from-volcano…
“did you deliberately use stereotypes to call attention to shameful facts of society, such as homophobia and messianic complex (waiting for someone to save them instead of actually doing something themselves)?”
“don’t you think the extreme feminism represented by the Planet Women was self-defeating, and that it affirmed the the stereotype of radical feminism, instead of breaking it?”
“what can you say about your critics’ claims that your work is campy and derivative?
… I pondered on the universal appeal of the comics, thinking maybe it had something to do with how we can all relate to a character simply wishing to be happy, to love, and be loved. That he tries to achieves this through the campy world of Pinoy Superhero is simply the bait that made us bite into his world.
True, ZZZ is at heart a pastiche of stereotypes and pop culture references. So what? There’s nothing original anymore in the world. But good timing is timeless, which let’s us introduce and accept rehash as if it were new. It’s pure genius if it succeeds. It’s priceless if it gets people laughing, feeling, and thinking.
And I’m thinking, even if Ada is a baklang babae at heart, with Dodong the way he is, a hunk, but not so bright, Ada may yet realize she’s better off as the man of the family.
More ZZZ discussion here…
baduy – campy, corny, off, not tasteful but fun
masa – the general population, the simple folks
macho – manly, muscular, all that a real guy should be
kakulitan – outrageous, crazy, unbelievably dumb that it’s so funny
baklang babae – a woman who acts like a loud and flamboyant gay
Third in the GreyWalker series starring your average PI turned paranormal investigator, Harper Blaine. This time, she’s hunting a Native American monster who’s been eating Pioneer Square’s homeless, and turning one or two into zombies.
The real is as intriguing as the make-believe. When they strike up a partnership, the result is phenomenal!
Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series is dear to me maybe for this reason primarily. Though I’ve never been in Seattle, I can imagine how I will orient my exploration on the landmarks and events introduced by the books if ever I visit. The author claims she tweaked the city’s history and geography a little to fit the story, creating a more fantastical Seattle than in truth. All the better. My visit then will be more of an adventure if I see the city through normal eyes, and eyes colored by different shades of Harper’s Grey.
In Underground, something is feeding on the homeless in Pioneer Square. Quinton, enigmatic IT genius who takes care of Harper’s electronic security, realizes right away this is supernatural and not your usual deranged serial killer, so he calls on Harper for help. Bodies—and body parts—surface. At first, they suspect vampires. As the investigation progresses, they realize the monster is more primal and ancient than vampires, and is rooted in the legends of the Native Americans in the area.
I noticed that as the series progresses, we see more fast-paced action and character development taking place. Patterns that spun unnoticed in the first book start falling into place, such as the homeless guy that accosted Harper in the first book having more of a role in her supernatural reincarnation than we would have thought. For me, this makes the series very clever, but not in a way that is off-putting as we get to enjoy a richer plot… and a few surprises.
Quinton has a more prominent role this time in Harper’s love life, replacing Will, the antique dealer who helped Harper find the revenant-possessed organ of the first book—which is inevitable, given that Harper has a lot more in common with Quinton. But let’s not dismiss Will entirely. Harper goes to England, where Will is based, I believe, in the fourth book, doesn’t she?
Anyway, Seattle’s Undergound is the monster’s playground, taking sanctuary away from the homeless. This maze of underground sidewalks and abandoned basements used to be on the city’s street level, until a fire in 1889 razed much of the city. The Underground was born when the city decided to raise the streets one story higher to solve flooding and the sewers’ backflush problem due to incoming tides.
The amalgamation from truth and fantasy made for another compelling read. I was extremely satisfied, and I look forward to what the Gray has in store for Harper next.
When those children showed Harper how to get in sideways, the special effects were Eerie, Indiana in the park. Loved it.
Harper Blaine is a Greywalker. After being dead for two minutes, she found that she can travel the grey realms between the living and the dead. Clumsy in the first book, always falling and bumping into the things that go bump in the night, she is now more proficient with her newly found skill, complementing her own remarkable set of investigative skills.
With Greywalker, I was intrigued, and I hoped the series will get better. Glad to say it did. Much. And that mist I mentioned between me and Harper? Forget it. Something shifted, or it drew me in so subtly that I was within this Grey Zone, where our intrepid heroine goes to talk to ghosts and other paranormal entities for answers in solving her cases, without me realizing it was happening.
