Category Archives: Book Review

Book review: Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “The Runaway King”

Back in the first half of 2012, Jennifer A. Nielsen came out with “The False Prince,” the first book in her new series named “The Ascendance Trilogy.” In it, we are introduced to the young orphan Sage as he finds himself drawn into a plot that intends to install an impostor on the vacated throne of the kingdom of Carthya.

With its blend of political maneuvering, interesting characterizations, and the witty, wisecracking, and wonderfully fleshed-out voice of Sage providing the narration, “The False Prince” became a runaway hit. The New York Times called it “a page turner,” while Publishers Weekly called it an “impressive, promising story” in a starred review.

It’s no wonder that its sequel, “The Runaway King,” was eagerly awaited for by fans. But with so much acclaim and goodwill attached to the book that came before it, will “The Runaway King” live up to expectations, or will it prove to be a victim to the sophomore slump?

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Author interview: Gayle Forman

Gaze upon Gayle Forman and the eldritch horror to her right.
Gaze upon Gayle Forman and the eldritch horror to her right.

(Regular reader numbering in the Ones, if you haven’t noticed it yet, my blog went through a snafu that resulted in all the posts from October 2013 onwards to vanish into the ether. So I’m just uploading all of these transcripts without any garnishing because I barely remember what I wrote back then.)

RONREADS (RR): Is it your first time in the country? I know you’re well-traveled.

GAYLE FORMAN (GF): It’s not. I’ve been here before, in 1996 or 1997. It was a long time ago. I used to work for Seventeen magazine and when I was there, UNICEF contacted us and they were sending a bunch of journalists from youth magazines to write articles on youth activism. I met youth activists changing the world in different places.

RR: What was your impression of the country back then? I think I was in sixth grade back then.

GF: Thank you. Thank you for that.

RR: Sorry.

GF: I remember that I had an immediate sense of the Filipino people being incredibly friendly. People are generally friendly, but there was a particular warmth, which now that I’ve made a lot of Filipino friends back home, I get it. It’s like the Brazilians, there’s just something warm.

As for the country, I thought it was incredibly diverse. We also went to Leyte, so I got to see the rural aspect of the country. There’s so much US history embedded here. We went to a base when we were in Leyte. I also remember some excellent shopping — I have some clothes from that trip that I still wear. I remember that the traffic was legendary.

RR: (Laughs) It still is!

GF: And the food was fantastic.

RR: Is this your first time back?

GF: Yeah. It’s such a short trip. I’m in Manila until Sunday and I’m in Cebu until Monday night.

Continue reading Author interview: Gayle Forman

Book review: Miles Tan’s “Finding X”

geologyTaken from XKCD

With more than a dozen students finishing contemporary romance novelist Mina Esguerra’s #romanceclass in the middle of last year, it’s not surprising to see the variety of stories that these fledgling authors have now made available on different platforms online.

Readers looking for an international romance between a plucky Filipino and a Brit pop star can get their fix with Kesh Tanglao’s “The Real Score,” which tells the ups and downs of the friendship that develops between exec Caitlin Tan and boybander Marcus Wayans.

For a story with a dash of social media and a tour of the lesser known attractions of the city of Macau, readers can look to Chrissie Peria’s “All’s Fair in Blog and War,” which chronicles the attraction that blossoms between bloggers Five Cuevas and Jesse Ruiz.

Another #romanceclass product that offers something different from the norm is Miles Tan’s novella, “Finding X.” Set in Tagaytay and Manila, “Finding X” brings together IT frontend developer Carlisle Santiago and Matteo Villegas in a story replete with humor, adorable interactions, and bad geology puns.

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Book review: Chrissie Peria’s “All’s Fair in Blog and War”

Ever since contemporary romance novel writer Mina Esguerra’s #romanceclass concluded in the middle of last year, more than a dozen people who have taken the class have gone on to finish their own novellas and self-publish on different platforms.

