Book review: Melissa de la Cruz’ “Witches of East End”

I’ve been hearing about Melissa de la Cruz from some of my friends, and by all rights I should have checked her out months, even years, ago. After all, her “Blue Bloods” series – about teen vampires that run elite Manhattan society – has already sold close to 3 million copies. She’s also been part of other collaborative young adult (YA) works that sound interesting to me. Add to that the fact that she’s a Filipino – it’s a wonder that even my misplaced nationalism never compelled me to buy her books.

Whatever my reasons for not picking up any of her books before, that’s no longer the case now, as secret developments have made it necessary for me to familiarize myself with her work. There’s quite a lot to work with – there are already five books in the “Blue Bloods” series, with two more on the way – so I decided to start with the book that had the least baggage: “Witches of East End”, her latest novel. “Witches” is the first in the Beauchamp family series, and is de la Cruz’ first novel aimed for adults.

Continue reading Book review: Melissa de la Cruz’ “Witches of East End”

Your week in books#18

  • Did you guys know that there’s actually a Facebook page for people who hate reading? As of right now, the “I Hate Reading” Facebook page has more than 450,000 likes, while the similarly themed “I Hate Books” has more than 280,000. The “I Hate I Hate Reading Facebook Page” Facebook page (that’s a mouthful) meanwhile, only has a little over 500. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)
  • The Guardian also has an essay by author Ewan Morrisson basically saying that books as we know them are done for and authors should all just give up. Joy. (Source)
  • Any Haruki Murakami fans reading? Are any of you currently living in New Jersey? A school district in NJ just pulled out “Norwegian Wood” from a school reading list because of a lesbian sex scene included in the novel. The Family Research Council (bleaurgh) says it’s is further evidence of the pushing of the “homosexual agenda”. (Source)
  • Perhaps the book banning that’s been going on the past few weeks are just a dry run for Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 to Oct. 1)? Whatever the case may be, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has a handy and simple guide on how to celebrate it. (Source)
  • I know that some of my friends are slowly making that transition to e-books, and that not a lot of people can afford to buy all the different e-book readers that are out there. Good thing eBookNewser has got a handy guide to convert PDF files to ePub or Kindle files. (Source)
  • And since we’re on the e-book train already, a New York start up named Booktrack is coming up with e-books that now come with their own soundtracks. (Source)
  • The New York Times also has an entertaining essay on one person’s thought on “what we do with books”. (Source)
  • Lastly, to counter the gloom and doom the first few items may have left in your mouth, how about taking a look at some of the pictures from a book so aptly titled “Wet Men”? It’s the new coffee table book from photographer Francois Rousseau, who some of you guys may remember from his Dieux de Stade calendars and videos. Take a peek at them under the cut! SO NSFW LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE.

Continue reading Your week in books#18

Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 2

 It’s week two of the Filipino Friday meme hosted by the organizers of the First Filipino Reader Conference! The question for this week is:

Your Reader’s Story

How did you become a reader? What factors influenced you to take it up as a hobby? For instance, was it your mom who read to you every night? Or was it a high school friend who started lending you books? Or maybe it was a really inspiring teacher whom you wanted to emulate. Whatever it was, we hope you tell us all the story of how you became a leisure reader and what it is about reading that you enjoy so much.”

