Recent Reads Review

Reading slumps suck. So far, since the year has started, I’ve only read three books—one of those I even half-assed and just practically skimmed through.

If you’re looking for more books to read, don’t look here. I’m actually just here to share what I think of these books and, hopefully, stumble upon someone who can recommend me books like the ones I’ve read. These reviews are very short and lazily written (I just copied them from my Goodreads account, actually). Really, they are just begging for more books to be with them. Oh, and tiny spoiler alert!

Eliza and Her Monsters

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

The writing, the story, and the story within the story (Monstrous Sea) were all captivating. It hooked me at once. I could relate with Eliza, with what she’s going through, though my social anxiety ain’t that bad (‘cuz I at least know how to fake knowing how to socialize and don’t let anyone else notice) but I know how it can be draining and overwhelming at times. Yes, the book opens up about social anxiety and what it’s like to have it. The writing is what really got me mesmerized because it flowed and transitioned so well. But the story of Eliza is what made me love the book so much.

What I just didn’t like was Wallace. He was so good in the first half of the book. The second half didn’t justify enough (or apologize enough) how Wallace could be so selfish as to force Eliza to finish the web comic while she’s having a mental breakdown. Like dude. Your life isn’t her responsibility so give the girl a break, please. Anyway, other than that I loved everything about the book. I wish there’s really a Monstrous Sea web comic. Is there? The on-page sketches look cool!

Geekerella

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Rating: 2/5 Stars

In between 2 and 3 stars. Maybe because I have read a book with a similar premise before this and did it much better? Reading this book felt like a chore; I had to skim through most of the characters’ thought process, and the dialogues were too sloppy and cheesy for my liking. Darien and Elle’s chemistry also felt forced, and they are being too dramatic. I also found some inconsistencies with Elle’s personality. Even the side characters seemed so stereotypical and that made them even more unrealistic. This actually reads more like a fanfic than an original YA stand-alone novel.

I usually enjoy feel-good stories with fairy tale-like themes like this one, you know, just for mindless fluffy reading. But Geekerella was just too plain. Kelly Oram’s Cinder and Ella is still the most enjoyable and believable modern Cinderella-meets-Hollywood YA novel I’ve read so far. I should probably read that again to make up for the disappointment that this book gave me. Anyway, nice try for taking on the kind of story concept that has been done over and over again. I am also aware that it’s hard to give this kind of recycled plot an original feel. Still, good try.

Burn Before Reading

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

I probably should’ve burned this book before reading because I fell a little bit in love with it! It’s the kind of book that you would want to read when you’re in need to swoon mindlessly and feel giddy all over. It was so much fun! But it also took on some serious issues, which is very commendable and genuinely well-executed. I admit though at first, I didn’t want to read it because the synopsis screams BOYS OVER FLOWERS. After having seen that a-group-of-rich-and-privileged-bad-boys-against-one-poor-but-stubborn-girl story in three live-action adaptations, I thought I’ve had enough. But Sara Wolf is an instant read to me. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because, boy, it gave a new spin and depth to that classic plot! What an enjoyable read!

By the way, Bee reminds me so much of Isis (another character from the same author). They have the same wit, and I wonder if that reflects the author’s personality in real life, too. That’s the one thing consistent through-out her books, some more subtle than others. That’s not a bad thing; just a random observation. Hey, her female characters are funny and #relatable!

YA Stock Characters (The ones you always read and write about)

I probably have more story ideas than I could write. But as I was writing the outline of the story that I’m currently working on, I noticed a pattern to my characters. Every time I create a story (usually young-adult contemporary romance set in small town high schools), I just use certain character archetypes and play matchmaker with them in the story. I blame the YA novels I read.

I do it unconsciously, but knowing it now makes me realize how cliche my characters can be. This challenges me to break their mold and give them more depth and development. But for now, let’s just get to know each of them and…make fun of them.

So, I wrote their basic character profiles.

Meet my YA stock characters:

The Bad Boy

A.K.A The Rebel; Female Counterpart: The Bad Girl (duh!)

Brooding, mysterious, damaged, rebellious. Hides a dark, tragic past. Often wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. Needs the right girl to change his rebel ways. Has a tattoo and hides a scar, literally and figuratively. Most likely orphaned to make him even more tragic. Obviously brings trouble but there has to be some redeeming qualities, right?

The Popular Jock

A.K.A The Popular Jock (there’s no other way to do it); Female Counterpart: The Popular Cheerleader

The guy every girl wants. Also a known playboy. Supposedly the epitome of a cool guy. Acts like an airhead on the outside, but keeps a sensible and thoughtful personality. Has honey-chocolate abs to die for. Most likely the town’s golden boy quarterback. Redeeming qualities: HOT. But also his secret philosophical depth hidden behind his good looks and jackass-jerk facade.

