31 October 2010


Reading Challenge Report: R.I.P. V

Happy Halloween!!!

This was my very first challenge--and I'm going to make that my excuse. (You already know what's coming next, right?)

Let's start with the good news . . .

30 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Five!

Welcome to Scary Settings: The Movie Edition!!!

This is our first Movie Edition and I don't know why it took me so long to host one. Cinema can do wonders for settings--especially scary ones.

"Thrillers" can mean either novels or movies; "Romances" are still dominated by books; "Biographies" don't quite call to mind documentaries; and "Philosophy" must still call to mind scrolls. But say "Horror"--and everyone's mind jumps to the most frightening film of his life. Cinema owns this genre . . . and we all know it.

(And that is why, next year, October will be reserved for Scary Settings from movies all the way!!! I just hope we all can stand to wait that long . . .)

Please note that I watched the following movie for "Peril of the Screen" in the RIP V Challenge. I've already linked this post up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site.

28 October 2010


Tutor Tales: Volume 24

Here are some quick stories from Tutor Land, because I know Mrs. Darwin likes them . . . =)

I'm starting to think of Angel Delight as my "Mini Me." I've never had to adapt my learning style to hers; we just match.

She doesn't think I'm odd when I teach her how to remember that Virac is the capital of Catanduanes by imagining a cat on a sand dune in Iraq. And we both understand perfectly why it's too bad that the capital of Camarines Norte is Daet, while the capital of Camarines Sur is Pili.

"It's the pili nuts that should come first," she told me, "because eating too many is the reason Camarines needs to go on a daet."

And when I said, "That's EXACTLY what I was thinking!"--I was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So you should have seen our faces when we were informed that the province which produces the most pili nuts is neither Camarines Norte nor Camarines Sur, but Albay.

Angel Delight is also a natural at finding that "one word" I told you about a few Writing Diary entries ago. (Entry #22, to be exact.) Our word for Region IV-B is tourism: it helps both of us remember that there are rare trees and birds in its forests and rare animals on its islands, which is why the locals would rather invest in conservation and resorts than in agriculture. (Everything follows from there.) And for Region V, we remember water: after all, this is the region which has a huge crater lake, a fish festival rather than a harvest festival, and the world-famous fluvial procession for Our Lady of Penafrancia.

If I had had a tutor like myself when I was in the fourth grade, I would have totally rocked Hekasi.

* * * *

27 October 2010


Reading Diary: BSC #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin

". . . Mimi, do you think I act like a normal twelve-year-old? . . . You know . . . Am I about as responsible and mature and smart as other twelve-year-olds and do I have pretty much the same interests they do?"

Now, most adults might have said something like, "That sounds like a loaded question" . . . But Mimi put her teacup down, sat back in her chair, and considered me. At last she replied, "Yes, you seem like a normal twelve-year-old to me. You do not wear the clothes that Claudia does, but I do not think that means anything. You are very responsible, and you also seem very mature. But you are serious, too, and I know it is not wise to confuse gravity with maturity."

As you can tell, Mary Anne Spier is having a little age-related crisis. (I've just got over my "quarter-life crisis" and am wondering whether they are all due to age.) Her father treats her like a baby, telling her she must wear her hair in braids every day and forbidding her to redecorate a bedroom that still has a pink-framed Humpty Dumpty hanging on the wall. She is the only member of the Baby-sitters Club who must turn down jobs because she can't stay out later than 9:30 on weekends--and it is both personally and professionally humiliating.

Now, I see where her overprotective single father is coming from, but really . . . If a twelve-year-old is worrying about her ability to do business, then she's quite a remarkable specimen of her age group.

25 October 2010


Twelve Things about Orphan

12. Yes, I can appreciate non-Slashers. =P Once in a while, it's good to watch some "highbrow" Horror with actors who are no longer just trying to break into Hollywood.

11. Do you remember the classic scary short about the woman who always wears a ribbon around her neck . . . until the night her husband decides to take it off her while she sleeps? (Just in case you don't, I won’t spoil it for you. Go camping, wait for dark, and get someone to tell you this story by the fire.) I was already okay with the way this movie was striking that basic note, with the ribbons on Esther's neck and wrists . . . so I was floored at the revelation of other "bands" she wears and the secrets they hide.

