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Top 13 Reads of 2013

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The year 2013 was a pretty good year in reading. I managed to find a number of memorable titles. So, here they are (in no particular order): A Song of Ice and Fire Series 1-4 by George R.R. Martin – I am now hugely obsessed with this series! It's full of danger, uncertainty, magic, dragons, knights. What's not to love?    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A well written tense, taut, and suspenseful thriller that made me lose my mind!  Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – A grand, sweeping epic tale about memories, identity, and home. I loved that there are quiet lyrical moments, in as much as fast paced ones.Tenth of December by George Saunders – Despite having some strange elements in an otherwise contemporary story, it turned out to be compelling, insightful, and touching.   Ender’s Series 1-2 & Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card – An accessible sci-fi. It's a great blend of action-y stuff and think-y stuff.     Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - The best friendship story I have …

The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Summary from Goodreads:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter w…

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

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Summary from Goodreads:

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.

Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’t help being drawn to Early, who won’t believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear.

But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about t…

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

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Summary from Goodreads:

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
A Feast for Crows picked up where A Storm of Swords left off, but with the former being relatively tamer than the latter. The War of the Five Kings has after all, come to an end, with Tommen taking the Iron Throne. This 4…

Required Reading: December 2013

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This is it, the last month of 2013. How could a year fly by so fast? And do they know it's Christmas time at all? Haha. Sorry, may last song syndrome lang. Anyway, here is how I fared for my November Required Reads:

1. Tenth of December by George Saunders - (5/5 stars) Deftly written satire of contemporary life. It is intense and insightful and made me look at life a little differently. 

2. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster- (4/5 stars) Not your usual detective story. It's strange and confusing, but of the good kind. Also the type of book that will make you think about life and human existence. 

3. The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy - (Unfinished) I wasn't able to make much dent on this because I decided to join the buddy read for A Feast for Crows by GRRM and it kept me well away from The Girl on Fire. But the Catching Fire movie adaptation was great though. It was grand and spectacular and emotional. I teared up a …

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders

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Summary from Goodreads:

George Saunders, one of our most important writers, is back with a masterful, deeply felt collection that takes his literary powers to a new level. In a recent interview, when asked how he saw the role of the writer, Saunders said: "To me, the writer's main job is to make the story unscroll in such a way that the reader is snared-she's right there, seeing things happen and caring about them. And if you dedicate yourself to this job, the meanings more or less take care of themselves." In Tenth of December, the reader is always right there, and the meanings are beautiful and profound and abundant. The title story is an exquisite, moving account of the intersection, at a frozen lake in the woods, of a young misfit and a middle-aged cancer patient who goes there to commit suicide, only to end up saving the boy's life. "Home" is the often funny, often poignant account of a soldier returning from the war. And "Victory Lap" is …

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

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Summary from Goodreads:

Paul Auster's signature work, The New York Trilogy, consists of three interlocking novels: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room— haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller.

I had a hard time composing my thoughts regarding this book. I don't think I can even tell you what the book is about because I am not entirely sure myself. Coming into this, I can't say I wasn't forewarned. I knew this would not be your straight forward detective story. And strange as this book was, I latched onto to in a way that I never thought I would.

 The three stories are separate from each other, but are connected in the sense that they all share the same tone and mood and theme. This trilogy still very much reads like a mystery novel. There are detectives and stake outs and disguises and shady people and supposed crimes and conspiracies. But what makes it different is that it deals with a case that seems unsolvable. A loopy and lo…

Filipino Friday 5: What Do Readers Want?

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1. What’s your favorite genre/reading material?

Fiction, specifically, fantasy. It is my favorite genre because it's a suspension of reality, an escape. Where else can I experience riding a hippogriff, or fighting a dragon, or flying on an eagle's wings, or casting spells? Where else can I bring myself to be in fantastical places such as Hogwarts, or Middle Earth or Westeros? But it is more than an escape, fantasy stories have truths in them too, just like your literary fiction, it is only that they are handed out in a different manner. Let me end this answer with a quote from Lloyd Alexander:  “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.” Chos.

2. Who is your favorite author (local or foreign)?

I have always had trouble about the favorite author question. I have this thinking that for one to have a favorite author, he or she must have read most of the author's writings. For example, I love Harry Potter. But beyond that series, I haven't …

Required Reading: November 2013

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I had a grand old time last October, at least, reading wise. I got lost in the worlds of two massive fantasy books and it was epic. Plus, I squeezed in two light and funny reads to keep me from being bogged down by all that aforementioned epicness. Anyway, here's how I did last October:

1. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - (5 Stars)  Ah, GRRM, I thought you couldn't take it anymore higher but you did. You sly dog you.

2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay - (5 Stars) An absolutely grand, epic, sweeping tale of redemption and vengeance, of love and loss, of grief and hope and courage.

3. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young - (4 Stars) It's nice to see Neil Gaiman doing something not dark or grim and I must say he did a gret job of it. It's a funny, silly, whimsical book that kids and adults will love. 

4. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher - (4 Stars) Shakespeare and Star Wars. Who would have thought they w…

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Summary from Goodreads:

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin's younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana's royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family's guilt; and Duke Sandre d'Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. Meanwhile, at Brandin's court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and--unknown to…

Filipino Friday #4: This is Still Reading Right?

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Do you read (or have at least tried to read) books in other formats aside from print? How was your experience with these different book formats?