One of the earliest to finish was food blogger Chrissie Peria, who came out with All’s Fair in Blog and War,” a romance that happens in the Philippines, in Macau, and on the world wide web.

“All’s Fair in Blog and War” tells the story of Five Cuevas, a travel blogger who finds herself invited to an all-expense paid familiarization tour to the special administrative region of Macau, along with four other bloggers. It’s something that Five has been looking forward to doing, and has even enlisted the help of her sister to help her explore the less touristy side of the region.

However, her tour is off to a bad start when there is immediate friction between Five and photo blogger Jesse Ruiz. Five finds Jesse insufferable, and things begin to look even more dire when the two become each other’s designated travel buddy.

But something happens on the way to Macau. It begins with small things, and soon Five doesn’t find Jesse as irritating as he was back home. Five begins to notice that Jesse is much more attentive to her needs. Despite how they first met, Five begins to consider the possibility of being more than just friends with Jesse.

After getting to know Macau and each other over the course of several days, Five is ready to take a chance with Jesse. But when an unexpected twist shakes up Five’s plans, will she be able to get back on track and still find love along the way?

Continue reading Book review: Chrissie Peria’s “All’s Fair in Blog and War”

Book review: Kesh Tanglao’s “The Real Score”

Several months ago, chick lit author Mina Esguerra conducted a romance novel writing class for dozens of aspiring romance writers.

The numbers were whittled down as the months progressed, until five aspiring writers managed to finish — and self-publish — their own contemporary romance novellas.

One of those five authors is Kessica Tanglao, who debuts with the novella, “The Real Score.” Set in the Philippines and in England, it tells the ups and downs of the friendship that develops between Filipina Caitlin Tan and Brit boy Marcus Wayans.

Senior media planning executive Caitlin Tan thinks she’s got it all figured out. Her whole life is organized and synced on her phone, Outlook, and her Starbucks planner. Her meticulous planning and dedication to her work has helped send both her siblings to school, and throwing all of that away for an adventure isn’t something she isn’t keen on doing.

But it’s adventure that comes her way when her colleague Lorin manages to score the two of them tickets to meet and greet Gezellig, the latest boyband to take the planet by storm. Despite going into the meet and greet not knowing anything about the group, she ends up catching the eye of Marlon Wayans, the band’s de facto frontman.

From there, Caitlin and Marlon develop a friendship, one that manages to survive being separated by continents, nosy fans, and the occasional drunk call or two. But when a trip to London results in a misunderstanding that could change the dynamics of their friendship, will Caitlin and Marlon be able to come out of it intact?

Continue reading Book review: Kesh Tanglao’s “The Real Score”

Book review: Alissa Nutting’s “Tampa”

Alissa Nutting’s debut novel “Tampa” certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to publicity.

As soon as her book came out on bookstore shelves last July, public opinion was immediately split. While The Daily Beast branded it a “modern ‘Lolita’” and the New York Times gave it a favorable review, The Telegraph called it “fatiguing” and some bookstores in the United States and Australia have refused to stock the book because of its controversial sex scenes.

Here in the country, “Tampa” quietly appeared on bookstore shelves, with copies on display at the recently concluded Manila International Book Fair. While the buzz is yet to arrive here on Philippine shores, I took a look at Alissa Nutting’s debut to see if it really lives up to the hype.

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Book review: Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos”

When it comes to former First Lady Imelda Marcos, there are about as many myths as there are facts.

For every person that alleges that Imelda had 7,500 pairs of shoes, there are those who claim it was only a thousand, maybe even less. There are those who say that she was complicit in the activities of the former dictator, while there are those who believe she only stood for “the true, the good, and the beautiful.”

Perhaps this is the reason why books about the woman known as the “Steel Butterfly” abound. There is Kerima Polotan Tuvera’s “Imelda Romualdez Marcos, a biography of the First Lady of the Philippines”, the only officially approved biography of Imelda. There is Katherine Ellison’s “Imelda: Steel Butterfly of the Philippines”, which the Washington Post called “superb…gripping and graceful.”

