Archive for September 2010
The Filipino Book Bloggers (FBB) Meetup last Saturday was certainly the start of something big, to most of the participants’ surprise. FBB is a group as well as an online directory at http://filipinobookboggers.wordpress.com created by Chachic.
It was her initiative to organize the bloggers meetup. Thanks, Chachic!
When I arrived at Starbucks – Shangrila, there were already over a dozen attendees; four tables had to be commandeered to accommodate everyone. Said Jason, for a first meeting it was rather serious with all the talk about local publishing. But he did also say it was still fun to meet other book bloggers in person.
I also had fun, but I understood that concern. We went right ahead to working out an agenda instead of, rightly, getting to know each other first. I know I’d have liked to know more about the blogs of the others, why they blog, and what they do beside reading and blogging.
I think the momentum created by the Future of the Book conference, Gege’s presentation about online communities by bookish people shaking the worldview of the old-school publishers, and Honey’s insightful recap of that event was simply at work.
People were on fire, I guess.
Get Gege Sugue’s slideshow of her presentation about social media for the bookish, where she mentions what readers would want publishers to do. Gege is also islandhopper, Flips Flipping Pages founder and food and book blogger.
Read Honey Peralta’s reflections on the future of the book, where she proposes more discourse between publishers and readers. We also know Honey as Fantaghiro23.
I was at the other end of the table with Honey, Gege, Paolo Chikiamco, Shaps Chikiamco, Kenneth Yu , and Tarie Sabido. The topic of conversation was the future of the book and how publishers can reach out to readers. There was a lot of insider information being passed around. Chachic and I were all big eyes and ears because it was fascinating to hear about the intrigues and hardheadedness going on inside our local publishing houses affecting consumers’ reading options.
The best quote I heard so far was “the books will promote themselves.” A top publishing name actually believes this, which is another sign of the great divide between local publishers and readers.
Kenneth gave very practical suggestions on how book bloggers can maximize their influence on the local publishing scene.
- Centralize comments or discussion threads so publishers can easily find out reader concerns and wants. Gege said she will open a thread on the online community Shelfari.com, “What you want our publishers to know.” I can post links of related book club threads on the FBB Site, already a hub for readers who blog especially on Filipino Fridays posts.
Kenneth also requested that we post links to important Filipino book bloggers and readers groups on his site. I got the impression he was particularly surprised at how big and active the Flips Flipping Pages was.
- Blog about Filipino books and authors once in a while. Chachic said that if bloggers send her links of Filipino book reviews she can post a roundup during Filipino Fridays.
No specific target number, as most book bloggers blog for the pleasure of blogging. I can’t speak for the others but I know having to meet a demand is a big turn-off. I trust though that if we combine our desire to read and blog about Filipino books we can create a loud enough buzz, which could influence local publishers to turn out books readers want. Honey observed that publishers and writers are caught in a circle: they write for each other, they read each other’s work.
How can Philippine publishing prosper this way? I observed silently.
Another observation that got passionately discussed was how the big names in Philippine publishing belittle the power of marketing via traditional or new media methods. If it were not impolite, the bloggers and independent publishers at the table, I imagined, would have snorted at the pinaligpasan-nang-panahon mindset.
The nice turnout was unexpected. Starbucks was too noisy for the group to be able to engage well as a whole, leading to compartmentalized conversations. Every now and then, I looked wistfully towards the other end of the table, wondering what other bookish talk was taking place. I look forward to reading the recap of the other bloggers.
Gege suggested Fully Booked to Chachic for the next venue. Or some other quieter place. Chachic said she’s planning another get-together this year. With the serious stuff thrashed out in this first meeting, we can just hang out with other book bloggers then.
Relaxed, and less shy, the Filipino Book Bloggers can get serious then on making something big out of book blogging in the Philippines–simply by doing what we enjoy doing: reading, blogging, talking, and eating.
The book bloggers love to eat, too, apparently.
Seen at the Filipino Book Bloggers Meetup (September 25, 2010), book bloggers to watch out for:
- Chachic of Chachic’s Book Nook – http://chachic.wordpress.com
- Ariel of I am Pinoy Peter Pan – http://pinoypeterpan.wordpress.com
- Aaron of Guy Gone Geek – http://guygonegeek.wordpress.com
- Ace of Ace of Books – http://aceofbooks.wordpress.com
- Tina of One Page at a Time – http://onemorepage.tinamats.com
- Jason of Taking a Break – http://blurredlights.wordpress.com
- Honey of Coffeespoons – http://www.fantaghiro23.blogspot.com
- Gege of I Flip Pages – http://gegeflipspages.blogspot.com
- Paolo & Shaps of RocketKapre – http://www.rocketkapre.com **
- Kenneth of Philippine Genre Stories – http://philippinegenrestories.blogspot.com **
- Tarie of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind – http://asiaintheheart.blogspot.com.