The Boy-Next-Door

A.K.A The Nice Guy; Female Counterpart: The Girl-Next-Door

Best friend-to-boyfriend material. Literally the guy that lives next door. Also known as Mr. McPerfectson. Likes basketball and music, plays the guitar, can also sing and cook, loves dogs, love babies, loves you. Gentleman with a killer smile and dimples on both cheeks. Redeeming qualities: EVERYTHING.

The Cute Nerd

A.K.A Totally-Not-A-Nerd-Just-A-Cute-Guy-Wearing-Glasses; Female Counterpart: The Cute Nerd (girl version)

Shy, quiet, awkward. Not necessarily studious but naturally smart (or not). Loves his video games, superhero comic books, and sci-fi/fantasy movies. Often wears glasses. Secretly hot and wild and everything you want him to be. Is working on a sci-fi graphic novel of his own (so he most definitely knows how to draw).

The Good Girl

A.K.A The Mary Sue; Male Counterpart: Definitely NOT The Bad Boy

Innocent, humble, simple (or plain), timid. Doesn’t know she’s pretty until the right guy tells her. Loves reading books, and probably has a book and movie review blog. Has hidden wit and sarcasm (how is she gonna write those killer reviews if she’s not witty like me). Can stand up for herself only when she’s up against her love interest and the love interest’s evil ex-girlfriend.

The Ice Princess

A.K.A Elsa, Concealed, Doesn’t Feel; Male Counterpart: The Ice Prince

Complete straight A’s, no non-sense girl. Perfect in every way except for her cold, uptight, and a little bit (by that, I mean very) naive personality. Trained in some fancy talent like piano, ballet, or painting. Uses only at least three-syllabic SAT words in a casual conversation. Facial expressions are limited to a resting bitch face. Actually has feelings.

The Tomboy

A.K.A The-Girl-You-Didn’t-Realize-Was-Beautiful-Until-A-Makeover; Male Counterpart: (I actually have no idea)

Quirky, sporty, one-of-the-boys. Hates make-up and wearing high heels or skirts. Tough as nails but still a lady at heart. Can play basketball, knows how to skateboard, and beat the boys at it. Secretly a huge fangirl of boy bands. Fashion sense is limited to over-sized T shirts, baggy jeans, sneakers, and other hand-me-downs.

The Queen Bee

A.K.A The Girl You Envy; Male Counterpart: Your Dream Guy

The girl every guy wants. Pretty, sassy, and fierce. Often mistaken as the mean girl. Always the homecoming and prom queen. Also known as the popular girl that rules high school, and your teacher’s favorite student. Probably in a relationship with The Popular Jock. Rival includes The Popular Cheerleader. Struggles to keep her royal image.

This list doesn’t represent all of the stock characters that we have in YA contemporary fiction. These are just the archetypes that I use in my own stories. So, if you think I missed someone, no worries, you can write about them. But don’t forget to try and destroy their tropes. That makes a story more interesting.

Wonder Woman (Spoiler?) Review

Yes! I went to see Wonder Woman yesterday with my Mom and sisters, and it was fantastic! I had to revive my blog just to rave about it (my blog has been on hiatus and in private mode so that I can focus on work and fully “adjust” to the adult world—it’s a personal thing). I’ve officially become obsessed with the movie and character.

I’m not a comic books nor a superhero fan. It’s one of the movie “genres” that I ignore. It’s just not my taste. I used to think that it can be pretty formulaic most of the times with the dude-gets-superpowers-and-decides-to-start-fighting-crimes-with-final-boss-battle-at-the-end. I’m aware though of how passionate comic book fans can be when it comes to this. I believe as of right now, the Marvel versus DC war is still ongoing out there in the comments section of YouTube movie trailers, debating on which cinematic universe makes more sense or which superhero movie adaptation is still the best. I usually avoid them, but it can be pretty amusing.

Besides, I don’t know my comic book stuff. I didn’t even know that there’s a whole different bunch of superheroes besides Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and that there’s in fact another team of meta-humans (or in this case, mutants?) called The Avengers. Spiderman is probably the only other superhero I knew. Even then he’s never been invited to avenge with them. Blame my parents for introducing me only to the DC superheroes as I grew up. It was only recently as the movies came out that I learned the existence of Thor, Captain America, and the others.

My Mom though is a big fan of Wonder Woman since Lynda Carter days. I watched some of the re-run episodes from childhood. I don’t remember much though. I would watch them with her sometimes but I never understood it nor enjoyed it. But I do know how Mom loves it so much. Wonder Woman is her all-time favorite superhero. So when I heard that the 2017 movie is coming out, I just knew I had to bring her and my sisters to the cinema.

At first, she was skeptical about the new Wonder Woman. She watched the series when she was still young. She had high expectations, set by her memories of the first adaptation. But she was still, of course, delighted and excited about finally having a live-action film about her beloved superhero after so many years. Spoiler Alert: She loved it! We all did. Now, here’s my honest thoughts about the movie, coming from a non-fan who fell in love all of a sudden with a superhero for the first time in her life. Just to be clear, I’m not an expert in comic books nor movies, but here’s just what I think.