10. On the other hand, I'm not too easy about the fate of a certain character. A regular diet of Slashers means I am used to characters dying because they "deserve" it; but in Orphan, the horror comes from the fact that all the deaths are completely undeserved.

24 October 2010


Writing Diary, Entry #23

When I sent my first clip out to Fully Booked Zine, it was with the hope that they'd ask me to write reviews for them. I like reading books; they liked selling books; we could meet halfway with reviews. And then I found myself doing a lot of . . . interviews.

It frustrated me a little because I didn't think those assignments played to my strengths as a writer. After about a year, I pitched an idea that didn't require me to trick people into being quotable . . . and since then, I've been one of their go-to writers for reviews. And of course now I miss the interviews.

You can read my short reviews of six Paranormal Romances in the PDF of the last issue. Look for Blood, Lust and Love on Page 10.

(Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)

23 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Four!

First announcement: Remember that next week's theme is Scary Settings: The Movie Edition! You’re welcome to link up any post about the memorable places in Horror movies. And as I told a certain Horror blogger friend, you don't have to use the girly badge. =P

Second announcement: The next challenge is Non-fiction in November, scheduled for 6 November 2010. (I'll also be doing Narnia in November on the last weekend of the month, but that's not an official theme, just something I want to do. You’re welcome to write about Narnia, too, if you like--and just as welcome to link up something totally different.)

What I like about my Theme Challenges is that when I extend them to all the weekends of the month, my Locus Focus posts don't merely stand alone, but have the added dignity of being links in a chain. This personal game of connect-the-posts makes them twice as much fun to write. I like throwing seemingly unrelated things together.

What I don't like about my Theme Challenges is that when I extend them to all the weekends of the month, I have to put off writing about a really great setting from a recent read that doesn't belong on the existing chain. The following setting, rediscovered early last month, doesn't really go with what I've been writing lately about amusement parks of evil, circles of hell, and imperial suites of death . . . but at least it's still good and Gothic.

22 October 2010


Friday is Also for Top 5 Lists!

Read about Pan's Labyrinth and other fairy topics
at This Miss Loves to Read!

My original idea was another face off: Rapunzel vs. Rumplestiltkin. But when I picked up my pen and started writing, it had other ideas. (That happens to you, too, right?) So today, instead of getting two fairy tales to fight it out, I'm asking five fairy tales to be five fingers making a single fist, united in striking a blow. For the best thing about fairy tales (as with Horror movies) is their moral element, and here are some that pack a great punch when it comes to what is truly valuable in life.

My Top 5 "Golden" Fairy Tales

1. Rumplestiltskin

There is something about the idea of spinning straw into gold that both satisfies the magical rags-to-riches element we love in fairy tales and reminds us of the reality that good fortune often goes to those who are willing to work hard for it. Yes, sometimes fate throws us a bone . . . or some magic beans . . . or a fairy godmother . . . But most of the time, we must actually climb up that quality of life ladder by ourselves.

Not that our heroine is a paragon of honest, hard work. Put in an impossible position, she must do some “outsourcing” when a funny little man suddenly--and opportunistically--appears in her straw-packed cell and offers her a way out of her predicament. At first, she seems merely to be trading gold for gold: first her ring, then her necklace--very prosaic transactions. But soon she runs out of things of value and the funny little man makes an outrageous demand that reminds us that when things seem too good to be true . . . they probably are.

These get-rich-quick or buy-now-pay-later schemes can come with some awful fine print. And that is likely why the legendary philosopher's stone--another easy key to gold--is best destroyed at the end by whomever finds it. We might never master the dark alchemy of turning straw into gold, but we can always be tempted to make the diabolical trade between gold and innocent lives.

20 October 2010


The Poem Is Played!

WEST ampersand & letter Q
Linknumber 5
Read everyone else's poems at Salome Ellen!

Yes! It's finally up! =D Ellen won't have to put my name on the WALL OF SHAME!

And now I'm free to read all your poems, too. =) Thanks for playing, everyone!

Now just one "administrative" question to get out of the way: Is anyone up for hosting Word & Question in November? =)

19 October 2010


Reading Diary: The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
(Reviewed for "Peril the First" of the RIP V Challenge and linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site)

. . . [Jessica] turned back to her book. It was a new one that she had just checked out of the library. It was called The Witches of Salem Town and it was not really a story at all. Instead it was a true account of events that happened a long time ago. As a rule Jessica preferred fiction, but there had recently been an article abotu witches in one of the women's magazines that [her mother] subscribed to, and Jessica had been fascinated. Afterward she had gone looking for more information at the library. In the children's section she had found only cutesy stories about Halloween-type witches with cats and broomsticks; but when she discovered where the adult books on magic were kept, she found what she was looking for. The book she had taken was a brand-new one that told the story of the witches of Salem.

