Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan


Title: Smaller and Smaller Circles
Author: F.H. Batacan
Format: Paperback
Price: PHP 150.00
Read Date: 24 July 2012

Synopsis:
Winner of the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel award in 1999, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan narrates a story about two Jesuit priests, who also happens to know a thing or two about forensics, that were tapped to solve the mystery surrounding the gruesome murders of young boys living in Payatas, Quezon City — one of the poorest areas in Metro Manila, Philippines.

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Review In A Nutshell:
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan is an elegantly-written piece of fiction that definitely packs a wallop despite its pint-sized thickness.

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Since I did a “Scoring The Book” post before this book review, I just felt it was appropriate to open it up with that video. All things considered, I was heavily reminded of Crime Scene Investigation the moment I started reading Smaller and Smaller Circles.

The award-winning mystery novel penned by Filipino novelist, F.H. Batacan, tells of a story of two Jesuit priests, Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero, who were tapped to help solve a series of gruesome murders of young boys who lived in Payatas, Quezon City given their knowledge and experience in forensic work. As the two Jesuit priests dig deeper into the murders, they both discover how perplexed the case was. In their journey of trying to prevent more young boys from being killed, they are followed (and somewhat aided) by Joanna Bonifacio, a TV producer and host that could give any local female newscaster a run for their money. Despite their experience in forensics and dealing with some irritatingly arrogant local officials, nothing prepared the two Jesuit priests of their discovery of the elusive killer, who may or may not have been lurking in their shadows for quite some time.


Okay, I know this video is completely off-topic but the how murders were written in the book were like this: quick yet precise.
The Duel between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, Kill Bill No. 1

If I were to sum up my thoughts about this book, I can keep it to as many as the number of those poor, murdered boys discovered in its first few pages: an elegantly-written piece of fiction.

It is no wonder why Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan received the accolades it got. The book is sarcastically funny, gritty, thought-provoking and completely entertaining. Despite its pint-sized thickness, it packs a wallop. It’s a complete page-turner; you will not stop until you get to the end of the story. When I started reading it, I was so frustrated that I didn’t have any colored tabs with me that I had to re-read it as soon as I bought a set. Well, you can definitely say that the proof is indeed in the pudding.

My heavily-tabbed copy of the book. Photo taken using Instagram.

However, as with any piece of work, Smaller and Smaller Circles is definitely not beyond perfect. If there’s one bone I’d like to pick with it using a really sharp scalpel, it’ll probably be the liberal use of Latin, French and German phrases in the book. Because I wanted so much to dig deeper into the story, I had to ensure I was beside my laptop while reading the book so that I can google the phrases’ meanings to understand their significance. There were times that I was distracted by it; whether out of envy or the need to know, I’m not sure. This was one of those rare occasions wherein I wouldn’t mind seeing footnotes inside a book if only to make understanding those foreign lines easier.

Nonetheless, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan is definitely worth the read. And I’m hearing some buzz in the local book blogging community that the author is currently penning a prequel. I cannot wait to get my hands on that. 🙂

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My Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
Get a copy at your nearest local bookstore. For PHP 150.00, it is definitely a steal for a outstanding work of fiction.

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Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Title:                      Anna and the French Kiss
Author:                Stephanie Perkins
Format:               Paperback
Price:                     PHP 399.00
Read Date:         25 August 2012

Official Book Synopsis:
Anna can’t wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

Book Trailer (Fan-Made)

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Review In A Nutshell:
What I loved the most about Anna and the French Kiss was its genuine and relatable narrative. It had all the elements of a typical young adult romance without it being too emotional or angsty.

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Screw the reluctant romantic in me. In the midst of all the fiction lined up for our book group’s future discussions as well as those that I still have to read, I find myself wanting to pick up something easy on the eyes. I often refer to it as a “breather book”; something that is nothing too heavy or frilly while still entertaining. I bought Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins a long time ago at the recommendation of Chachic and Tina, a couple of book blogger friends, who absolutely loved it. However, I only got to read it around this time and it’s a good thing that I did because I needed something like that; something that is simple yet not mundane but definitely refreshing.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins tells a story of a young girl named Anna Oliphant, a self-confessed film junkie, who was suddenly shipped off to a boarding school in Paris, France by her father who wanted to give a life-changing experience before she goes to college. Anna resented having plucked out of her normal life in Atlanta — away from her best friend, Bridge, and her budding relationship with her crush, Toph — but as an obedient daughter, she kept her feelings in and felt lost immediately after her parents left her. She was however welcomed by Meredith and her group of friends, which include the charmingly handsome Etienne St. Clair. As she slowly eases into her life in Paris, Anna becomes increasingly torn between missing Toph and Bridge, her growing friendship with the already-taken Etienne, her conflicts of being a new girl in school, that only when she goes back full circle when she realizes that the best thing she wished for was always right in front of her eyes.

Image courtesy of Kwischil at deviantart.com

What I loved the most about Anna and the French Kiss was its genuine and relatable narrative. It had all the elements of a typical young adult romance without it being too emotional or angsty. If anything, the “kilig” factor was way up between Anna and Etienne if you were to gauge from my Goodreads updates. I loved that their characters were fleshed out well enough by the author, Stephanie Perkins; even the secondary ones got to shine one way or another.

Anna and the French Kiss also made me fell in love with Paris more; it became  the third main character of the book. Stephanie Perkins wrote the sights and sounds of Paris so vividly, enough for me to dream that someday I’ll be able to visit that city and see the places that bore witness to Anna and Etienne’s journey.

