Articles, Book Reviews, Reading, Reviews

Review: CIRCE

Review: CIRCE

I have been fascinated by Greek mythology ever since I was introduced to the Iliad and the Odyssey during high school. The world of the gods, goddesses, heroes and monsters vividly came to life in my teenage mind as I read retellings and versions of it. I think that was the time I felt the first stirrings of my passion for writing.

Reading Circe by Madeline Miller is like going back to the halls of my high school, circa 80’s. The prose is excellent, reminiscent of Homer’s style and dramatic similes and metaphors. The reader is transported to varied worlds with each detailed description of various settings, persons, and objects. 

What makes Circe more compelling and impactive is the way the author intricately wove the events in the Iliad and the Odyssey—and the more recent, loved stories—within its context. In this book, Circe takes prominent place among the gods, even a crucial role, in many of the well-known Greek characters’s lives. At the same time, Miller injected a few modern tales, namely The Ugly Duckling and Cinderella. The result is a powerful, indelible rendering of the life of an otherwise lesser entity in Greek mythology.

But I think the best thing about this book is the portrayal of Circe’s character development. One can’t help but be lured into the web that was Circe’s life, and relate with her throughout her journey. In the beginning, she was considered ugly, without any power except for her immortality. She was called stupid, smirked upon and bullied by her kind. In her naivete (and it is significant to say here, in the absence of well-meaning parents who should’ve genuinely cared for and guided her), she did terrible things out of pure impulse, things which burdened her for life. She made mistakes, she trusted the wrong people, she was used, abused and mistreated. But through all these, she remained her own person, with her values and principles intact, unchanged by cruelty and malice. She may have performed some black magic (turned men to pigs) but it was an act that can only be accepted as rational by a goddess wronged by mortals, a retaliation to their crime against her. Through all these, her concern and consideration of mortals remained, even as she sought approval and affection from her own kind. In the end, it was this tenderness of heart toward those inferior, perishable beings that gave her the ultimate peace she had long wished for.

It is to be noted that except for Circe, Miller chose to depict her gods and goddesses as selfish, self-entitled beings with absolutely no genuine fondness for mortals (and even their own kin) except when they are useful to their whims. The gods caused bad things to happen to mortals, leading them to turn to the deities for help and worship, for their own egocentric, manipulative games. But of course, maybe it’s because this is Circe’s story. She took center stage as the only good one among rotten tomatoes, making others pale in the background. Zeus didn’t even make an appearance.  

There were one or two instances, too, when the author (unknowingly, I presume) slipped into modern tone and language which were totally out of place (and curiously, all involving the “f” word): “That he fucks them, of course.” “I fucked the sacred bull, all right?”

Her evolution, from plain nymph to a powerful witch whom even the mighty gods were afraid of; from an immature, insecure girl to a seasoned woman of substance; from a damsel who saw the world with rose-colored glasses to a wisened mother who will sacrifice herself for her son’s sake, were remarkably well-written, suffused with the joys and pains accompanying each life phase and inciting appropriate emotions from the reader. You can feel Circe’s frustrations, disappointments, sadness, anger and, in rare, scant moments, her happiness. What a journey!

If I were to describe Circe in simple words, I’d say it’s the story of a goddess who lived a colorful mortal’s life. And that is what makes it a great book, being inherently human in its depths—and therefore, identifiable. I love the prose, the tone, and the writer’s style. Truly an excellent piece of literature.

Available on Amazon and Apple Books.

Rating:
4.5/5

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Apple Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to apple.com, amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic

review

isn't it romantic

Rebel Wilson proves she can hold her own as she lands a starring role in this feel good, hilariously funny romcom.

You definitely need to watch Isn’t It Romantic! It’s a fun, laugh-out-loud romantic musical comedy about loving oneself, appreciating others, and finding your true love living right under your nose.
 
I didn’t like Rebel Wilson’s characters in her other films. She was either too crass, too quirky, or too mean. I remember thinking, what a waste of pretty face and comic talent. But Isn’t It Romantic fits her to a T. The plot is just the right one for her.

Synopsis

Rebel Wilson is Natalie, a plus-size architect in New York. A low-esteemed cynic, courtesy of her equally cynic mother, she is unnoticed, unappreciated, and basically a doormat in their office. When she knocks herself out in the subway after foiling a mugging attempt, she finds herself in an alternate universe and the leading lady in her suddenly perfect, flowery romantic comedy life–complete with background music and overhead narrations! After a series of self-denials and mishaps, she learns to love herself first before needing anyone else, as well as realizing what she really wanted in a man. When she wakes up, she transforms herself to a strong woman, confident of herself and her architectural skills, and going after the man she really loves.