When I was several pages into this "old school" YA classic, it occurred to me that it was lucky to have been published back in the early 70s, because the chances of its being picked up today seem pretty slim. It's the sort of novel exposes today's Paranormal fare as literature on the level of "cutesy stories about Halloween-type witches with cats and broomsticks"--but the latter are what are taking up the most shelf space in bookstores (and getting the most attention on YA-orientated book blogs). We might be living in a kind of golden age of YA and MG publishing, but whether we've made the same bounds in quality as we have in quantity is still to be determined.

And when I visit, say, Scholastic book fairs at schools these days, I feel like shoving my collection of yellowing, crumbling Newbery Award and Newbery Honour novels in the faces of the children there and launching into an Old Fogey speech about "today's kids" not knowing what "real YA/MG" is like.

(Never mind that this title was originally published by Yearling, not Scholastic.)

18 October 2010


More Mail for Monday
(This post is linked up at The Story Siren with the rest of this week's hauls)

This post should have gone up weeks ago, but we had issues with our digital camera. Heck, we still have issues with our digital camera. Which means, if you want to play the grammar game, that we have been having issues with our digital camera.

And that is why this very special delivery is being announced with a stock photo from the Internet.

16 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Three!

One problem with not having my own PC and having to draft my posts in longhand before going to an Internet cafe and typing them up, is that I make some awful editorial errors. For instance, last week's Locus Focus was actually supposed to be this week's--and yes, the order matters. The locus I finally feature today is a more natural follow-up to the first Scary Setting of the month, while the locus of last Saturday is a more logical progression from this one.

So what lies between Neal Shusterman's Full Tilt and Dante's Inferno? Read on . . .

14 October 2010


Character Connection 16

Read about Robert Neville and other spooky
(or not-so-spooky) characters
in this week's Character Connection round up!

This is my first entry for The Introverted Reader's Helluva Halloween Character Connection Giveaway. The rule is simple: link up a post about a great villain.

Now, I've already done a list of My Favourite (Likable) Villains, so I thought I'd do something a little different. This villain doesn't have an ounce of charisma on her.

13 October 2010


Tutor Tales, Volume 23

Just after three tutees became four, the four are threatening to revert back to three. Earlier this week, Doctor Decimator's mother asked to speak with me about a change of plans. She might be needing me to tutor her son any longer.

His grades have not shown any real improvement since I came on board again--and although she doesn't blame me at all, she thinks it would be best to enroll her son in his own school's after-school remedial programme.

"He just has so many distractions at home," she explained. "I think keeping him in a classroom setting will help him concentrate better."

I wanted to say, Ma'am, your son isn't distracted. He's lazy. But instead I turned to a very uncomfortable looking Doctor Decimator and remarked casually, "I've always thought that, in the end, all students get the tutors they deserve."

But then what do the tutors themselves get?

11 October 2010


Twelve Things about Student Bodies
(Reviewed for "Peril of the Screen" of the RIP V Challenge and linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site)

12. Would you believe I didn't know this was a parody when I started watching it? (Do you think I would have chosen to see it for the "screen" portion of a Gothic Reading Challenge? =P)

Student Bodies doesn't even attempt to be scary, which I find disappointing, but understandable. This is less Scream (which I love) and more Scary Movie (which I can't stand)--but I think I'll give it the usual "Hey, it was the 80s!" break.

11. Now I just wish my memories of movies from this time--late 70s, early 80s, informally known as the Halloween era--were fresher. I feel as if I missed out on a lot of this movie's jokes. Those black garbage bags, for instance, totally went over my head. And those horse head bookends? Call me clueless!

But as The Mike points out in his fantastic review:

"Student Bodies is relatively spot-on regarding films that had been released then, but it also takes its shots at the formula before the slasher movement really picked up steam. At this point, Jason Voorhees had yet to put on a mask, Freddy Krueger was still a pleasant future dream, and Michael Myers didn't have a living sister . . ."