Gone was the disconnection. The writing is edgier, offering plausible-sounding, sometimes overly technical, explanations to paranormal phenomena. Featuring characters with more depth, that are so interesting that I was riveted watching them interact and give away subtle clues about the poltergeist messing up a university experiment, the sequel has definitely stepped up. Harper has to figure out if the poltergeist is the real deal—a ghost or product of the research group’s combined energy… or just someone’s idea of a very deadly trick.
Harper herself has also become more human to me; her ferret, Chaos, has quite an interesting personality herself. The old associates are still around: the mysterious IT expert Quin, university professors and paranormal enthusiasts, Ben and Mara, and some new faces.
The vampires of the first book are still in the background, lurking, I feel, for some objective Harper can’t imagine what. One of them is her mentor—of sorts, offering her vital information about the creatures of the Grey and how to stop them. There are threads, I fear, that would spun out only at the opportune time; meanwhile, vampires and Greywalking private investigator can be allies—of sorts.
As intriguing as the fantasy elements are, it is the real life events—the 1970s Phillips experiment to create a poltergeist with the power of thought, the Women’s Auxilliary Army Corps in WWI, and the Wah Mee massacre in Seattle’s Chinatown—framing the story that delivered the coup for me. When what should be imaginary fall out of the cracks in reality, it’s fascinating. But if what was completely real cement the cracks in fantasy for a convincing show, it’s breathtaking.
Can a book make you healthy? No. But it can make you go through a crisis.
Written by very smart-mouthed fitness-buffs and vegetarian authors. Very painful to read. Gives blunt observations of the unhealthy habits and self deluding rationalizations of people about food and eating. Impresses upon us how we often turn a blind eye on what we eat, so we won’t be bothered about what we eat. They offer healthy alternatives to meat, processed food, sugar-rich sweets, and cheese-saturated pizzas, but most, if not all, of these alternatives are only available in the United States. Very frustrating. Gave me a crisis. All my favorite food, I learned, are evil: coffee, dairy, cheese, meat, junk food, soda…..
When I saw this book at a second-hand bookstore in Diliman, I thought it was perfect for my book club‘s August book discussion themed around health and fitness. Easy read, I assumed. The bitchy writing style appealed to me. I can bitch right back, then: “I don’t care! I’m going to continue eating Clover Cheese and drink brewed coffee. I don’t care if they’re comfort food; I want to be comforted!”
I would be more offended by fake sympathy and understanding for self-indulgent behavior. It goes like this: If you’re fat, you must eat too much, don’t eat right, or don’t exercise. No excuses. I can respect that, even if I totally will ignore most of the book’s recommendations. I like to eat. Meat. Ice cream. Pasta. No excuses.
But then these skinny bitches gave an overview of the unimaginable cruelty taking place in slaughterhouses, despite laws and policies calling for humane protocols. I can’t recite them here. I’m too upset. This book came at a bad time; I was forced to let go of puppies I loved dearly, because we had too many pets already (6 dogs, dozens of cats). My common sense told me we should let others with more room in their house adopt them. I learned too late, unfortunately, that I would be devastated.
Now I see my puppies’ eyes on all furry animal faces. I’m starting to see them on pigs and cows. Heaven help me if I start to see them on mice faces. What’s that scurrying sound? Oh, just two mice playing together, just like Kulit and Bulilit used to. Heaven help me.
So, now I hate this book. We torture animals, so we could eat our burgers. I am weeping. The authors say they became vegetarians because they couldn’t tolerate the cruelty associated with a meat-eating diet, as well as the filth fed to cattle and hogs, contaminating their flesh, contaminating us. They recounted a slew of dirty tricks by US agencies—FDA, EPA, USDA—responsible for introducing some weird hormones to livestock feed and the grand scale deception about cow’s milk being good for us (it’s not?). But I’m detached about this part; my own government is as corrupt.
My book club always asks members to rate the books we read:
1 bookmark – I hated it. all copies should be burned.
2 bookmarks – I’ve read worse.
3 bookmarks – I liked it. It’s worth the time and dead trees.
4 bookmarks – I loved it!
My rating for Skinny Bitch is 1 bookmark. It’s good for us and the world. Everyone should read it. I hate it. All copies should be burned. Yeah, I’m a bitch too.