My Facebook 10 Books List

It took me less than a few minutes to list down 10 books that stayed with me but my friends took a long time and most can’t even complete the list. This troubles me a lot as it’s really an indication of how few readers there are in my country.

Indeed, unlike in the US where libraries are a necessary part of the community, in the Philippines, libraries can only be found in university and school campuses. A few private libraries exist but it’s only accessible to those who can afford the membership fee.

Reading novels is becoming a dying art. I can only shake my head as I’ve always thought of books as entertainment, like the web or the TV. The rarity of seeing someone reading in public transportation or public spaces in my country has elevated the hobby into the realm of hipterdom(Shudders!).

I do have to admit that the prevalence of high speed internet, cable TV, and addictive app games did not just affect the people around me and society in general. I, myself, am not immune to the seduction of convenient entertainment. When in the past, I slept and woke up with books strewn around me, I now sleep and wake up with my humming laptop beside me.

I can only be grateful that growing up, we had no cable TV (we only have 1 TV for the whole family), and we didn’t even have telephone lines.  I had no choice but to turn to books for my entertainment. In school, we passed around books and share spoilers. A lot of my books got lost because of negligent borrowers who are also book lovers (amnesiac when it comes to books they borrowed).

It’s sad to find that in today’s world, people stare at you when you bring out a novel to read while traveling. It’s like they’ve never seen someone read a book that’s not a textbook(or a bible, or the Twilight series) before. I actually rejoice inside when in rare occasions, I see someone reading in public. It delights me to covertly look at the cover (I’m disappointed if it’s just those trashy Tagalog Romance Novels though).

FrankensteinWell, anyway, back to the list I posted on Facebook last week:

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – I’ve heaped praises for Mary Shelley’s classic monster before. See the comprehensive blog about it here. As I said, I surprisingly identified with the monster Frankenstein created. Allthese years, I thought I was a Dracula girl but reading the original source and setting aside the green, square-headed idiotic Hollywood monster, I found out I was more of the abandoned monster seeking life’s meaning.

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – While I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and crushed on Mr. Darcy, I’m really more attracted to the raw, gothic stories of the Brontë sisters.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – See my blog about Darcy vs Rochester here.

4. Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve – I’ve been a fan of Anita Shreve ever since I read her book, Fortune’s Rocks. But this book just blew my mind. The twist would’ve angered some readers but not me. You just have to read it for yourself. I can’t possibly bear spoiling it for you.

Vita Brevis5. Vita Brevis by Jostein Gaarder – While I find the story in Sophie’s World intriguing, honestly, the parts about the history of Philosophy kind of boring. Maybe it’s because I was just 16 when I read that humongous book but I just got through the book to find out about the mystery plot. Vita Brevis is the one book of Gaarder that really intrigued me. It’s like a mockumentary about the life of St. Augustine’s mistress, set in her point of view. If you are a feminist, you will love this book. It’s her answer to his “Confessions.” To this day, I don’t know if what I’ve read was fact or fiction.

6. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – My happy place. I got obsessed early on, before the book became a must have in my country. I remember my classmates laughing while a lugged around the ginormous 4th book. It was my turn to laugh when next year, each of them carried the same big book.

7. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick – I need an actual copy of this. I just read this on an tiny ipod. The stories of the North Korean defectors were just so compelling, I didn’t mind the tiny screen and the teeny-weeny texts.

8. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – I remember exactly when and where I found this book. It was 50 pesos ($1+) on a bin in National Bookstore Monumento (ok maybe not the when). I loved the fictionalized story of Van Meer and his maid. It kind of reminds me of that movie I liked – Mary Reilly.

9. Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch – Most are familiar with the Edith Hamilton book of mythology but thisPeter Pan is the one we had. We actually had 2 copies – a brother and a sister apparently each bought one and I ended up with 2 books.

10. Peter Pan by JM Barrie – I read the abridged children’s version when I was a wee lass of I-forgot-it-was-so-long-ago and it became one of my favorite books. I was in my twenties when I read the unabridged version and I found that I still loved the story. I can’t help but wish I was in Neverland. Adulthood is such a pain in the ass.

Care to share what were your 10 books that’ve stayed with you?