And then there is Filipino journalist Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s “banned” Imelda Marcos biography “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos”. First published in 1969, it was banned during Martial Law, sold more than 300,000 copies, and was translated into French, Japanese, and Portuguese before going out of print.

But now this “banned” book gets a new lease on life as Flipside Publishing, the country’s leading ebook publisher, releases its ebook version for today’s generation of young Filipinos. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo, “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos” is now being retold to a new generation and in a new medium.

Continue reading Book review: Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos”

Book review: Cassandra Clare’s “Clockwork Princess”

Twenty-thirteen may just turn out to be Cassandra Clare’s year.

Not only is the movie adaptation of her debut novel “City of Bones” set to go up on screens in a few months, the popular young adult (YA) author has also just signed a contract to write three more books set in the same universe of Shadowhunters and Downworlders she first introduced to the world back in 2007.

This year also marks the publication of “Clockwork Princess”, the final book in “ The Infernal Devices” series that tells the story of Victorian-era Shadowhunters beset by a mechanical threat that may just be too much for them to handle.

But unlike the hugely successful books in “The Mortal Instruments” series, “Clockwork Princess” has its work cut out for it. The past two books in “The Infernal Devices” series — “Clockwork Angel” and “Clockwork Prince” — garnered sharply divided opinions from fans. Will “Clockwork Princess” reign supreme over the books that came before it and give Clare  a rollicking start as she embarks on a new series? Or will this conclusion to “The Infernal Devices” be definitive proof that it’s time for Clare to depart from the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders?

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Book review: Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

Dan Brown’s announcement back in January of this year that he would be coming out with a new Robert Langdon thriller was immediate headline news, stoking excitement and anticipation not just from fans but from the publishing world as well.

And why wouldn’t it be met with excitement? Dan Brown’s 2003 thriller, “The Da Vinci Code,” was an international success, and by 2009 had already sold 80 million copies around the world. It has been translated in over 40 languages, and has even been adapted into a blockbuster movie.

The book hasn’t just inspired a movie adaptation, it has also spurred the growth of cottage industries as well. Aside from inspiring several “guides” to the symbols and conspiracies outlined in the book, the “The Da Vinci Code” has also inspired themed tours through Rome, Paris, and London.

The novel that came after “The Da Vinci Code,” 2009’s “The Lost Symbol,” achieved similar success, becoming the fastest selling adult novel in history, with one million hardbound and ebook copies sold on its first day in stores.

It’s not wonder that everyone is looking for “Inferno” — which was released worldwide last Tuesday — to perform. Now that it’s out in the world, will it grip readers’ imaginations the same way “The Da Vinci Code” did? Or has the time come for Robert Langdon to hang up his Harris tweed and call it a day?

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Book review: Daniel Tudor’s “Korea: The Impossible Country”

Sometime you just need some overproduced K-Pop in your life.

Everyone knows about the “Hallyu wave” — the rise in popularity of Korean entertainment and culture that started in the 90s and is still going on today, if the programming of local television stations is taken as an indication.

Beyond their conquest of our airwaves, Koreans are also present in a very physical way here in the country. Not only has the Philippines recently welcomed its one millionth tourist from South Korea, the number of South Koreans coming here to the country to study the English language show no signs of declining any time soon.

However, there is still more to South Korea than K-Pop stars, Korean dramas, and students looking to learn English in a country closer to home. In “Korea: The Impossible Country”, The Economist’s Korea correspondent, Daniel Tudor, takes a look at the country beyond the kimchi and the K-Pop and reveals to readers a complex country full of conflicts and contradictions.

Indeed, there is so much more to Korea than what we see on our television screens — and some of it may even be shocking to the casual follower of Korean history.

Continue reading Book review: Daniel Tudor’s “Korea: The Impossible Country”