Get Ready to Laugh...and Wisen Up

I had a great time watching this movie. While it made a parody out of Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman scenes, it wasn’t being offensive–to me, at least. It showed a heroine reliving the 1990 top-grosser movie with a touch of straightforward reality, effectively mixing the ideal with the real. Along the way, it teaches a few lessons. That while the world and some people in it may turn up cruel and harsh, we can always find some things and some persons that are still beautiful and kind. That for all the world’s ugliness, there is always something to be thankful for. And the most important lesson of all: if we want to be loved the way we expect to, we should learn to love ourselves first. Not just to accept ourselves: strengths, flaws, and all, but to change what can be changed for the better; to assert our rights and refuse to be doormats of bullies. All these not to please anyone or everyone, but first and foremost, our self. 

Joining Rebel in this not-your-usual romcom movie is hunk Liam Hemsworth, the sultry Priyanka Chopra and Mr. Nice Guy Adam DeVine. Brandon Scott Jones and Betty Gilpin played Natalie’s friends, with Brandon providing the pivotal “Eureka!” moment for Natalie. These characters provided invaluable support which further made the film more worthy of my time compared to Sierra Burgess is a Loser. 

Sweet, funny but empowering. Oh, and if you love beta heroes more than alpha ones, this movie is definitely for you!

“Isn’t It Romantic” is now streaming internationally on Netflix.

Rating:
4/5

If you’re a movie buff like me and don’t have Netflix, you may want to check out Amazon Prime Video. It has a treasure trove of movies to buy or rent.

Better yet, here’s a direct link to the movie through Apple Movies.

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Apple Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Apple.com, Amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: Premium Harmony

review

premium harmony

A short story by Stephen King published in The New Yorker.

Stephen King is not the King for nothing. Although his style in this story is a bit different from his other works, it just proves he’s a versatile writer who can spin words and emotions in many different ways.

This tale also requires a concentrated effort in reading between the lines. Underneath the simple language, funny parts and seemingly disordered mess, there’s depth and meaning. I have come upon quite a number of discontented reviews on this, and, quite frankly, I almost became one myself. But I believe Mr. Stephen to be a very talented writer who will not write anything just for the sake of it. As with every story I read, I always look for what the author was trying to tell me, the reader. It’s also a challenge to try to unravel the writer’s mind. After three readings, I came to understand King’s wisdom.

The central theme is about marriage. Specifically, the marriage of two incompatible people, Ray and Mary. Or, by analogy, people who have drifted apart from each other, who have changed over the years, who have grown apart. It depicts the image of many marriages today: marriages where boredom and indifference had set in, and love, that glorious feeling they had at the beginning, has faded in a background of monotony, resentment and discord.

“When they argue, they’re like greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. You go past the same scenery time after time, but you don’t see it. You see the rabbit.”

I wouldn’t change anything in this story. The story was perfect for me. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To some, reading this may be like a road leading to nowhere. But if you walk carefully and slowly, you’ll find yourself treading toward a sure destination.

The story begins with the state of their marriage: ten years, childless, nearly bankrupt, arguing a lot. His wife was barren, overweight, constantly bickered him on his smoking and over almost anything, a bit extravagant for his own taste. He’d bought her a dog, a Jack Russell named Bizz, whose loyalties turned to her, and the three of them were on their way to Walmart to buy grass seed for their lawn, which she insisted is needed to be able to sell their house. They stopped at Quik Pik to buy a purple ball for her niece, again, at her insistence and with his compliance. There, two things happened one after the other, giving Ray the freedom he didn’t know he wanted.

The ending was expected of Ray, whose character background was well-portrayed – his unhappiness and discontent over his marriage – and who, after his initial shock and sadness, was already thinking of a life diferent from what he had for the last ten years.

“It comes to him that now he can smoke all he wants, and anywhere in the house. He can smoke right there at her dining-room table.”

He was finally free of a suffocating, dull marriage, and he was looking forward to a bright future. (I was thinking of the dog, though. The author didn’t mention if Ray took him out of the car before he drove to the hospital with the windows closed and the air-conditioning on.)

“Ray smokes all the way to the hospital with the windows shut and the air-conditioning on.”

When you think about it, even the title depicted the theme of the story. Ray said it perfectly:

“‘That off-brand. Premium Harmony, they’re called.’ They taste like homemade shit, but all right.”

Ray was settling for less in life: cheap cigarettes as well as a boring life with a fat, bickering, disagreeable wife, and an ungrateful dog who loves his wife more than him – just to survive or to exist. He was trapped and didn’t have the guts to get out of it. The solution was taken out of his hands, and in a span of one hour! Lucky fella.

 

Rating:
5/5

Stephen King is an acclaimed award-winning American best-selling author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction as well as non-fiction books. Many of his books have been adapted into films and television series.  

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Movie Review: SEARCHING


(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure at the end of this post.)


