The Lost Language

Back in December, the Filipino book bloggers met up with Marianne Villanueva, who is one of the most delightful authors I’ve ever had the chance to meet.

I got a signed copy of her book,  The Lost Language: Stories (and in nice paper, too!) and I finally got to read it earlier this year.

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Very Short Stories for Harried Readers

I must admit that I’m not a big fan of short story anthologies. When reading fiction, I like full-length novels I can really sink my teeth into, because I like the reprieve they provide from the real world.

Sometimes, though, practicality does get in the way. When you don’t have the luxury of time (which is generally how I’ve been ever since 2010 kicked off), it’s difficult to squeeze some reading in. For me, the general problem is that when I start reading I can’t stop, and I end up putting off the work I was supposed to be doing, or worse — forgoing precious sleep. Hence I’m reading thinner books and more anthologies this year.

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Scary stories: not so scary anymore

I remember how I loved scaring myself when I was a kid. I read all the Goosebumps and ghost story books I could get my hands on; I watched all the Halloween / All Souls’ Day horror specials on tv in between my fingers; and my classmates and I told ghost stories dared ourselves to go ghost-hunting whenever we had our annual camp-out on our school grounds (which, as all schools in this country are reported to be, was once a wartime burial ground, therefore it is haunted!)
In high school, I’d moved on to Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street, and even the Spirit Quest Chronicles, but after that I don’t think I’ve ever went for any horror books. Yeah, I enjoy Gothic novels, or suspense thrillers, but I seem to have either a) lost the fascination for reading books for the intention of scaring myself silly (except for when I had to read The Historian again for a book discussion *shiver*); or b) less things have the power to scare me silly (okay, I am officially giving myself a headache thinking this through).

Anywaaaaay, the reason I brought this dilemma up is because I dug out this book from the bargain bin: Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones, collected from folklore and retold by Alvin Schwartz, drawings by Stephen Gammell (Book #49 for 2009).

The book looked familiar; I think I must’ve read this (or one of the previous volumes) back in grade school. There are over 25 stories in the book: some ghost stories, some urban legends, some just strange tales.

If I were much younger, I’d probably have enjoyed this book and I’d have “chilled my bones” as the book earnestly promises.

On a positive note, what’s nice about this anthology is that there’s a whole section in the back devoted to references for the adaptations — whether it’s oral tradition, a news article, or a reported recollection. One of them, An Appointment in Samarra, even appears in the last book I read (The Eight by Katherine Neville).

I also like the pen and ink wash illustrations of Stephen Gammell (Caldecott Medal awardee for The Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman, and Caldecott Honor awardee for Where the Buffaloes Begin by Olaf Baker), I think they’re even more scary than the stories, and if I was the young reader perusing this volume, they’d have been set the right mood for bone-chilling. :)

My copy: a worn paperback, still good for many readings, now in my bookmooch inventory.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Clue: 15 Whodunits to Solve in 15 Minutes by Vicki Cameron

I found this on the sale rack at National back in January, and it was screaming to be mine for only P95. Based on the popular game, Clue, this book is an anthology of short mysteries surrounding the death of Mr. Boddy (always the victim, of course) played out in different scenarios.

It’s great to see the game in action throughout the book, with all the characters brought to life. Mrs. White is the long-suffering matron housekeeper, Mrs. Peacock is the wealthy lady who’s inherited her numerous dead husbands’ estates; Ms. Scarlett is Mrs. Peacock’s flighty but foxy daughter; Rev. Green is the holier-than-thou crook who clearly doesn’t practice what he preaches; Professor Plum is the deadbeat intellectual who’s been laid off from his job at the museum; and Col. Mustard is the retired military man whose medals were never received out of any true valor.

And of course, Mr. Boddy manages to get himself killed every single time, by one of the usual suspects, with the usual weapons (knife, candlestick, rope, revolver, leadpipe, wrench).

I liked the idea of the book, and the quirky characters, but it leaves a lot more to be desired as a mystery anthology.

First off, the characters just kill Mr. Boddy out of whim. I mean, of course I’m not expecting a long, drawn-out motive, but well, all fifteen stories have the characters killing Mr. Boddy because he knows something about the murderer that’s not supposed to be out in the open, or something to that effect. And then when people discover the body, they’re all like, “Oh, he’s dead,” like it was the most normal thing in the world, and say “Let’s go have coffee” or some other inane remark.

The stories aren’t well-developed, and you really don’t end up solving the whodunit (other than randomly guessing at who the murderer is).The evidence presented to lead up to actually solving the whodunit is severely lacking, and when you read the solution, the story draws on pulling out unknown information out of thin air, and there you have it, you have a murderer.

Sigh, good whodunits are really hard to find.

My copy: paperback, on my shelf

My rating: 2/5 stars