31 July 2011

+JMJ+

Young Detectives: C is for Clements



Sometimes I wonder why I bother to sign up for other people's Reading Challenges when the only ones I seem to give any attention to are my own. =P

If you're new to this exercise, the rule is simple. I read a YA or MG Mystery and write an open letter to the author about what I think of his "young detective."

You're very welcome to grab the badge and join in yourself. Let me know about your post and I'll link to yours in my next one. =)

30 July 2011

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Locus Focus: Take Sixty-Two!


Welcome to Wizarding World Day!

Today is also Neville Longbottom's birthday. Potter-heads know Neville as the real hero of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. They'll also know Hermione Granger as the real protagonist. (Who's that boy with the glasses again? =P)

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I might not host Locus Focus in August. I still have a week to figure out whether I'm up to it or not. I'm flirting with a Mountain High theme challenge, because I've been neglecting high-altitude settings . . . but I'm really not sure. (Something else I'm flirting with is the idea of retiring Locus Focus after Take Ninety-Nine. Perhaps this meme--which has never gone viral, by the way--really has just run its course.) In the meantime, though, let's party like only Rowling's wizards know how to do. Here is one of my favourite settings from her Wizarding World . . .

29 July 2011

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 32

Do you know what really frustrates me at work? Seeing that the children who need all that extra help with their schoolwork have virtually nothing to read at home.

A couple of days ago, while looking over Scrap Metal's assignment notebook, I was reminded that one of his July projects in Reading class was an oral book report. Since I hadn't heard anything about it since the start of the month, I asked him whether he had prepared for it himself.

"Oh, yeah! The oral book report!" he said, slapping his forehead. "That's for tomorrow."

"Tomorrow???" I squeaked. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

His eyes widened and his shoulders hunched up: a common defensive gesture which makes many seven year olds too cute to kill.

"Well, what book were you planning to do your report on?"

"I don't know. I don't have many books."

Didn't I know it?

28 July 2011

+JMJ+

Theme Thursday 3


There are a couple of weekly link ups I like to join because they turn the spotlight on books I own but haven't read yet. I think those books are as much a part of my library as those I've reread so much that I have whole paragraphs burned into memory.

This will be the first time, however, that I will be featuring a book I don't even own. I haven't borrowed it or even held a copy in my hands--and I didn't even know what the cover looked like until I had to find an image for today's post. The first three chapters were excerpted at the end of my current read, and it is from them that I find the passage that most wonderfully matches this Thursday's theme . . .


This Week's Theme:
Action


26 July 2011

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Reading Diary: BSC #6 Kristy's Big Day

"I feel like we're in a movie," I said.

"The Bride of Frankenstein?" asked Sam. ". . . I Married a Witch?"

"No!" It's just that . . . well . . . think about it. Mom and Dad get divorced, Mom meets new guy, new guy has two kids, new guy turns out to be millionaire, Mom and new guy get married, we move to mansion. But that doesn't mean it has a happy ending."

"Yeah, stay tuned for Part Two," said Charlie. "I know what you mean. It's hard to believe."

"And scary."

"But," said Sam, turning serious, "we can make it work . . ."

Yeah, because whenever a divorced parent enters into a second marriage, it's always the children's responsibility to make it work. As someone who once sabotaged her mother's wedding just because . . . I'm not buying it.

But I suppose that after the harsh satire of single motherhood Ann M. Martin just gave us in BSC #5: Dawn and the Impossible Mom Three, it was time to play nice. So she does.

The whole Baby-sitters Club does, really. Because there's one thing that five thirteen-year-old girls can do to help pull off a wedding that has to be ready in two weeks . . .

25 July 2011

+JMJ+

Mail and More: It's Monday!


When I picked up my latest book packages at the post office, I suddenly fancied buying a map of the world, putting it up on a cork board, and using push pins to mark all the places I've ever received mail from.

No fear: I wouldn't blog it or make the senders' locations public in any way (no matter how vaguely). I just thought it would be interesting to see all the places I've never been to--some of which I had never heard of before I started blogging--where my name and address were, for a few fleeting moments, written by one person and read by at least one other.

Here are my two latest books, both shipped from the Western Hemisphere (I trust that's vague enough? LOL!) . . .

23 July 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Sixty-One!


Welcome to Distant Isles: The Movie Edition!
(Remember that next week is Wizarding World Day!)