Initially titled “Search,” this seemingly unobtrusive movie received The Audience Award: NEXT and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for outstanding feature film about science or technology at the Sundance Film Festival last year (2018), before it was bought for $5 Million by Sony and retitled, “Searching.” It went on to be a financial and critical success worldwide.

And well it should be. The story of a determined father searching for his missing daughter may be cliché, but this film brought it to a whole new level. And I’m not talking about gun-crazy, across-the-world, Liam Neeson-kind of movie. “Searching” is a compelling, ingenious take on the good and bad sides of the power of technology in our modern times. And not just technology. This movie was an eye-opener on other things, things we may have intentionally, or unintentionally, turned a blind eye to.

David Kim becomes desperate when his 16-year-old daughter Margot disappears and an immediate police investigation leads nowhere. He soon decides to search the one place that no one else has — Margot’s laptop. Hoping to trace her digital footprints, David contacts her friends and looks at photos and videos for any possible clues to her whereabouts.

The story was largely told using screens of, you name it, iPhone, SmartPhone, MacBook, FaceTime, YouTube, Gmail, and many social media platforms. Modern technology at its best. But it was done expertly and beautifully so as to render it intriguing and suspenseful instead of boring and monotonous.

John Cho who played David Kim was perfect for the role. His acting was excellent. Intense but artistically restrained. He is a father emotionally laden by his daughter’s disappearance—fear, guilt, confusion, anger, shame intermingled, grappled inside him. But he is also a father with a good head on his shoulders, and he used it to full advantage. He remained focused, utilising every technological means he knew, and never once did he let his emotions rule over his mind. He was unwavering and resolute to the very end.

{ I felt hope when Searching is hailed as the first mainstream Hollywood thriller headlined by an Asian-American actor. Maybe another successful mainstream Hollywood movie with a lead Filipino actor will not be long in the making? }

This movie is like a compass: there’s always a North and a South, an East and a West… of many things. Technology can be good. It can make life easier; communication faster; chores simpler. It can help find missing persons; capture an offender; solve a crime. But it can also be bad, when it is used to estrange oneself from family and loved ones; keep secrets; tarnish one’s reputation; mislead people. A parent’s love can be good. It can fuel an unrelenting determination to find a missing child, whatever it may take; to look past her imperfections made known only now; to hold on to the hope that she is still alive and therefore they have a chance to rebuild and rebond their connection. But it can also be bad, when it pushes one to lie, use police resources wrongly, and even kill, to cover up a child’s misdeed, however unpremeditated it may have been. Having friends can be good. But it can also be bad when they’re not really friends at all, just people who’d use you for a moment of online glory or fame. Being solitary can be good. And it can also be bad, leading to bouts of depression and shutting out of people who truly love us. Being an expert in technology can be good. But it can be bad, either, when one uses it to invade others’ privacy without consent and without restraint. And the list goes on.

Emotional yet technical. Suspenseful yet hopeful.

There are many things in this movie than meet the eye, all relevant and thought-provoking. Complete with twists and turns that will make your heart palpitate, this film is worth the awards it received, and much, much more. Highly recommended! 🦋

You can buy or rent this movie here.


Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Books, News and Events, Reviews, Uncategorized

INJS is one of Favorite Reads of 2018!

When I checked Twitter this morning, it was a pleasant surprise to find that I was tagged in a tweet. The tweet? My romcom book, It’s Not Just Semantics, was picked by a book blogger/booktuber as one of her Favorite Reads of 2018! 🎉🎉🎉

In her previous post last December 18, 2018, I was so happy to read her blog where she wrote about my female protagonist:

I never thought my book would be included in her list of Favorite Reads of 2018. I am so honoured and humbled. Thank you so much! 😍

More than this, I commend this blogger for giving a chance to read the books of indie authors. In her blog, she said it was important for her to read diversely and to select books from up and coming authors or indie authors. Thank you for supporting us indie authors!

Her reviews were her participation in the #smutathon, a week long readathon where the focus is to read adult romance. Her personal criteria was, I quote:

“… the HEA is not the ultimate goal, but rather strong storytelling with a focus of how the relationship is actually handled. This distinction is important on whether or not I will like the book.”

https://www.bloglovin.com/@weekendreader/smutathon-wrap-up

For her full post on her Favorite Reads of 2018, click HERE. I urge you to follow her blog!

It’s Not Just Semantics is available here.


This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Into the Water

61OLegHQzvL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Into the Water

Author: Paula Hawkins

3.5 out of 5 stars

I loved The Girl on the Train. The movie was great, and while I have yet to read the book itself, I was content to let it remain in my TBR list, secure in the thought that if the movie was that good, the book would be no less.

When I learned that Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water was the winner of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards, I could not pass up the chance of reading it. The book got 48,247 votes, beating Dan Brown’s Origin. Wow. To beat Dan Brown, that was certainly something. So I put Dan aside and said hello to Paula.