- ArtSeblis/MayD of ArtSeblis – http://artseblis.wordpress.com
- Aldrin of The Pollysyllabic Spree- http://aldr.in
- Rezel of The Seeker – http://theseekergirl.blogspot.com
- Celina of Celina’s Books and Magazines – http://booksandmagazines.multiply.com (Husband and Ipad genius baby showed up later)***
- Jansen of Walking Paradox – http://walkingparadox.tumblr.com
- Jasper of Avalon.ph – http://www.avalon.ph ***
- Peter Sandico of KyusiReader – http://Kyusireader.blogspot.com
- Rhett de Jesus, photographer of bookish events – http://bit.ly/aMpe5Q
- Carljoe Javier, author of Kobayashi Maru of Love – http://lumpenculturati.wordpress.com
I love reading their blogs. Many of the bloggers love YA and speculative fiction. Maybe in the Philippines, YA is the way to go, to get the kids and kids at heart more interested to read books by local authors.
Other accounts of the event:
Ariel of Pinoy Peter Pan
Honey of Coffeespoons
*Honey also has a Filipino Book Bloggers Directory that I believe inspired FBB. Check out the list on her site. ** Also an indie publisher***Also an online bookseller. Photos courtesy of Chachic’s Book Nook and Kenneth
A Good Year happens if the climate was consistent throughout, warm, offering the ripening grapes little surprises. If I understood Kathy’s explanations correctly, this plus good soil, careful supervision, and tender loving care were almost always sufficient for a good harvest. And the wine will flow.
During the Flips Flipping Pages book discussion last September 18, the wine did flow: red wine, light and exuberant; white wine, well balanced, crisp with the flavors of citrus and spicy ginger. Uncomplicated wine enjoyed with a variety of foods, from cold cuts to Gege’s divine cheesy churvas.
The reason for meeting was Peter Mayle’s bestselling novel, A Good Year. Published in 2004, it was adapted into a movie starring Russell Crowe in 2006.
The story follows Max Skinner, a London stockbroker, who loses his job before finding out that he inherited a vineyard in France from his late uncle Henry. In Provence he falls in love with wine, the people, and the simple life. Through the book readers get a glimpse of the highly competitive wine business.
The movie deviated on a few but very emphatic points in the story. It stressed romance and comedy, chose to combine feisty and alluring into one love interest instead of sticking to the lesbian lawyer and flirty café owner of the book, and completely did away with the fumbling Hardy Boy attempts of Max and company.
The uncle-nephew relationship was also prioritized, presented through flashbacks and wistful reminiscences. Said many of the Flippers during the discussion, they preferred movie over book–a rare event among booklovers. The book had exuberance but the movie had direction.
With Gege (IslandHopper) moderating, the book discussion transformed into another amazing eat, talk, eat, swap, and learn gathering. Sheila (aka Shy) had arranged to hold it at the Cyrano Wine Shop on Palanca St of Legaspi Village, Makati. Cyrano owner, Alex Sawit, presided over the bar, demonstrating at one point the Cyrano cut, kung fu technique of opening a wine bottle (Flippers, don’t try this at home).
Gege and Sheila (with Jeeve’s help) had invited Miss Katherine Yao Santos to give some pointers on wine appreciation. Kathy is the marketing director for Happy Living Philippines, importer of the Beringer wine from Napa Valley in California. She grew up loving wine, she said. As a child she learned how to tell good wine from bad, how to properly store wine, and how wine was produced. To enter the wine business, one must be passionate about wine or else the business will not prosper.
In the book, Max’s friend Charlie demonstrated the ritual of wine tasting. To truly appreciate wine, I feared one has to have en extensive vocabulary of flowery words. Kathy’s lesson in wine appreciation killed that fear–and initiated my palate to the wonders of wine!
White Zinfandel, very friendly, eased the Flippers into the first sip. Said Kathy, the blush wine is good for those just learning to appreciate wine. It has a bit of sweetness, an attractive clarity, and nice with different food. “Bagay sa tapsilog,” she agreed.
Hold the wine glass at the stem (to avoid warming the wine with our hand), check the clarity (reject wine if there are particles), swirl (to make the wine come alive), breathe in the bouquet (dip the nose into the glass), and sip (don’t swallow right away, let the wine coat all your taste buds, savor the lingering taste).