Some Saturdays are better than others. I don't know what this one is.

Last week, I didn't feel competent to write about any island setting but the one in a Juvenile Series novel I wouldn't even pass on to a child. (Yes, last Saturday was that bad.) And of course I now wish I could do it all over again, with a setting like Jonathan Swift's floating island of Laputa. But we have moved on and now it's time for the Movie Edition.

You might be wondering why I can't be a bit sneaky and use a certain screen adaptation of Gulliver's Travels to write about that setting, anyway. Well, it's because I decided early on that I wanted an island that didn't exist in any book before it existed in a movie. (Hi, Kate!) And after ruling out some of the best islands ever to grace the big screen (taken from or inspired by the books of Michael Crichton, William Golding, Ian Fleming and even Henry de Vere Stacpoole), I realised there was only one way to go . . .

22 July 2011

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Friday Night Movie: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes



0:24 . . . No one is laughing now This prologue is heartening proof that the filmmakers had their heads in the right place.
1:12 This is so unspeakably hilarious . . .
1:37 You know, I was just remembering the loveliness that was The Blob and now here I am with another theme song. =)
2:23 I am already envious of the sense of humour that produced this movie.
2:58 Attack of the killer tomatoes! AtTAAACK of the killer toMAAAtoes! Why is this song so catchy???
3:03 There's a novel???
3:24 Ah, Houston? We have a problem up here . . . People told me this film was funny, but they didn't tell me it was priceless!
3:55 And now the sauce--as well as the plot--thickens! ;-)
4:18 This would be more badass if we didn't just see that investigator harmlessly licking tomato juice from his finger.
4:37 =|
5:12 Let me guess . . . A tomato got into the helicopter?
5:35 A kamikaze tomato! And that answers my question. =)
6:45 The first significant difference from The Blob? We jump straight to credulity. Because it's so much funnier when everyone takes bloodthirsty produce seriously.
6:49 Why him? . . . Because he's got a vegetable garden. That's why! I simply can't believe this movie never won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
7:02 Oh, God! Who'd have thought? All we wanted was a bigger, healthier tomato! It's like The Terminator with the machines replaced by garden produce! =D
8:59 I'd love to watch this while high. =P

21 July 2011

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Meet Felicity: An American Girl

"Oh, I wish I could wear breeches," she said.

"What?" asked Ben.

"Breeches," said Felicity. "Gowns and petticoats are so bothersome. I'm forever stepping on my hem and tripping unless I take little baby steps. Small steps are supposed to look ladylike. But I can't get anywhere. 'Tis a terrible bother. In breeches your legs are free. You can straddle horses, jump over fences, run as fast as you wish. You can do anything."

. . . Felicity sighed. ". . . You're lucky to be a lad. You can do whatever you like."

A few months ago, I asked a friend of mine--a real history buff--whether he had heard of the American Girls books and movies. He said that he had, and had even watched a bit of the Felicity movie. But this isn't a franchise he's particularly happy about because it has--

"Too much female empowerment for me."

ROFL! And . . . BINGO!

I've read enough of both (high culture) Shakespeare and (pop culture) "Wallpaper Historical" Romance novels to have a high tolerance for girls in adventures breeches, and so I didn't bat an eyelash when Felicity "borrows" what she believes is a necessary addition to her wardrobe. But I agree that any book which is supposed to recapture what it was like to grow up in Colonial America is weakened by yet another pesky modern protagonist in period costume. (You know: a Sue.)

20 July 2011

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "The Threat of Nature's Perfect Eating Machine!"



And where there's a Wednesday Night Trailer, there is (or shall be) a Friday Night Movie. =)

In about forty-eight hours, I be live blogging Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, to be counted toward that "Monsters vs. Alien" challenge you might remember from aeons ago.

19 July 2011

+JMJ+

The Language of Books


The last time I joined this meme, the topic was "Books I Have Lied About", which I amended into a list of Books I Simply Let People Assume I Knew Better Than I Did. And it turned out to be one of those "universal" themes I like so much: apparently, every reader lies about books in one way or another (Except, that is, for Lesa and Deb! =P), and some lies are more widely told than others.