Continue reading Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 2

Your week in books#17

  • Here’s the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s newest movie, “The Woman In Black”. The movie is based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name. This isn’t the first time that the novel has been adapted to another medium; there’s a 1987 theayer version by Nigel Kneale that is still being staged today.
  • Has anyone of my readers gotten their Pottermore email yet? Because my owl seems to have disappeared somewhere in the vastness of the internet. I am jealous of all the people who’ve already experienced what it’s like inside. Tidbits from The Guardian and Snitchseeker just ain’t cutting it anymore. (Source 1, Source 2)
  • And since we’re talking about the Snitchseeker anyway, I hope you guys know that they’re giving away a Hogwarts Acceptance Letter. They don’t usually ship the letter outside of the States, and the contest rules are ridiculously easy, so go ahead and test your luck! (Source)
  • The Register is reporting that the ebook versions of the “Harry Potter” series will be bundled with Sony’ newest e-readers. (Source)
  • Yet another Potter-related item: a print-on-demand group called PublishAmerica is threatening to sue J. K. Rowling for defamation, because she put out a press release denying that she had any relationship with group. Why’d she have to do that in the first place? Because PublishAmerica sent out a letter to its clients claiming that they could have J. K. Rowling comment on their books for a fee of $49. The whole story is over at the Writer Beware blog. (Source)
  • Today in book banning news: A Virginia school board has removed “A Study in Scarlet” from a sixth-grade reading list because a parent complained it was anti-Mormon. Not to worry — those kids can always download it from Project Gutenberg anyway. (Source 1, Source 2)
  • Finally, National Book Store is bringing Nicholas Sparks to the country this October! Sparks will be in the country for a book signing tour, but so far that is the only detail that National Book Store has ironed out. I haven’t read a Nicholas Sparks novel ever (I know), but I will admit to crying while watching “A Walk to Remember”. I may have even perused some fanfic. (Source)

Book review: Samantha Sotto’s “Before Ever After”

Yes, I know I should have finished reading Samantha Sotto’s “Before Ever After” weeks ago, considering I got the book ahead of its actual launch date, but work wasn’t really cooperating. I only got around to sitting down and reading long tracts of it over the weekend, and I literally just finished reading it minutes ago.

A lot of things have already happened since the book’s launch: Not only has Samantha launched her book at the National Book Store, she has been to New York and back, and has ranked fourth in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in American Literature”. Everyone else and their grandmas have already written about their on the book.

Oh my Galadriel, I hope I don’t unintentionally plagiarize what somebody else — or their grandma — has already said about the book.

Continue reading Book review: Samantha Sotto’s “Before Ever After”

Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 1

Yes, yes, I know I’m late. But as the cliche goes, better that than never! This meme is from the organizers behind the First Filipino Reader Conference that is going to be held during the Manila International Book Fair, which is so close (September 14 to 18) you can practically taste it.

The first week of the meme goes like this:

INTRODUCE YOURSELF

This being the first topic, let’s all get to know each other better. Tell us what kind of reader you are. What are your favorite genres and books? Do you have a comfort read? And what’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? You can also include links of where other readers can find you online, such as your book social networking sites, etc.”

Continue reading Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 1

Your week in books#16

  • We all know that we have our very own Hobbit House here in the good ol’ Philippine Islands, but apparently Montana is also getting in on that sweet Hobbit action. Steve Michaels of Montana runs an inn with “a four-foot stump-shaped troll house, a few round-door hobbit houses with chimney pipes and several shoe-box-size fairy houses.” (Source)
  • Back when I was a prepubescent, I tried reading Stephen King’s “The Stand” and unfortunately couldn’t even make it past a quarter of it. I guess I should start looking for a copy and give it another try as David Yates and Steve Kloves (ugh) are coming up with an adaptation. (Source)
  • Anybody who followed the London riots know that the bookstore Waterstone wasn’t touched by any of the looters. The Guardian has an essay up that asks: “Was it because the looters were uneducated, or because today’s publishing industry isn’t putting out books and materials that they can relate to?” (Source)
  • The Guardian also has a great list of writing tips from several writers. I personally think Margaret Atwood’s tip are the best. (Source)
  • Hate spoilers? Science Daily says you should suck it up because spoilers don’t really…uhm…spoil the story. (Source)
  • The Google Books blog has tips on how you can share your books finds on Google+. (Source)
  • Finally, OH MY GOD, FINALLY, we come to the best part of this week’s round-up. Back in May 2010, Tyra Banks announced that she would come out with a trilogy (trilogy!) of books set in Modelland (pronounced Model-land) which is described as a place where “where ‘Intoxibellas’ are trained. Intoxibellas are drop-dead beautiful, kick-butt fierce and, yeah, maybe they have some powers too“. Well, it’s been more than a year, and Barnes and Noble just put out a sample chapter of Tyra’s book. We have characters named Tookie de la Creme (TOOKIE!), Myrracle de la Creme (MYRRACLE!!), Theophilus Lovelaces (If that is not a rip-off of Xenophilius Lovegood I will strangle myself with an umbilical cord), and Zarpessa Zarionneaux. IT’S GLORIOUS. (Source)

The return of the Book Blockade?

