Maktan 1521

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It’s the eve of Independence Day, and I thought it was a fitting occasion to read and review “Maktan 1521” by Tepai Pascual.

I spotted it on a bookstore shelf a few months back and thought the cover was kick-ass (yes, I judge books by the cover). I enjoy reading historical fiction, and the Battle of Mactan is a memorable chapter in history for me — back in college, historian Ambeth Ocampo gave us an exam wherein we had to tell the story of the Battle of Mactan from the point of view of a fish!) — and I thought I’d enjoy this graphic novel.

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Detour from Ever After

(As promised yesterday, here’s the review of Before Ever After, first published in Manila Bulletin, Students and Campuses section)

Not all fairy tales have a happy ending — this is what Shelley Gallus discovers in “Before Ever After,” the debut novel of Filipino author Samantha Sotto.

After her idyllic marriage is cut short by the untimely death of her husband in a terrorist bombing, Shelley has a difficult time moving on, overcome by grief and memories of their life together. One fateful day, her doorbell rings, and she finds the story isn’t over just yet – standing on her doorstep is a man who looks exactly like her husband.

The stranger introduces himself as Paolo, claims her husband Max is his grandfather, and that Max is halfway across the world, alive and apparently well, and Paolo has pictures to prove it. Bewildered, and yet desperate for the truth, Shelley agrees to accompany Paolo to find the husband she believed dead. Along the way they exchange memories of the man they thought they knew, and Max’s identity is gradually revealed.

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The Blood Stone


I spotted Jamila Gavin’s The Blood Stone in a bargain bin some months back; the squarish shape of the book caught my eye. Then I read the back of the book and I was even more intrigued — it promised “a dazzling whirlwind of a journey, over seas and across the desert, into the very heart of danger,” and the clincher — it starts out in Venice, one of my all-time favorite settings for a novel (yes, I judge the book by the setting)! At P40 (less than $1), I couldn’t pass.

I went on a daytrip out of town for work, and the first book I grabbed off the shelf happened to be this one, and I ended up finishing the novel even before I made it back to the city.

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Chicklit Capers

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I discovered Lauren Willig while browsing through a bargain bin and unearthing a hardcover copy of The Masque of the Black Tulip. The story summary appealed to me, so I bought it and looked it up online, only to find that it was the sequel to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which meant compulsive old me could not get started with Black Tulip, as I wanted to read Pink Carnation first.

After months of unsuccessful mooching, I found a trade paperback copy of Pink Carnation in another bargain bin and thus moved both books up the TBR pile (#172-173 for 2009).

These two novels by Lauren Willig make up an interesting set of genre-bending books, combining chick lit, historical mystery, and adventure. The Pink Carnation series runs on two storylines, one featuring present-day London, where Harvard grad student Eloise Kelly is doing research on English spies in the Napoleonic wars. This leads her to uncover the second storyline in each novel: tales revolving around these swashbuckling heroes.

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The Ravenmaster’s Secret

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When  I first saw Elvira Woodruff’s The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London, I couldn’t help thinking how terribly interesting and ominous it appeared to be, and I wanted to buy the book, but it was a bit expensive so I decided to pass on it first.

Then some months later, I mooched a book from abroad that needed an additional mooch to help defray shipping costs, and I found a copy of this book in the member’s inventory so I decided to finally get it.

A couple weekends ago, I went out of town for a board meeting with one of my clients and brought this along to read while traveling, and it turned out to be one of the best historical middle-reader books I’ve ever read.

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