Here are the seven titles, two authors and one genre that showed up on the most literary confessions, whether the lie was about loving them, hating them, finishing them, or simply being familiar with them:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Romance Novels
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Now on to this week's topic, which gave me a lot of trouble. I used to be a full time English Lit teacher in an all-girls private school. When I started, I had big dreams about introducing young minds to "the Canon." By the time I resigned, I hated the idea of "required reading" about as much as my students did.

Now, I still think that certain books are--if you don't mind a gross understatement--better worth our time than others. I also believe that we shouldn't let cries of elitism or racism or whatever make us say that all books are "equal" or any reading is good "as long as it's reading." I enjoy my share of fluff and I love it--but if we are as serious about education as we say we are, then we must remember that it is about language. Everything that can be learned has its own grammar, logic and rhetoric. (Yes, even maths!) And the level of learning any person has achieved is always obvious in the way he "speaks" what he knows.

When I was in uni, I took a paper called Classical Traditions, which looked at mythological allusions in relatively "modern" poetry and fiction. The lecturer made a big deal about past writers' familiarity with the ancient myths, saying that they were as "fluent" in them as we moderns are in, say, Disney characters. The main difference being that one who can "speak myths" can be understood over two hundred centuries (at least!), while one who only "speaks Disney" is trapped in a span of a few generations. I think a proper education should make us bigger than our own age. Don't you?

A Tenner:
Books Teenagers Should Learn "To Speak"

16 July 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Sixty!


Distant Isles is an exciting theme. Islands mean many things in many books, and a few months ago, when I promised someone who suddenly went on blogging sabbatical that we would have one month just for island settings, I had a whole bunch in mind, from novels by J.M. Barrie, Daniel Defoe, Kenneth Grahame, Ann Halam, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Johann Wyss, to name a select few. And if I were less frazzled with life, I'd definitely have one of those elite islands here for you in this post.

As things stand, however, I can only share the one island I kind of hoped I wouldn't have to write about . . . and say that with the way things are going, I'm not sure whether I can host Locus Focus at all in August. =(

Heaping insult upon insult, the following book counts as the third to be featured on Locus Focus in which the title is the same as the setting--which kind of brings down the triumph Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins achieved last week. (See Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Nine.) Ah, life . . .

15 July 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Without a Paddle

12. The title is awkward enough for me to guess that Up the Creek was already taken--and now that I've seen the earlier movie's trailer, I wonder whether it had any significant influence on this one.

11. I really, really like this movie. It's so gosh-darn likeable: one of the few "low-brow" flicks I will always stop to watch, should I happen to channel surf into it when I have a couple of hours to kill.

The others, you ask?
The only one that comes to mind right now is
the remake of The Parent Trap.

10. And now for another totally subjective movie connection. There's something about Without a Paddle that makes me think: "Goonies with grown-ups!" (What, Stilwell? Are you going to disown me again?) And in the hands of a different producer, this movie would probably make a legitimate double-bill partner for Richard Donner's greatest movie. (Thank you for that, Steven Spielberg.)

9. One last bit before I get to the meat of this movie . . . Why do I have the feeling that I'll appreciate the humour so much more after I get around to watching Deliverance?

14 July 2011

+JMJ+

Themes and Thoughts


In case all the very-late-and-shamelessly-backdated posts haven't clued you in, I've been too busy to blog properly over the last few days. And since too busy to blog means far too busy to read, I don't actually have a "current read" of my own. This post is cobbled entirely from my tutorials with Skid Breaker and the book he is required to read for English class.

This Week's Theme:
Body Parts



13 July 2011

+JMJ+

A Word and a Question Walk into a Blog . . .


Last month, I may have said something about working "elemental movement" into this month's poem. Please disregard that. =P

In the meantime, I hope you like my answer to what happens when a word and a question walk into a book blog . . .

12 July 2011

+JMJ+

(Another) Two-Meme Tuesday



The following two lines are taken from a book I already "reviewed" (or rather just described) on this blog. It also has its own TBR Tuesday post that tells the story of how I found it. And although it didn't deliver that non-fiction Locus Focus post I promised in June . . . I have a feeling I'll be writing about another of its locations in the future. Yes, I'm still reading it--and yes, it's that good.

10 July 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

12. If you're counting, this one is #5 in the ANOES franchise, the point in any popcorn series at which screenwriters are beyond scraping the bottom of the barrel for plot points. =P

On the other hand, if you got over the premise of the fourth film (See my Twelve Things about A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master!), you probably won't bat an eyelash at how Freddy returns in this one, through the dreams of the newest--and youngest--"Elm Street Kid".