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Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor

This season of Doctor Who will the first time I will be seeing episodes as they air, instead of bingeing on series after series of new and classic Who.

Let me tell you, I’m one of those fans that don’t necessarily have a problem with Matt Smith. I enjoy re-watching his episodes. They are fun and pure escapism for me. It’s only when you think about it with a bit of seriousness when you realize how silly some of the stories actually were. I was ready for the next regeneration. Although, I know I will miss the bow-tie wearing 11th.

Peter Capaldi reminds me of House, a character so vastly different from the playful Eleventh Doctor, they could be night and day. Watching Capaldi deliver lines, I can still imagine how 11th would say it and the context definitely changes. Am I loving Capaldi as the Doctor then?

After this third episode, The Robots of Sherwood, I can definitely say, I’m warming up to the new doctor. I do have a major concern though. In the first and second episode, I could hardly understand some of what he’s saying. The fast delivery combined with the Scottish accent is probably what’s throwing me off. I could still follow the story but some of the punchlines were lost on me. ‘Tis the sad fate of a non-native English speaker, I suppose.

So how do I like the new episodes? Not my favorites but I’m still hoping for more interesting stories to come.

Deep Breath is trying to recapture some of the magic from Don’t Blink, obviously, but it only partially succeeded. Impressive entrance with the spat TARDIS, though.

Into the Dalek, I felt, was just a rehash of previous episodes and did not interest me much. (I’m indifferent about Daleks. Sorry!) I am intrigued by Danny Pink though and what sort of conflict he will carry with him to the TARDIS.

So far, Robots of Sherwood is the one I enjoyed the most. I love the comedy and the very swashbuckle-y scenes. And did anyone notice where the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver went? Is he getting a new one?

As with any Steven Moffat Doctor Who, there’s a story arc that ties all the episodes in the series. The Promised Land and Missy. Call me intrigued and hooked. I know a lot of fans have theories but I refuse to speculate and be spoiled!

 

Dead Poets Society: Robin Williams is Neal

How rare of an actor is Robin Williams. From mad hatter antics to seriously serious dramatic roles. He proved he can do it all…brilliantly! And we will all miss him tremendously.

At school, we were required to watch two of his movies. In both, he played a doctor – Patch Adams (I think we watched it in High School) and Awakenings (College for a psychology class, if I’m not mistaken).

I loved his suspense-thriller movies too – Insomnia and One-Hour Photo.

He is just one of my favorite actors. If I’d met him, I think I would be so inclined to give the man a hug. His eyes were so kind and demeanor, so open that it invites you in and does not, at all, intimidate.

Since the news of his death, I’ve had a craving to watch one of my all time favorite movies of his – Dead Poets Society.

I think I first watched this as a young kid in the 90’s. I can’t remember if it was on Laser Disc (those big-ass discs you needed to turn over) or VHS (Google if you don’t know, millenial). Was this the movie that inspired me to write poetry in junior year of high school? Probably.

I had this phase where I spat out poetry after poetry, giving them away as “gifts” to my friends and family. (This is ingenious, actually. A gift you made yourself, heartfelt so they can’t throw it away and the giftee would need to appreciate it whether they like to or not).

How can you watch Dead Poets as a student or teacher and not be affected? In college, I actually had a professor who stood at his desk and tried to do a Robin Williams. I just looked at him cynically (seen that before…)

Watching it again, I can’t help but draw a parallelism to Robin’s life.

In the movie, it was Neil who took his life because of the pressure from his overbearing father (Red Forman…I mean, Kurtwood Smith). When Robin Williams took his life, it was the black dog of depression that exerted the pressure.

The legacy of the movie remains, inspiring generations of students, teachers, and dreamers all over the world. As will the actor continue to be the inspiration of generations of actors, comedians, and the audience that watch his movies.

Afflicted: First Person Vampire Movie

Spoilers ahead!

I have been hankering for a great horror movie for some time now. Though it seems that horror is really a hard genre to get right. Too much gore, too much camp, not enough interesting characters, idiotic plot elements – the list goes on and on. So I got on Rotten Tomatoes to find some relatively new releases with enough fresh tomato cred that won’t make me want to wish for my time back. Turns out I had two options Oculus and Afflicted.

