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[Book Review] Para Kay B – Ricky Lee


Para Kay B – Ricky Lee
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it is an enjoyable read–humorous, relatable, hurtful and fantastic. On the other hand–well, the other hand. Part of the reason I didn’t like this book as much is because of the language used–not Tagalog, but Taglish. And it’s not the kind of Taglish that flows easily and smoothly (because admit it, there IS a certain way of speaking and stringing English and Filipino words together that most people don’t notice that two languages are already being used); instead, it painfully reminds me of the kind of Taglish that people who portray social climbers in movies use. “Trying hard” is the term I’m looking for, I think. If you’d argue that the language is, what we now call, “conyo”, I’d say that it’s not. I studied in one of those “conyo” schools, and believe me, it did not make me cringe like I did when I was reading those trying-too-hard-to-be-dramatic-so-it’s-now-in-English-lines-when-there-are-Filipino-words-for-it(-and-it-would-have-been-smoother-too).

There were certain fantastical elements in the stories that I enjoyed, and the book was very humorous.

However, the tagline of this book is “o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin” which is basically a very big percentage. 4 out of 5 people? Really? The 5 short stories in the book all tackle love (obviously) but there is also always one character in every store who is or is in love with someone who is abused/has been raped/is poor. Even in the Philippines, I find it a bit jarring that none of the five stories featured a “normal” family (ie not a broken home, no wives killing husbands for no reason, evil stepmothers!) or that none of them had a middle-class or upper class heroine–at least, not until they decided to go to Manila. E ano na lang nangyari dun sa mga middle-class na taga QC, Manila, ang mga mayayman na taga Forbes at Alabang; o yung mga hindi naman inabuso ng mga magulang o madrasta nila? Nakalimutan isama sa pangkalahatang populasyon kung san kinuha ang 4 out 5?

That being said, this story sometimes feels more like a teleserye than a book. From the sudden use of English sentences when a Filipino one would suffice, to how every character in this book has been abused in some way by their family, and how the characters all start out poor steers this book towards the dramatic stories that Filipinos love to watch at night. (And yes, of course this story is as engaging as those teleseryes.)

So what exactly did I like about this book? Layers. Characters.
When I read a book, there are two worlds. One is reality, and the other is the world of the book I’m reading. At a certain part of this book those two worlds (circles, if you will) formed a third. Think of it as a Venn Diagram. There’s the real world (A), there’s the fictional Para Kay B world (B), and then there’s the world where you’re reading yet you’re not fully in reality (A), thus you are in (C). Para Kay B is 5 stories within a story within a story. Yep.

At the end (aka the Narrator’s Story), it diverges more into the musings of being a writer and the power a writer has. Kind of amusing because– what the hell? Why are we suddenly talking about writing now? And then maybe, just maybe, the narrator was trying to hint that he gave the 5 love stories two different endings in one book. Although the ‘real’ ending is mentioned as the ‘real’ ending. It would have been more comprehensive if it stuck to it’s premise of “Me quota ang pag-ibig….” instead of diverging into philosophies about writing at the end.

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{Book Review} People Like Us – Javier Valdes

People Like Us: Short StoriesPeople Like Us: Short Stories by Javier Valdes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

: A compilation of stories with irony as the central theme.

People Like Us is the first story out of this book. I was hooked five pages in. A good, interesting read–especially if you like mysteries and realism. And old houses. (I thought it was cute that the author named the characters after himself and the person he dedicated the book to.)

Neighbors was a very interesting take on good and evil and the subsequent corruption of good, shown vis-a-vis a pure and good family and a good-looking family with many problems.

Cornelia is the funniest out of the lot, in terms of the ending. It had a less darker situational irony at the end, because it had a happy ending–for Cornelia.

Beat Me to Death was an interesting tale of aggression, mimicking Neighbors in a way that the ‘good boy’ becomes the aggressor in the end. It used the same type of moral irony, and the build up wherein the character/s are so focused on getting from point A to point B, they don’t realize what they’ve become.

Flidia, in my opinion, is the most twisted tale out of this book. Maybe it’s just because I’m a woman and the fear of rape is very real, but to see the psychological machinations of how the kidnapper made his victim feel at ease by spoiling her, and eventually raping her–but she was so far gone into Stockholm Syndrome) that she looked forward to every encounter and ended up spending the rest of life looking for her attacker–was disturbing, to say the least.

Orquidea makes fun of the very traditional Catholic family. (And the protagonist is once again named after the author.) It wasn’t the story I’d have closed the book with, because it was so weak compared to the others.

Overall, this book kept me hooked–I wanted to find out what happened next, the storytelling was simple but effective (especially when it turned gruesome in Beat Me To Death).

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[Review] Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

To celebrate the Halloween mood, I decided to do something I haven’t done before and read a horror novel. That’s right–I have not read a horror novel before. I’ve read a Goosebumps book when I was younger, Edgar Allan Poe’s stories (the tell-tale heart scared me when I read it in the library when I was eleven), and am creeped out by some of Neil Gaiman’s stories (especially the image of Coraline) but have never really read a novel in the horror genre before.

I bought my copy of Frankenstein in a second hand store for less than 20PHP and it’s in relatively good condition. I started it with feelings of anticipation and excitement, ready to be scared by one of the greatest horror classics.

I am 72% in (according to Goodreads) and I am battling feelings of great disappointment. 194 pages in, the monster created, the monster has murdered, and I have not felt scared at all.

Is the horror aspect of this book humanity and how they are predisposed to judging and despising the ugly? Or does the horror pertain to humanity’s evil? Because if it’s the latter, then Blindness by Jose Sarmago does a much better job of showing how evil humanity can get without the need of a being comprised of a combination of corpses who was brought to life in an unexplained manner.

It is actually quite funny that the being Frankenstein gives life to is captivated by human beauty. After all, perceptions of beauty are different in every part of the world. Japanese girls constantly want their eyes to look bigger, thus the circular contact lenses. Korean women undergo eyelid surgery to have double eyelids. Chinese women bind their feet to make them smaller. Western women want to tan, Philippine women want to be whiter. Yet this being recognized the concept of beauty quickly, almost as fast as he understood his need for nourishment. Thus began an obsession of looks (his compared to others) that became the bane of his existence.

Another thing that bothers me is that this being that Frankenstein created had so much more potential than the outcast Shelley gave life to. In all aspects except looks, the being is superior to a human. He is more agile, he heals faster even without medical attention, he is taller, he learned to talk fluently in less than a year. If Frankenstein had not been a wimp, he’d have seen this early on. He could have created so much more, a race superior to that of humans. And if he could have made an isolated community of them and taken over the wo–okay, so I’m obviously heading toward the science fiction genre here. But my point–the potential. Frankenstein had just made a leap in science and yet he ran away! He made a sentient being out of corpses and god knows what because the author either did not have enough imagination to tell or she was psychic and knew her story would be so famous one day, so she didn’t want anybody to actually try what she’d written. Or maybe she just wasn’t one for deep imagination.

After all, Frankenstein’s creature came to her in a dream.

You know who else came to a female author in a dream?

Edward Cullen of Twilight.

I’ll stop here for now and edit when I’m actually done with the book. Β I just needed to let my initial reaction out before I forget.