“You want wine to still be there, so you get the combination of wine with food,” said Kathy. Wine primes the tongue for food. For Filipino food with lots of sauce, lighter wine is better. Color coding can even be applied: white wine for white sauce; red for red sauce. Heavier wine is good for heavier food like steak.
Kathy discussed other important points about wine, summarized below:
Glass and stemware are very important. Shape and thickness of glass affect wine appreciation. Use thin glass for wine.
Alex helped explain the mechanics of using the right glass for wine. With tapering glass, the wine hits the sweet center of the tongue first. For fruity wine, wider glass is better so the sweetness is diffused.
If not stored properly, wine will oxidize. If exposed to heat, wine starts cooking. Best use a wine chiller or store where temperature is stable.
Bottle-opening involves the right gadget and technique. In proper society, we’re not supposed to pop the cork, Kathy said (so Hollywood is not proper society?).
Choose quality wine. Price is a good indication. Wine priced at below 400 pesos are usually mass produced. Wine is expensive because of the extreme care given to the growing of grapes, making sure all the right conditions are met. Note the well manicured vineyards that produce good wine, said Kathy.
When ordering wine at restaurants, inspect the cork. “If you see wine stains on side of cork, the wine was leaking and not properly stored. Reject wine as the flavor might have been compromised.”
In wine tasting, spitting after tasting is the norm. This is done so the wine doesn’t get to you explained Kathy. Focus is important. To evaluate quality, tasting is enough.
Alex shed light on the heavy vs light bottle debate. Apparently, many people think that heavy bottles are better for wine. “Lighter is environment friendly. But consumer perception for red wine is for heavy bottles.” Heavy or light probably does not make a difference to the quality of wine.
Given all the elements of wine–taste, texture, clarity, fragrance, body, etc. appreciating wine can be a tricky business. But Kathy reassured the Flippers: Never let anyone dictate your wine. We enjoy wine differently.
No shame then if you enjoy Strawberry wine or some other very fruity wine. As long as you can appreciate it.
Said Gege, “I usually drink wine for the buzz.” So Kathy’s wine appreciation talk was an eye-opener.
Time was short after the wine appreciation session: another red and a white, the Beringer California Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc, were also appreciated. The Flippers had been so engrossed that they almost forgot to discuss the book! Gege routed everyone and asked several to describe Peter Mayle’s A Good Year in wine terms.
Welski wrote a very good recap of this part of the discussion. The book swap followed. Wine flowed some more. The grapes, cheesy churvas, pizza, cold cuts, pasta, and chips disappeared from the plates. Flippers brought home laminated coasters and glass-shaped bookmarks Gege made. The message, [name of Flipper] is having a good year, was repeated all over the place.
Of course the Flippers are having a good year. But maybe the Flippers needed the positive reinforcement. Unlike with wine, hot and cold, wet and dry, rocky and sandy help make the Flippers. What is a year without surprises? Boring? Clueless? Flat?
Unlike wine, Flippers mature well with all sorts of challenges. The book discussion proves it.
Hey, Uno is very similar to the the babaylan-mandirigma (magical warrior) from the graphic short story in Underpass, which featured four urban-fantasy-horror stories. Click here to read that blog post.
For millennia the perfect warrior has been battling the saitans (minions) of Mangilala, the devil-equivalent of a Mindanao-creation myth. While God Magbabaya went up to heaven to get some Divine Skin for his latest creation made out of clay, Mangilala sneaked in and breathed life into the clay.
Magbabaya ended up with a flawed creature, vulnerable to the influence of Mangilala. Essentially, humanity became the Devil’s minions, too.
Magbabaya sounds like magpabaya (negligent), doesn’t it?
To counter his brother’s power, God created The One, the perfect human covered with an armor-like Divine Skin.
Fast forward to the 21st century, Uno remains solitary, hunting enemies, and woefully ignorant of pop culture. A shadow-master is tearing the souls off anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way. Uno gets in touch with allies from the Shadow-Trading world to find out what his enemy’s weaknesses are.
At stake is a bottle of magic water. What it really is I didn’t get. Hyperbole was in the way.
Again, the writer likes to tell instead of show. But given that this is an action story, it wasn’t too bad. But Uno getting his ass kicked, twice, was. The warrior won eventually, but he does need to work on strategic fighting.
“And Creation’s greatest warrior, Magbabaya’s Right Hand, His Fist, His Powerful and Deadly Sword, cannot catch a breath, his whole body aching, his head pounding.”