I admit, I wanted to watch Oculus just because Karen Gillan (a.k.a. Amy Pond from Doctor Who) was in there sporting an American accent. I slept through the first few scenes, gave up, and did a Guillermo Del Toro (just listened to his interview in the Nerdist Podcast. Apparently, he watches at least 1 movie a day but if the first few scenes didn’t grab him, he turns it off and walks away).

Afflicted was a better choice although I’ve never heard of the writers  and the actors before. This film belongs to a sub genre of “found footage films” which is so common these days, it has become in danger of being a cliche (if not already). These types of films usually gives me a headache with the shaky cams but thankfully, this one’s got better video tech, I suppose and not a Go-Pro in sight.

Bromance and parkour is probably two words that are not commonly associate with the horror genre but there it is. Although the film is basically a vampire story, not a sparkly make-up or doe-eyed teenage girl is in sight (oh wait… there is but just for a sec! Promise!)

The story begins immediately with their first video post about 2 friends’ (Derek and Clif) epic 1 year long adventure traveling around the world. But unfortunately, Derek finds out he has a brain condition called AVM that basically means there’s a possibility he could die at any moment. The doctor advises Derek not to push through with the trip but he’s pretty determined. His condition becomes more of an inspiration that Clif wanted to capture on video.

Their adventure starts in Barcelona, then to Paris where Derek meets Audrey and they seem to get along (if you know what I mean). Clif, together with 2 other friends, decided to prank him by bursting in the room but when they do, they find him bloodied with a gashing wound on his arm. Afraid of going to the hospital (because doctors might cut their trip short), Derek insisted that they continue their trip and they headed to Italy.

First signs of something wrong was the lethargy and sensitivity to light. Next, Derek had an epic public vomit in a restaurant because he can’t keep his food down and he got the worst sunburn ever while walking through a vineyard. They discover his super strength and speed accidentally and this began a montage of stupid stunts that I didn’t care for but I can believe that if you where male and had discovered superpowers, yes, you will do these stupid stunts to test your limits.

Realizing that Derek may be exhibiting symptoms of vampiric nature, they began to find animal blood that can satisfy Derek’s thirst including the murder of poor Babe. Unfortunately, this vampire strain is apparently is more terrifying than that of the Twilight folks. He can only drink human blood.

After a failed blood bank robbery and equally pathetic ambulance heist, Clif woke up to the most nastiest thing you could wake up to – your friend with white eyes and unnaturally contorted body staring at you hungrily while you sleep.

Clif finally decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and shared his blood but Derek got out and when Clif finally found him, he wished he never did.

The next scenes were all shot by Derek and he explains how he wants to honor Clif by continuing with the videos. He tried to commit suicide by blowing his brains out but apparently, that does not work. (I kept wondering if explosions would work.)

Interpol tracked him and he became a wanted fugitive. But he needed to find Audrey to get some answers so he went back to Paris to find her. Although he eventually did find him, as I’ve already guessed, she did not know of any cure or way to kill themselves. She told him how he needed to feed to remain in control; otherwise, he becomes a monster driven by primal instinct to kill. “You can’t choose not to kill but you can choose who you kill. It makes a difference.” And then, he asked her why she chose him. “You were dying. I thought I was being kind.” I think they should’ve cast a different actress because her accent was so thick I could not understand her clearly.

In an effort to atone for his crimes, he decided to do a Dexter and choose bad men such as a sadistic pedophile to eat.

A lot of the action in this movie reminds me of first person shooter video games. And it works especially the dark setting and just enough gore to be believable and not look utterly ridiculous.

Overall, I like this film. Even though the vampire mythology is a tad overused these days, I like their somewhat realistic take on it. The characters were interesting and the action/suspense was fantastic. If I was giving away stars, I give this a 3 and a quarter stars!

Let the movie play till the credits to find out what really happened to Clif!

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

Samurai's GardenI love books that can transport you to places that in itself are central characters of a novel. I have to say though, it’s been awhile since I read that kind of a book that made me yearn to actually visit that special place featured in a story. That was when I took a gamble and picked out Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden.