I want to see this!
Point Zéro des Routes de France – Paris, France

Unfortunately, the book felt like a long foreplay in some spots that the “will-he-or-will-he-not” tone was a bit too much. I became as emotionally confused as Anna at some point that I just wanted to pull Etienne aside and tell him off… with a few hugs… or kisses… Oh dear! But then again, there were some subplots which I felt that can be removed without losing the story’s strength. I guess that’s the nitpicker in me talking (or being just frustrated that I couldn’t read it fast enough nor have enough time to finish it).

However, I did say at the start though that I really needed a “breather book” and if you do find yourself in the same pickle as I did, Anna and the French Kiss definitely fits the bill.

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My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
If you have an eReader, buy a digital copy at your favorite online store. I bought my print copy because it had a deckled edge and I love those kinds of books. Plus, at only PHP 399.00 from your neighborhood bookstore, it’s a steal. However, if you’re saving up on cash, then… well… go figure. 😉

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Other Fun Stuff:
– You can visit Stephanie Perkins’ official website to know more about her, her books and other related news.
– On the website’s Extras page, Stephanie posted interesting stuff about Anna and the French Kiss such a playlist (non-spoiler and spoiler version) and even a bonus scene.
– Stephanie Perkins has published a companion book called Lola and the Boy Next Door and has another one coming out in 2013 entitled Isla and the Happily Ever After. See, the world doesn’t end yet. 😛

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Format: eBook
Price: PHP 450.00
Read Date: 23 June 2012

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Official Book Trailer:

Review In A Nutshell:
What started out as a (somewhat) required reading, Cinder by Marissa Meyer turned out to be one of the most surprising and exciting science fiction/young adult books I’ve ever come across.

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Having read books for more than half of my life, I am pretty confident of genres that I stay away from; not because they are bad, they’re just not exactly my cup of tea. One of those genres is Science Fiction or Sci-Fi. While I’m fascinated by the notion that there are others out there, that Earth isn’t the only living planet, that technology will dominate our existence, I always found the language used in Sci-Fi literature a little too heavy for my liking. The only science fiction novel I can recall buying and finishing, although it took a while, was Neuromancer by William Gibson. I consider fiction reading as one of my beloved pastimes wherein all I do is chill and let the words leap off the page. My work reading can really drain my brain sometimes so I don’t really like my leisure reading to be as equally taxing. Thus, you can imagine my… uh… dread when the Sci-Fi genre was coming up in our book group’s discussion plate.

I appreciate my groupmates’ understanding that there were members who were not really as comfortable with the genre so the book selection was levelled to the point wherein it can be appreciated without burden. Cinder by Marissa Meyer became the book that got the most number of votes (I remembered voting for something else). As our book discussion date draws near, it became urgent that I finish it. I personally didn’t want to repeat that two-peat failure, wherein I haven’t gotten to the halfway mark of the two books that were featured in a back-to-back discussion. So that became my goal, but I can honestly admit that I was not prepared for what the book brought to my table. What started out as a (somewhat) required reading, Cinder by Marissa Meyer turned out to be one of the most surprising and exciting science fiction/young adult books I’ve ever come across.

Cinder, which is the first of four books in the Lunar Chronicles, tells a story of a girl by the same name who is a cyborg and a gifted mechanic known in New Beijing. Cinder was adopted by Garan, a scientist, during one of his trips in Europe and who dies from Letumosis – a deadly plague without vaccination – within days after his arrival. Cinder was left with her stepmother, Adri, and her two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony. Since then, she supported the family through the money she gets from her mechanic gigs and fixes their household gadgets whenever Adri feels the need to. One day, Prince Kaito of New Beijing quietly appears in Cinder’s shop to have one of his royal androids fixed. Since that fateful meeting, it has been an adventure that leads Cinder to discovering more about her past and what she will do to fight for a world and a future free from Queen Levana, who may be more vicious than the deadly blue fever.

Having previously read Ash by Malinda Lo, which was also branded as a Cinderella re-telling/re-imagination, I was honestly feeling wary getting into a similar book. I was thinking how Cinder will be different and if it will retain anything, some semblance, of the fairy tale I’ve grown up with. Well, the good thing was not only did Marissa Meyer paid due respect to the original story, she also took the narrative to a different level. The Cinderella storyline served as an inspiration more than a template to be followed. I found Cinder refreshing and it met my expectations of how a re-telling/re-imagination should be done. Although I was able to see through one of its key plotlines early on, perhaps due reading too much Young Adult lit, Cinder didn’t disappoint. I feel it’s largely due to Marissa Meyer’s way of creating a story; how she pulls you along for the ride, leaving you part satisfied, part yearning for more. It’s always great to encounter authors, new or old, who are not writing Young Adult fiction for the sake of breaking into its highly lucrative market but more because they have a story to share. Marissa Meyer wrote a fantastic one and I absolutely cannot wait to read more.

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My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
Buy a copy of Cinder, even if it’s paperback. If you have an eReader, download from most online stores. Personally, I wish I would have coffee with Marissa Meyer if only to tell her that she helped me lose my fear of reading fiction that re-tells/re-imagines what I know, love and grown up with.

Some Quick Facts about the Lunar Chronicles:
– Marissa Meyer already has the entire four books planned out as follows (Source – EW Shelf Life):

Book 1: Cinder – inspired by Cinderella
Book 2: Scarlet – inspired by Little Red Riding Hood
Book 3: Cress – inspired by Rapunzel
Book 4: Winter – inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Ahem! No Huntsman? I kid.)

– The cover art and an excerpt of Scarlet were recently shared online by USA Today Books, which you can read here.

– Marissa Meyer also released a prequel to the series entitled Glitches, which I have also given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.