I used to think that I would never like reading e-books, and thus would never consider investing on an e-reader. But my sister convinced me for some reason, to give it a shot. She said that a friend of hers is coming over from the States, and now was our shot to have the friend bring us both a Kindle. And so, we did. I guess, I had to eat my words because I love my Kindle, River, and I love e-books now. Although, there is absolutely nothing that beats actually flipping through pages of physical books, the smell, and the feel of it. Still, I think e-books are pretty great. Well, I think e-readers are the ones that's pretty great because I don't think I would take much to e-books if I had to read them on a laptop or a desktop computer.    

Aside from e-books, I have tried audiobooks. My first one was an audiobook recording of  The Adventu…

PopTastik Pinoy! (The 4th Phil. LitFest)

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The month of November brings us, not only the 3rd Filipino ReaderCon but also The 4th Philippine International Literary Festival: The PopTastik Pinoy. I am all for more literary events in our country so for all the readers, and writers out there mark the 15th of November on your calendars, go to Ayala Museum and check out PopTastik Pinoy! 
See Ayala Museum's PRESS RELEASE below, for more details:
LitFest turns folk, pop!
Filipino writers will discuss folk and popular literature as shown in komiks, TV, and film as the National Book Development Board (NBDB), Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL), and Ayala Museum hold POPtastik Pinoy! this November. 
The event is part of the 4th Philippine International Literary Festival. Titled Text and the City, the LitFest will take place in the major universities in Metro Manila from November 11-14 and culminating at the Ayala Museum on November 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Promotional activities will also be held at the Makati Ayala Malls from Novemb…

Filipino Friday #3: The Book Drop

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You know what, I have never really strongly considered book dropping. I have grown very much attached to my book collection. Ahihi. But now that I think about it, I like the idea. It's kind of mysterious and romantic and stuff. Might be, I'll try and do it once, just to see how I feel about it. It would be great though if I could stick around and see who gets it. I don't think I can stand not knowing/seeing.
But for now, me no participantes. I don't think I got that Spanish right. Haha.
Tell us about your most memorable or favorite book hunting experience. Have you ever found a book in a most unexpected place? 

Every time I find a book that's below 100 pesos, I consider that as memorable. (cheapskate much?) Especially if they're in excellent condition. And hardbound! I remember getting my favorite children's book, Bud. not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, hardbound, at 40 pesos only. And I was so thrilled about that find. But those dirt cheap used books are…

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

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Summary from Goodreads:

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .

But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural …

Filipino Friday #2: Kids and Books

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1. What were your favorite books as a kid?

I was not as much of a reader back then, I can probably name more 90s cartoons and family computer games than I could book titles. But I did love fairy tales and fables and Disney stories. The Ladybird storybooks were my favorite. As well as a variety of thick anthologies of fairy tales from Grimm, Andersen, Perrault, as well as Russian and Germal folk tales. I also enjoyed and consumed a voracious number of Archie Comics.  


2. Do you still read children's books?

Oh yes. I just got off reading Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, which I very much enjoyed. In fact, most kidlit that I have read, I read only sometime after college. A couple of favorites include: A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, The Time Warp Trio, Matilda, Ella Enchanted, The Graveyard Book, Bud, not Buddy, The Westing Game, The Egypt Game, Father Christmas, Percy Jackson series, Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials …

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by Skottie Young

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Summary from Goodreads:

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

When I see Neil Gaiman's kidlit, the covers are usually dark, and the tales, grim. So, I was quite surprised to see this really bright, happy, cute cover with Gaiman's name on it. And that title, who would not find that so adorable? 

Chalk it up to Neil Gaiman  to create a fantastical story about something as mundane as getting milk. That's how it all started. You see, the mom got called away from home, leaving the dad …

Filipino Friday #1: Introductions

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What Reader Species Are You? I found that I fit in several of the categories and may as well be what the infographic refers to as a Cross-Bred Reader Mutt. 
Class: Book Lovers, 
ComplusiveThe Hoarder - I do have the tendency to acquire books faster than I can read them. I can't fit them on my bookshelves so I have them shoved inside a drawer beside my bed, like some secret stash of cookies (which I also have). Plus, my Kindle holds quite a number of e-books. And yet I still acquire more. Hee. SituationalThe Kindle Convert - I used to be the type who would never consider getting an e-reader. I thought that digital reading will never equate to the experience of reading a physical copy of a book. But my sister persuaded me to get one, so I got one, which I named River, and since then I thought to myself, where have you been all my life?The Sleepy Bedtime Reader - I definitely do most of my reading before bed. And yes, I have busted a book light or two because I fell asleep and left them…

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

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Summary from Goodreads:

Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language-and William Shakespeare-here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

While I enjoy Star Wars, I am not what you would call a hardcore fangirl of the Galaxy Far Far Away. My love of it, is of a much lesser degree than that, but perhaps, I do know more of it than t…

A Lifetime by Morris Fenris

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Summary from Amazon

“A Lifetime” is the story of a struggle. Of one man born into nothing and who fights to make his way through life, to leave the place of his birth – a place of suffering and strife – and to create a new life elsewhere. To find himself a wife, to start a family and to achieve the things he thought unachievable. 

It is a story of success, loss, delight and grief; a story of what it means to have everything and what it feels like to have nothing. It is also a story of the very special bond between a father and his daughter. 

From the synopsis of this novella, I was anticipating that it would somehow be a rags to riches story or an underdog story of sorts. Well, at least, that the majority of the pages would explores the hardships the character went through in the plantation, and the experience of stowing away on a cargo ship, and how he was able to work his way up the corporate ladder. Yes, those things are mentioned, but only as an introduction. It is still very much …