My own happy memories from these later films, which came out at the height of the Slasher craze--are always ready for instant referencing.

09 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Two!

I'm still paddling about in the Horror pond, but it's time to think about next month's challenge so that everyone has time to plan ahead.

With my affection for alliteration, I came up with three ideas:

a) Narnia in November
This was something I came up with long before Themed Challenges ever came to mind--my little way of drumming up anticipation for the movie adaptation of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader". But I'm not about to ask my friends to shotgun different Narnian settings unless they want to!

b) Non-fiction November
It's definitely challenging, but not also as limiting as it seems. There are memoirs, biographies, histories, and travelogues . . . And I know I've always wanted to step into the home kitchens of some of those authors of glossy cookbooks!

c) November in New York, New York
I just realised how many great books in the world--or in my personal collection alone--are set in this amazing city. It is one setting that authors and filmmakers love with equal passion, so we might get to do another Movie Edition!

Please vote for your choice in the combox. Note that although I like making all my Loci Foci for the month line up according to the theme, you don't have to extend the challenge to your own. Link up the setting you want to share for that week.

07 October 2010


Character Connection 15

Read about Victor Frankenstein and other great characters
this week at The Introverted Reader!

If I were a decent Horror blogger, October would be all about what I call Scary Stuff. But the seasons of my reading life don't always correspond to the themes of the rest of the world, and now I find that I have one more governess to get off my chest.

(Once you start looking for them, you see them everywhere . . .)

06 October 2010


Let's Play Poetry Again!

letter W Ampersand Q
number 5

Regular players: please e-mail your entries straight to her. =)

Prospective players: check out the Playing Poetry page for rules, mechanics and samples. We hope you can join us this month! =)

Everyone: if you want to sign up to host this in November, make sure you bag it in this combox, so we know!

And now for something really indulgent . . .

One of the reasons I had hoped to get a small group together to play Word & Question was that I hadn't written any poetry in yonks, and thought that I needed the swift kick in the pants that comes from writing in a group. And I definitely got that! (Thanks, gang!)

Indeed, I'm also starting to scribble a bit on my own again. Last weekend, while looking for a remembered passage in Joan Aiken's The Way to Write for Children, I noticed that one of the section headers was a question--a very good question. And I thought I'd like to answer that in a poem. So I went through the rest of the book, looking for a section header that was a single word . . . And about an hour later, I had the following . . .

05 October 2010


Not Much of a Tease Today

Find some more tantalising Teasers this Tuesday!

I'm linking up to this meme again today because, yes, I found another cover with those "two legs" that represent a proper teaser.

I will admit, though, that I didn't notice them until Scrap Metal tried to read the title and complained that the people sitting on the words made it difficult for him . . .

04 October 2010


Tutor Tales, Volume 22

Teaching a language can be great fun--for both the teacher and the student. It has obvious practical advantages; it can be either black-and-white or in all shades of grey; and the extent of one's learning is easily and fairly assessed, to the satisfaction of both parties. I usually have a blast helping my tutees with their other languages.

SPANISH: Angel Delight's school requires offers Spanish from kindergarten to high school--which makes me slightly green with envy. (My own school offered French only as an elective--and only to high school seniors.) Not that I've ever met a graduate from there who could converse confidently in the language: I suspect it's taught the way most schools teach Latin or Ancient Greek.

That is, Spanish is acknowledged as a part of the Philippines' history and traditions, a contributor to the development of the Filipino language, and a huge part of the school's own culture . . . but if the students don't really make it a part of their quotidian life, that's no big deal.

Since I know barely any Spanish myself, I simply help Angel Delight memorise her new vocabulary week to week by insisting on oral drills. I tried sneaking a Spanish lesson out of her by explaining that one good way to revise one's lessons is by attempting to teach them to someone else (which is true, by the way); but she doesn't seem to like playing teacher very much.

02 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-One!

Welcome to the Scary Settings Challenge!

Locus Focus will be all about Horror this October!!! (I feel like an honourary Scream Queen already!)

Remember that 30 October 2010 is for Scary Settings: The Movie Edition! I've always wanted to open Locus Focus to great settings from film, so this new part of the challenge already has a special place in my Horror-loving heart.

(Note: since my "book blogging" consists of writing about books without reviewing them, I'm going to make this count as my first entry for for Peril the First of the RIP V Challenge. It's already linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site.)