I’m not a fan of Hontiveros’s writing; metaphors and similes punctuate every other sentence. But he can craft interesting stories that seem to translate better as graphic novels. I really would love to see more sequels of Parman. The devil character is very interesting, with a complexity of character that would nicely flesh out if developed further. A lonely little boy at heart wanting a brother’s love.
Uno as a character is more enigmatic. Is he that loyal to his Creator? Doesn’t he ever doubt?
Mostly set in the Philippines, drawing heavily on Mindanao and Taosug mythology, this story for me is the most promising of the three Hontivero novellas reviewed here.
Like I said, Takod, first book by Hontiveros I read, was an epic fail. There were more parts I disliked than liked. At less than 100 pages, with big font-text, there was little to like.
I should have read Craving first.
The story is about a couple desperate for a child. She had already miscarried twice. On her third pregnancy, her obstetrician advised the couple to take a break from the city, offering her vacation house beside the sea for the couple to stay in.
Every weekend she would drive back from the city to make sure the pregnancy was going well.
For a while it was, despite the rustlings from the tall grass surrounding the house, despite the owls leaving rat skeletons by the big mango tree in the yard, despite the hungry look the townswomen had for Anne, despite Lester’s sickening sense of dread.
Hontiveros created a trilogy of gothic horror, drawing on traditional folklore. Just like with Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, he capitalizes on the idea that there are worse things to happen than dying. Certainly I was creeped out by this:
“She will screech, and she will wail, but you will capture her, you will cut off her hair, and her fingernails, for they grow, so very quickly; cut all of that off, and stuff everything into the hole in the back of her neck. That way, she will be tame, and will not suffer the wretched thirst.”
The hole in the back of her neck?! That image is burning a hole in my imagination blacker than the ghost of a raped woman in the movie Shutter, sitting, always sitting, on the shoulders of the man who wronged her.
I still don’t see what the fuss is, though, about Hontiveros’s writing. He won a Palanca? Instead of letting readers feel for themselves the menace, he keeps saying there is a menace:
“And Anne, alone in bed, stirred, her hand going to her belly, resting there, as if to shield her unborn child from some unseen, unknown menace…. He had failed to notice though, that there had been no wind, and the tree‘s leaves had been still, and silent, unmoving, though pensive, as if patiently waiting for some cruel inevitability to unfold.”
Ah, well, the horror story in this case was good enough that the metaphor and simile-stuffed narrative was less irritating.
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
I wish I can do this book justice with a great review, but right now I am swamped with so many things to do and cursed with a mind that just wants to go to sleep. For a while, though, I drowned in hilarity. Soulless is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. How does that work? Believe me it does, a Victorian steam punk led by the highly intelligent and saucy Alexia and gorgeous lord-detective Maccon.
In her society she is considered soulless, not supernatural yet not fully human. In her presence, vampires lose their fangs, werewolves their fur, and ghosts their hold on earth.
When rogue werewolves and vampires are murdered one after the other, she may be the only one who can solve the mystery, to the chagrin of the werewolf Lord Maccon. The interaction between these two are the high points of the book.
Rough around the edges, he is the perfect match for our pragmatic heroine–again to his chagrin and her secret delight. With a highly ingenuous world-building, where vampires set the latest trend in fashion and manners (i.e. deep-brimmed bonnets protect sensitive vampire skin from the light) and werewolf pack behavior influences military tactics, this series just raised the bar in urban fantasy.
By the way, if you like Victorian steam punk, visit this site. Ladies dresses and ensembles, hats and oddities for sale.
Some marriages are made in heaven . . . Some are not. What happens when “the happiest day of your life” turns into a nightmare? Forget the drunken best man or the bridesmaid dresses from the ’80s . . . none of these wedding day disasters can compare to a cursed bride determined to make it down the aisle, or a vampire who is about to disrupt your wedding.
I’m hard on short stories sometimes. They don’t satisfy me as much as a lengthy immersion into another world and a dynamic set of motivations strung out over a novel-length story. With short stories, escape is far too short, the fix like a matchstick flame. But my reading pleasures are also fickle sometimes. I get a craving for brain candy, when my intellectual energy runs low from too much work and having to decipher the logic of alien humans. This is why I acquire anthologies even when I rarely read them; I knew I would need them for emergencies. Weddings from Hell saved me from thinking too much for an hour or two, featuring four funny stories about paranormal bad boys and a ghostly wedding crasher. The writing strikes me as very chicklit-ish, not really my cup of tea but very calming at this time. So far, the only author that got more than my passing fancy is Terri Garey–I like the mystery element in Ghouls Night Out. I would buy her other books.