Into the Water is a psychological suspense set in the rural British town of Beckford with cliffs, a bridge, a river and the mysterious Drowning Pool, where several women were killed or committed suicide over the years. A fresh new death involved the main character’s sister which proved to be incidental in uncovering the mystery and horror of past deaths. The plot was good but the execution was, regretfully, not very much.

For starters, I feel there were too many minor characters in the beginning. Taking into account the book’s blurb, it was expected that focus will be on the introduction and character development of Jules and Lena. Of course, this is a writer’s tactic to confuse readers into guessing who the murderer was – introduce many characters so the readers would be baffled. But I think there is a thin line that divides confusion from a disorderly mess. I felt there was “character dump” in the first chapters.

There were too many POVs too. Not just told from the perspective of each character, but also told as per type of POV: first person, second person, and third person. Some of these, sadly, did not move the story forward, making its pacing slow and dragging. The twists were not very thrilling for me too; they came out as lame and disappointing. I feel there were also a few plotholes: why would a police officer be allowed to investigate crimes similar to what he went through as a child, and what happened to the teacher? Unless the writer was thinking of a sequel, of course.

The ending was also predictable. It was blatantly clear from the start who the villain was. It seemed the author went to a lot of trouble hiding him from plain sight, choosing to weave a winding maze of characters and backstories to confuse the reader and blur the plot.

All in all, I don’t regret reading Into the Water. Paula is an amazing writer who can evoke emotions and stir the mind through her words. I’ll be sure to read The Girl on the Train one of these days.

But for now, back to Dan.

Movie Reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized

The Space Between Us

952b79b63e7ac47e56cf6553701b14ec“No matter how much I want her, Earth doesn’t want me.”

I found it surprising that this movie was given a few negative reviews. I think it was because many people watched it with their minds primarily on the “romantic young love” angle. But if one were to look past the love story between the teenagers in this movie, you’ll find a plot that is meaningful and inspirational. It is a story of hope, courage, determination, and finding one’s roots and identity.

Gardner Elliot is the only human born and raised in Mars. He grew up to be a highly intelligent boy, unknown and unwanted in Earth. Sixteen years later, his only contact with people was with the fourteen astronauts in the Mars colony where he was brought up, and Tulsa, the street smart orphan girl from Colorado whom he met via an internet chatroom. When he got a chance to travel to Earth despite a possible threat to his health, he embarks on a quest to find his father with the help of Tulsa, exploring sights and falling in love along the way. But it turned out his body cannot withstand Earth’s atmosphere and he was dying. Will time run out for him before he learns the truth about his father?

1f2664e775f5012b6cbabfd08a247140The plot was simple but meaningful. Asa Butterfield was very convincing in his portrayal of the role of Gardner Elliot. Not at all surprising from the boy who played Hugo. He’s all grown up now and so tall! This boy can really bring to life any character required of him with finesse and effect.

 
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Gary Oldman was his usual best. The rest of the cast was okay. I had to agree with most negative reviews, though, that Britt Robertson, the actress who played the role of Tulsa, looked old for teenage Gardner. Except for that minuscule detail, she gave justice to the role of being a hardened up girl who learned to be tough in between foster homes.

The Space Between Us is not merely a love story of two teenagers coming of age. It is the story of a boy coming home to a planet that physically rejects him and finding the mysterious father that never stopped loving him. In the process, he accepted his fate, becoming at peace with what he truly is.

“What’s your favorite thing about Earth?”

Book Reviews, Reviews

Book Review: Ghost of a Feeling

trinidad-ghost-of-a-feeling5 out of 5 stars

I really loved this book and highly recommend this to everyone!

Reading Cris’ story felt very much like steadily climbing a steep, rocky hill, reaching the top, then merrily sliding down, coming to a grassy, peaceful pasture.

The book was beautifully woven with a seamless plot and perfectly, realistically intertwined characters. Chapter by chapter, the pieces of the puzzle were made to rightfully fall snugly to their proper place to form a beautiful tapestry of relatable human emotions and the triumph of human courage.

I love Nathan. He is the perfect guy, the long-suffering lovestruck martyr whom fate (with a stroke of ingenuity and a strange sense of humor) took pity on, giving him a second chance at love because he deserved it.

Cris struck so many chords and echoed the exact same sentiments achingly familiar to many of us. Maybe in varying degrees and in different situations, but the emotions and the never ending questions are the same.

Far be it from me for thinking wishfully, but I sincerely, truly pray that this book can be a personified version of Emilio/Nathan to all the Cris-like people out there. That by reading this, anyone contemplating to jump over the ledge in a moment of utter despair will be stopped and given a new ray of hope – hope that life is still worth living and that if we just KEEP ON, happiness may just be waiting around the corner.

Thank you, Celestine Trinidad, for giving me this opportunity to read Ghost of a Feeling’s ARC in exchange for an honest review.

You can buy this book HERE.