11. Oh, those Elm Street Kids! You know I love them. But something else I love just as much is continuity. So when the two survivors of The Dream Master return, with a new group of fodder friends and seemingly no memory of the six classmates they lost so horribly to Freddy's nightmares only a year or two before, I feel bad.

Come on, Alice! Nothing to say about your brother Rick? And don't your new gang remember how Sheila had a fatal "asthma attack" in the middle of a test? That's not something anyone in the student body forgets, whether or not he also witnessed it.

09 July 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Nine!


Welcome to the Distant Isles Challenge!

Islands are interesting. I'll be more equipped to tell you why when July is done. As usual, I'm never more ready to begin a task than when it's finally over.

So just take it all on faith with me for now. Islands are interesting--especially as settings. Just keep reading, okay? =)

Now for "administrative" matters. Please note that 23 July will be a Movie Edition day. You can all blame thank The Mike for this inspired idea. =P

Following that, the last Saturday of this month, 30 July, will be "Wizarding World Day", in honour of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. (I might not be a Potter-head, but I know when to ride a trend.) If you want to participate, the only rule is: No hogging Hogwarts. There are surely enough rooms in the castle to divvy up among ourselves--and of course, it's not the only wonderful place in the wizarding world!

08 July 2011

+JMJ+

Faerie Tale Theatre Production Smackdown, Final Winner!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, Round 3A, Round 3B, and Round 4)

The Princess and the Pea = 5 Votes
The Snow Queen = 1 Vote
Pinocchio = 1 Vote

Well, of course a "princess story" won! Walt Disney's dark, shadowy legacy sees to that all the time. ;-)

Seriously, The Princess and the Pea was a strong contender from Round 1--and one of the two productions I was absolutely sure would make it to the Final Faerie Four. (My other "sure bet"? Cinderella! I still can't believe you all voted for Sleeping Beauty instead. =P)

Thanks to everyone who cast a vote in this smackdown and kept me on my toes! Rediscovering these productions wouldn't have been half as fun without you! =)

But this isn't the winner's announcement you're most excited about, is it? (LOL!)

07 July 2011

+JMJ+

Character Connection 30


This will be the last post having anything to do with this year's Philippine Literature Giveaway (which I don't want to keep calling the "June Giveaway" this far into July).

I was actually going to write about someone else from this novel, but changed my mind after Lesa and I started discussing the metaphors in this realistic novel. Today I feature a character who does double-duty as both a symbol and a three-dimensional human being.

06 July 2011

+JMJ+

Dreaming of Prompts and Poems

Vintage brick letter W Copper Square ampersand & Candy Q
Block Number 1 4
Thanks to Salome Ellen, our host for July!

I first learned about Word & Question when I was in grade school, but never found anyone willing to play with me. (Well, not quite: my mother did try. But she didn't quite get the part about the poem answering the question. So after our first game, I didn't force her to play again.) You can imagine I brought the game up at every birthday party, slumber party or boring afternoon that ever came up . . . to no avail. Some people just don't think playing with words is fun. =(

Little did I know that there was such a thing as the Internet that would enable me to play W&Q someday with friends from all over the world. I'm so glad that time has finally come!

So thanks to everyone who joins up whenever he or she can. I just wanted you to know that our blog-based friendship managed to make one of my dreams come true.

(Gosh, did I just get sappy on all of you? Ewwww . . . My apologies!)

05 July 2011

+JMJ+

Option 12: Cave and Shadows by Nick Joaquin
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

"They're pagans, or want to be: all those who come here?"

"Oh, no. They only want to be healed, they come for the miracle. But I don't mind. In one way or another I am reviving anito worship among them. Which is not hard really since the old religion still lives in them, however deeply submerged. I have only to stir a bit to make it rise back to the surface. But maybe, yes, they are all pagans already, or again, without knowing it. They may go home Christians but their Christianity will be even more pagan than before. It shouldn't be long before they realise what they really are and shed all the vestiges of what they thought they were. The old religion is coming back, Mr. Henson, to undo four hundred years of history."

For the second year in a row, my June-into-July Giveaway ends on the kind of glorious note you could only get from a Nick Joaquin novel. (At least the Reading Project part ends for me. The Get a Free Book from Enbrethiliel part--which is what everyone else cares about--will not run its course until Friday.)