Before you proceed, know that there might be spoilers, but I’ll try not to give away too much details. So if you’re planning to watch the movie and don’t want to ruin the story, best try not to continue reading.

The Good:

Story

It was well-written, very cohesive, and solid overall. As someone who doesn’t know about the origins of Wonder Woman or Diana, I didn’t know what to expect, but what I learned about her, I loved. The story started by introducing her mythical origins. I keep seeing parallels with the Christian theology–mostly the Fall of Lucifer–even though her story is very much based on the Greek mythology and features the Greek God of War, Ares. That made it easier for me to get into the story because I connected immediately (Catholic here).

The best thing about the story though is the seamless transition between the mythological exposition and the World War I setting. I love how the plot didn’t only show us how Wonder Woman came to be, but also how she grew as a person. It wasn’t just a story of someone finding out that she can be a superhero and fight the bad guys. Typical origin story. There were no “bad guys” here. Or at least, the real villains weren’t the expected bad guys. It was war itself. This is the story of a woman who learned that human morality isn’t as clear as black and white, and that the war will not stop by simply killing one boss villain. She learns that being a savior is more about fighting for what you believe in and less about defeating the bad guys and rid the world of all evil. ‘Cause no one really is purely evil nor good. It’s all a blur of in-between. But the movie was still hopeful about humanity.

Characters

Great casting, great chemistry! Gal Gadot was amazing, Chris Pine was perfect. I can’t imagine anyone else for the roles of Diana and Steve.

Two things this movie can boast are the character development, especially of the movie’s superhero, and the perfect balance between her and her love interest—who was just more than a love interest.

Diana started off as this naive girl who had absolute views of good and evil, war and justice. Coming from a hidden paradise of female warriors, of course she would be clueless about what’s happening in the real world. She soon realized the gray truths of humanity when Steve brought her to the war-torn areas.

Here’s where the balance comes in: Steve became her reality-check. But it wasn’t just Steve’s realist and almost cynical views that made him the perfect counterpart for Diana. Diana might be the “super,” but Steve was also just as strong-willed as her and it made him the perfect match. They were equals in character.

There was no power-play of the sexes. Yeah, most definitely this is a women-empowering film but it never forced feminist views nor dragged down any of the sexes to uplift another. Both the characters are learning from each other. Diana, the reality of human nature and the importance of holding on to your values from Steve, and Steve, the optimism to save the world and having hope for humanity from Diana. They were just two people, though with different views, fighting the same battle.

In the end, Diana matured as person and was able to determine what she really was fighting for. And Steve, well, you will always be in our hearts and your sacrifice will forever be remembered. *sobs*

Execution

The right mix of narrative and action. Before I could even get bored of the backstories (which would still be impossible for me because the backstories and the little down time moments were engaging, honest, and heartfelt at times), they give me stellar action sequences. There were three main action sequences in the movie–the beach battle, the Front battle, and the final boss battle–that were evenly distributed throughout the film. In between these parts, there was enough time for character development and story-telling. It was effective to give fans the hype and excitement of actions scenes that they expect from a superhero film, at the same time, show them the story without dragging on the plot. Slow-mo effects? I had no problem with that. Wonder Woman was still kickass!

There were also these funny and adorables little moments that added charm to the movie and the character of Wonder Woman, mostly. None of the humor felt forced or cheesy. When she saw a baby, when she tried to get out of the revolving door, when she ate ice cream, these little scenes showed how much Diana was out of place in the WWI London setting. These moments became opportunities for light breathers before the movie focused on the brutal effects of war, and I’m telling you. When the scenes of the soldiers from the war came on, showing their chopped leg and bloodied bandages, and Diana had to pass through them, mothers and children begging for help as explosions go off meters away from them, those really pierced me and stirred something in me. I’d say that the movie was successful to make us emotionally invest in the characters and the setting they were in. It was very timely.

The Bad:

The final boss. I just think that I was misled with the main villain. Just when you think she would have to fight either the general or the scientist, Spoiler Alert: Ares was real and he’s the old cabinet speaker. I read that Ares is an actual villain in the DC universe but I almost wanted him to be a misconception of Diana about the war, not an actual villain. At least not in this movie. I don’t know any other alternatives for Ares as the final villain but I thought it would have more impact if Ares was more of a representation of war, rather than a god to defeat. It’s just a little bit of a bait-and-switch for me with that plot twist. But it didn’t really ruin the movie for me, so it was still okay, and the overall movie is just too good that it didn’t matter at all. The rest of the story elements made up for it.

The Score: 9/10 Badass with a heart. (The deducted point is obviously for the villain.)

Random Question of the Day

Would you rather be with someone who has all of the ideal qualities that you’re looking for in a person and is perfect in every way but you just don’t or can’t love OR be with someone who has all of the qualities that you would normally hate and is generally not a good person but you still deeply, truly love anyway, no matter what? Think about it. And why?