Gail Tsukiyama is not the first Japanese writer (she’s actually half-Chinese) I’ve encountered so I had a bit of a reservation when picking out the book. I’ve read Banana Yashimoto’s Asleep and gave in to curiosity by getting Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake. These stories are more character-centric and very introspective. I’m thinking these are typical of modern Japanese literature? They’re great for reading on a stormy day for sure.

But when I was searching for a book to read, I was trying to find something that would transport me to a place where I want to be instead of my boring room. I think The Samurai’s Garden delivered it quite nicely even though the setting is just a metaphor for the very heart of the story which are the people that the main protagonist meets.

The book is a very easy read. The story is quite simple – a young adult meets 3 interesting individuals and he uncovers mysteries about them which made him take a closer look at relationships, loyalty, and devotion in the context of the Japanese culture. Aside from a mildly shocking event and the backdrop of World War 2, nothing happens outwardly. The change in the characters are within and it’s fascinating how Tsukiyama managed to keep the story a real page turner despite such subtle plots.

The story opens in Hong Kong where a sick Chinese boy, Stephen, is battling Tuberculosis amidst another crisis which is Japan’s invasion of China. The well-off family decides to send the boy to Tarumi, a small seaside community in Japan, where their family keeps a beach house. His father’s import-export business’ headquarters are also in Japan so he becomes responsible for the boy in the meantime.

In the beach house, he meets the gardener-cum-overall-caretaker, Matsua, a very grumpy looking but secretly compassionate and loyal middle aged man. Matsu takes care of Stephen’s needs and overtime, he trusted the boy enough to let him in on a sort of secret. Through Matsu, Stephen meets Sachi, a once very beautiful girl who got afflicted with leprosy and is now living in a leper colony. Matsu shows his devotion to his secret love by providing her with everything she needs including a Japanese rock garden that is an anti-thesis of his own garden, down at the beach house.

Japanese Garden
Flickr Photo by Cher12861

While Matsu’s garden was filled with lush vegetation, flowers, and conventional beauty of nature, Sachi’s garden is stark, colourless, and filled with things like stone, pebbles, and rocks.  This is because she can’t stand to look at beauty, a painful reminder of what once was and can never be again.

Flickr Photo by Tim McDonald
Flickr Photo by Tim McDonald

The heart of the story lies with Matsu and Sachi’s relationship. How deep it really is and how much each is willing to sacrifice for friendship and loyalty.  Stephen is a witness to this wonder of humanity which also caused him to examine his family and realise how different and seemingly shallow his mother and father’s relationship is in comparison.

While the characters are all richly fleshed out, I just love how Tarumi is brought to life in the story. The description of the beach, the town, the house, and the gardens all created vivid images  in my head and now I want to go there.

On the top of my head, here are 3 other books I’ve read the made me want to go to the place where the story was set:

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier – I’ve reviewed this book set in Lyme Regis, coastal town of West Dorset, England. The story centers on Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two famous fossil hunters and spinsters.

A Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – From the writer of that famous book, Time Traveller’s Wife. Her next novel was set in London’s High Gate Cemetery. Although the story was a disappointment, I was highly intrigued by the setting. I would love to go to High Gate someday.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Nothing says character better than the Moors and it’s howling winds. Everyone needs a break from sunny beaches sometimes.

What books would you recommend for someone who wants to be transported to far off lands?

Can’t have The Doctor? Take Diego Buñuel instead

Okay, so no matter how desperate a die-hard female Whovian is, The Doctor is never ever going to ask you to be his companion. For the simple fact that the guy is a fictional character.

So if we can’t have The Doctor, who’s the next best substitute? Ladies, may I nominate the charming, tall, handsome, and moled NatGeo host of Don’t Tell my Mother… Diego Buñuel!

Let me count the ways why he reminds me of The Doctor so much:

  • He travels. (well, duh!)
  • He’s not afraid of dangerous places (hence the title of his show)
  • He charms the pants out of everyone he meets (that smile! *dies*)
  • He’s multilingual (no need for a Tardis translation thinggy)
  • He’s multiracial (almost as good as an alien with 2 hearts)
  • He’s very comfortable around people I would run from if I met them in a dark alley. ( I mean people with nasty looking guns and looks like they’d happily stick an axe in your head when you turn your back)
  • He’s open minded and democratic. (If World War 3 ever happens, I’d want him for a mediator in the negotiating table.)