Having said that, be aware that this is a high note unlike any you've heard before (which I say not to be condescending, but to reflect the fact that it was a high note unlike any I've heard before). If Merlinda Bobis (author of Option 11: Banana Tree Summer) is correct about the same things tasting different on everyone's tongues, then this might be a real shock to your unsuspecting palate. Heck, even I find it a bit difficult to swallow.

04 July 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

12. I knew something was wrong early on in the movie, when the three survivors of the Horror extravaganza that was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors showed up to open this new chapter, and I felt absolutely no emotional connection to any of them.

First of all, Tuesday Knight just isn't Patricia Arquette. But then again, even Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes, reprising their roles as Joey and Kincaid, left me similarly cold. And that's truly odd when all you have to say to get me to love a character is that he's an "Elm Street Kid." (Magic words, I tell you.)

11. As for the "fresh meat" in the cast . . . they were a mixed bag. =/ I don't expect to be deeply invested in characters who are just "Freddy fodder," but I do like feeling that they're regular teens who really are friends. That's not too much of a demand, is it?

10. I did like Brooke Theiss, who plays Debbie, instantly--and not just because she was in 80s sitcom Just the Ten of Us with other NOES alumnae Heather Langenkamp and JoAnn Wilette. She just really stood out.

03 July 2011

+JMJ+

Option 11: Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

The sound of deep frying was a delectable melody. Instantly loud and aggressive, when the turon hit the pool of boiling coconut oil, then pulling back. The percussion was inspired to be subtle.

"Ay, it sounds and smells like happiness," I said, nose and ears as primed as my sweetened tongue. Happiness that is not subtle at all, I could have added. Such is the fact about the turon, which is half a slice of sugar banana and a strip of jackfruit rolled in paper-thin rice wrapping, then dusted with palm sugar and fried to a crisp brown. How could such fragrance be subtle? My nose twitched, my mouth watered, my stomach said, buy, buy.

"So you're an expert on happiness?" Nana Dora asked. Her face glowed with more than sweat and fire from her stove.

This post is doing double duty for my June Giveaway (which has obviously just spilled over into July) and the Foodie's Reading Challenge I signed up for last year but haven't read anything for until now. This wasn't one of the books I originally committed to read, but it has proven an effective appetiser.

Merlinda Bobis hooked me with that first scene of frying turon--one of my own favourite snacks from childhood--and the idea that happiness has a sound and a smell, and presumably, also a taste. Anyone who loves food knows exactly what happiness tastes like.

02 July 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Eight



If you've been counting, then you'll know that this shouldn't be Take Fifty-Eight. There was no Locus Focus post last week--which means that this one should be Take Fifty-Seven. Yeah, I have a funny "story" about that . . .

You see, June is the only month I really set aside to read Filipino literature. And I only started doing that last year when I got that (absolutely inspired) idea for a Philippine Literature Giveaway. The chances of a "local book" getting featured on Locus Focus any other time of the year are dismal. Do I really want to shortchange these great books during the one month I actually pay attention to them???

When you're done reading this post, I hope you take a look at Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Seven, which I backdated into last week. There's even a little surprise at the end, thanks to someone who wrote her own "Foreign Shores" Locus Focus a few weeks ago and then forgot to link up. =P

01 July 2011

+JMJ+

Faerie Tale Theatre Production Smackdown, Round 4
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, Round 3A and Round 3B)

There were moments when I thought we'd never make it to this point . . . but here we are! =D

vs.
The Princess and the Pea vs. The Snow Queen

Over three exciting and intense rounds--for that is exactly how they seemed to me--The Princess and the Pea managed to take down Thumbelina (which might be short, but is also scrappy!), The Tale of the Frog Prince (which has Robin Williams at the peak of his game!), and the wildcard contender Goldilocks and the Three Bears (which I daresay is actually the better of the two--ROFL!). Finalists don't come as formidable as this!

As for The Snow Queen, it stormed through the smackdown, soundly thrashing Hansel and Gretel (and its real child actors!), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (and its clever rhymes!) and even wildcard entry Jack and the Beanstalk (and its special visual effects!). That's certainly nothing to sneeze at!

The time has come to settle this once and for all, for the sake of a happily ever after.

But before you do, one last wildcard . . . ;-)