Everybody probably still remembers the Great Book Blockade of 2009, where our Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Department of Finance (DoF) tried to block books from being sold and distributed here in the country unless a tax was paid on them. This, of course, flew in the face of The Florence Agreement, which calls for “the free flow of ‘educational, scientific, and cultural materials’ between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free.”

I wrote an article about it for the newspaper that I work for and actually got to talk to Undersecretary Espele Sales of the DoF — and boy was she shady. She refused to be recorded during the interview, and insisted that I eat the lunch that they prepared even after I declined several times over. During the whole lunch she kept on making these “We’re friends now” overtures that I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a mafia movie and becoming slowly indebted to its most corrupt Don.

While a lot of people thought that it was over when UNESCO itself called out the DoF and the BoC on its bullshit and then President Arroyo ordered the scrapping of taxes on imported books, a lot of people on-the-ground say that the situation is anything but changed.

My friend Blooey notes in her blog that as far back as December of the same year that the Book Blockade supposedly ended, the BoC was once again arbitrarily levying taxes on books being imported into the country. (Do check out the other links in that particular post as it provides a neat timeline of the Great Book Blockade of 2009.)

And now we have this: Customs tightens rules on entry of imported books.

I quote:

“‘Applicants for importations under the Florence Agreement must first secure a certification from the UNESCO Office in the Philippines attesting that the importations of educational, scientific and cultural materials are among those included Florence Agreement,’ Alvarez said.”

There’s also this:

“‘Applications for the duty-free importation of books by non-stock, non-profit educational institutions must be accompanied by a certification from the Department of Education (DepEd) or the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) attesting that the importations are economic, technical, vocational, scientific, philosophical or historical books,’ the new guidelines also said.”

The new rules still recognizes The Florence Agreement, so it’s not an outright strangling of book imports like the one that happened in 2009. However, making the importation of books harder for everyone is always a troubling thing. Why are books always the favorite target? Why not tighten rules on tobacco and liquor instead, which quite frankly are only educational and cultural in the sense that cigarettes teach you about lung cancer and alcohol makes “cultural exchange” easier?

And let’s not forget this little gem from De La Salle University College of Law dean Jose Manuel Diokno when we interviewed him recently:

“There are many indicators of corruption in any office. For example, kapag maraming red tape ang isang opisina (when there’s too much red tape in an office), there will be enough opportunity for corruption. If there is too long a delay in the processing of any kind of application, malamang meron din ‘yung corruption (there is probably corruption there).”

In case it’s not clear enough, what I’m saying is are these “tighter” rules in place just to cover up corruption? Just saying.

Your week in books#15

  • Marvel introduces a half-Black, half-Latino Spider-Man, floats the idea that we may even have a gay Spider-Man one day. The usual suspects react like totally racist jerkwads. Meanwhile, all of this happened in the Ultimates universe, which does not affect actual Marvel continuity. Call me when Parker actually kicks the bucket. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)
  • Remember the “Paradise Lost” movie I mentioned a few weeks ago? Word is that Meryll Streep’s son-in-law, Benjamin Walker will be playing the role of Archangel Michael. I still think this is a horrible idea, but if Walker and Bradley Cooper battle it out shirtless, I may be persuaded.
  • Finally, check out these sketches Wendy Macnaughton did for the New York Times! (Source)

Ronreads interview: Samantha Sotto

The insane amount of people at the launch of 'Before Ever After'.

This interview should have gone up last Saturday, when my article on her finally went up. But since FAILDT had other plans for my internet connection, I’m only getting to put this up today.

I actually got to interview Samantha Sotto about a week before, and I have to say that it was one of the more stress-free author interviews I’ve ever done in a while. She is just a big nerd in the best sense of the word and is totally down-to-earth to boot.

I still haven’t finished reading “Before Ever After” I’ve had a busy week!, but so far I’m still having fun with it. Almost as much fun as I had interviewing Samantha!

Continue reading Ronreads interview: Samantha Sotto