As far as I know, he’s never had a travelling companion before. But when that position opens up, well…

Post Doctor Who: Matt Smith’s The Womb and David Tennant’s Fright Night

Since it’s going to be months before we get to see another installment of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who Season 8, I have been scouring the Internet for some of the previous doctors’ works. I’ve watched Broadchurch and I loved David Tennant in it, of course. And I’ve seen Matt Smith in one episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, where the 11th doctor gets to sleep with Rose (I was interpreting it differently as I watched). However, I’ve yet to watch a movie with the doctors in it. (Harry Potter doesn’t count as I was not aware of David at the time).

The Womb

Matt mentioned The Womb in an interview with Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist Podcast(Subscribe to this podcast. Trust me, you won’t regret it!). Former Bondgirl, Eva Green is apparently in it. I watched the trailer and I remembered I’ve watched the trailer before and I was interested in seeing the movie but again, I was not aware of Matt Smith. I just thought the premise of the story was interesting.

While the movie does have a curious tale to tell, the pace, execution, and eek-factor was just way off. In other releases, the film was know as “Clone”, which I think is deceptively presenting itself as more science-fiction genre than it really was. The “art” film is basically, a love story between Eva Green and Matt Smith’s character, Rebecca and Tommy, respectively.

I hope pedos don’t watch this film…

Rebecca and Tommy were childhood sweethearts, living in a beautiful beach somewhere in England. But then, Rebecca had to go to Japan for her studies while Tommy remained. When Rebecca returned as a young lady, with a science degree and everything, she sought Tommy out. They continued their romantic relationship like nothing happened (Sorry Osha from Game of Thrones). Unfortunately for Rebecca, they would only have a few days(?) together before Tommy get’s hit by a super speeding truck.

Rebecca’s brilliant plan is to clone her boyfriend. She gets pregnant using Tommy’s DNA, raise the version 2 Tommy as her own son and sleep with him when he’s all grown up(Sorry Gilly of Game of Thrones). And I thought Tommy 1.0’s plan to release a million cockroaches in a cloning facility was bonkers(Did I mention, he was a militant environmentalist?).

Although this film tries to be minimalist with little dialogue and overly long camera shots, I think it failed. I mean, I’ve watched the French movie, Amour, and was riveted so I know I can stand a slow-paced film.

I do have problems with the dialogue because it didn’t sound natural. Young Tommy’s lines, for example, sounded like it could’ve come from an artsy fartsy pretentious novel.

Why so slooooow????

The snail, the long minimal intro, Eva Green’s longing look at the sea, the constant sleeping shots, hit our head with all the minimalism, why don’t you.

I love Matt Smith as the doctor but I don’t know if I saw another character in this movie. The mannerisms, his voice, cadence, and movements all screamed – The Doctor – that I can’t help but laugh at his line, “It seemed bigger in my mind.”

The SCENE – you can argue that it’s technically not incest but still…eeeww… I have enough of that from Game of Thrones. Thank you very much!

I feel that the movie could have worked because of the very interesting premise. It’s too bad, it was so conscious about it being an “art film” that it fails to tell the story properly.

Fright Night

This movie has been shown a couple of times on cable TV but I didn’t see the point of seeing it as I heard some pretty bad reviews. You know what? It’s not as awful as I thought!

That goes to show what having low expectations can do to your perception.

It’s a fun enough movie for people who enjoy horror movies (like me). I watched it while I was organizing my stuff so I was watching it without my 100% attention and the movie was enjoyable to me.

Of course, I paid close attention not to the star of the show, Collin Farrell, but the skinny and lanky looking British dude, aka the 10th Doctor – David Tennant.

He plays Peter Vincent, a Chris Angel-like alcoholic magician who happens to know a thing or two about the occult including the existence of vampires. He plays the part brilliantly and his comedic timing is impeccable.  He’s so saucy! There are ridiculous parts yes, but the movie, I feel doesn’t take itself too seriously so I don’t.

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I don’t know if I’m biased because David Tennant is my doctor, but Matt Smith, I’ll still be watching the next Terminator just to see you!