Archive for Book Reviews

Waking the Dead Book Launch

Waking the Dead

Anvil Publishing launched “Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories” by Yvette Tan yesterday August 15 at Powerbooks, SM Megamall.

Yvette Tan is an Avalon.ph client of more than 8 years patronizing books and Moleskine notebooks. Through the years she’s not just a regular customer but someone whom I considered a friend.

Ms. Yvette Tan took some time to answer three questions we submitted.

Avalon.ph: What kind of experience awaits those who will read “Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories”?

Yvette: I think they’re in for a lot of weirdness. The weirdest thing being that the stories in the book aren’t strictly horror. I’d like to think that they’re more stories about when reality goes a bit awry. I guess it;s because I never really set out to write what people call ‘horror.’ I got stuck with the label when people started coming up and saying my stories kept me up at night (my mom was not so lucky. She got people coming up to her asking why her weird daughter wrote such nasty stories). So what to expect from Waking the Dead? Expect a Philippines that is familiar yet totally different from the one we live in.

Avalon.ph: Which story in “Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories” had the  most changes from idea to draft to final print and why?

Yvette: You should have seen the last draft I submitted to the publishers! Half of it was marked in red. I took out a lot of stuff, tightened the stories, so that what you have now is a faster, better read. I like the idea of my stories being easy to read. I mean, I like books that are easy to read, so why should the things I write be any different? I think the tight edit has worked – people have told me (or each other, mostly on Twitter) that the stories they’ve read so far have bothered them, kept them up at night, and made them google certain bridges. One is a TV executive, one is a musician and one works in a men’s magazine. So it’s really a book for everyone.

Avalon.ph: Let’s face it, a lot of readers were introduced to reading books or fiction through Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code or the Twilight series. Why do you think they should pick up “Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories” as their next read?

Yvette: Because Waking the Dead is not like the Da Vinci Code or Twilight or Harry Potter. There can only be one Dan Brown, one Stephanie Meyer, one JK Rowling. Also, because after reading such long books, I’m sure readers would want to rest with a bunch of shorter stuff. Like the stuff in Waking the Dead, for example. Also, the book contains a lot of familiar characters in unfamiliar settings. I’d like to think that it’s very Filipino, but unfamiliarly so. You know, you read a story that has a kapre in it and you say ‘That’s just fiction. That couldn’t happen to me.’ But since you’re Filipino, that thought is immediately followed by ‘… Or could it?’

Yvette Tan’s comments about Avalon.ph: “I have been an Avalon.ph book buyer for almost a decade now. No better place to get hard-to-find, quality literature. I have also Avalon.ph to blame for my addiction to Moleskines. Once you go black, you can never go back.”

Thank you Yvette!

For a review of Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories check out the Inquirer.net link.

You can also check out Yvette Tan’s blog on Adventures in TV Land: the misadventures of a media mercenary. You can follow her Twitter account: glossmania.

Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories by Yvette Tan, signed by the author, is also available on Avalon.ph for Php285.00.



Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides -Book Review on Radio Jam88.3

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, from the bestselling author of The Virgin Suicides. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Jam 88.3FM: Shelve-It – the book lover’s haven on radio hosted by DJ Lana will feature and review this book on November 13, Thursday at 8:00pm.

Copies of the book will be given away at the end of the show, courtesy of Avalon.ph. Tune in!

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson -Book Review on Radio

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson– The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Jam 88.3FM: Shelve-It – the book lover’s haven on radio hosted by DJ Lana will feature and review this book on Thursday, October 23 8:00pm.

Copies of the books will be given away at the end of the show, courtesy of Avalon.ph.  Tune in!

Exclusive: 1st Philippine-based Reviews of Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book is Neil Gaiman’s upcoming book scheduled for official release on September 30, 2008. This is a review made from an ADVANCE READER’S EDITION made from uncorrected proofs.

The Graveyard Book ARC

Reprinted with permission in collaboration with Avalon.ph, from the blog of Mr. Joey Nacino:

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has taken this adage to spin it in his own unique take on raising a child, i.e. it takes a graveyard to raise a child.

If one were of suspicious nature, one could accuse Gaiman of having a fixation with Death and all its accoutrements. One of Gaiman’s most popular works of fictions is his vision of Death—a pale, thin Goth girl in black with the personality of Mary Poppins—in his seminal The Sandman comic book series. Though Gaiman relates the seed of this tale lay elsewhere, it does seem that Gaiman has hopes that mortality has a friendlier face than imagined.

At the start of this book, Gaiman pulls no punches as he writes of the aftermath of the death of a family at the hands of a human monster named Jack. The sole survivor is a babe who manages to escape and slip into a nearby graveyard where he attracts the attention of an old ghostly couple, the Owenses. Thanks to the stubbornness of Mrs. Owens, the babe is allowed to become part of the graveyard community and is given the ‘Freedom of the Graveyard’ with its inherent powers and abilities. The new-named Bod—short for ‘Nobody’—also gains a guardian in Silas, a mysterious figure that roams the graveyard, as well as the support of the Grey Lady, a being revered by graveyard ghosts (shades of the pixie-like Death, the sister of Dream?).

From here, Bod’s life living among the dead and the fixtures of the dead leisurely expands as Gaiman reveals the world behind the veil. From the Dance Macabray that draws the living and the dead at least once a year to the Honor Guard—a group to which Silas belongs—that protects the borders in-between the living and the dead, Gaiman creates an imaginative ‘neither’ world with his trademark flourish.

Whereas the opening perspective of Gaiman’s previous works, American Gods and Anansi Boys, was older and adult, Interworld and Coraline seemed to be directed at younger readers. For this one, readers from YA to adult-range will be able to jump into The Graveyard Book with no trouble. Gaiman writes an engaging tale, from the friendly narrative voice that easily draws the reader into the story to the likeable characters. In fact, it was easy to sympathize with Bod, who grows up into a mature, level-headed young man faced with a dark past.

Since the theme of the book is Death, Gaiman knows that there are no happy endings except the endings we make for our own. And so, the ending of the book is a beginning of sorts, a hallmark of all stories Gaimanesque (an invented word, but sorely appropriate). After all, only Neil Gaiman can create a imaginative story that draws us to worlds beyond our own, makes us root for his characters, and in the end leaves us wanting more. The Graveyard Book is indeed, a first-rate story from a grand—and great—storyteller.(And just in case you’re wondering, yes, us Filipinos are mentioned in this book!)


Reprinted with permission in collaboration with Avalon.ph, from the blog of Mr. Charles Tan:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

While I did enjoy most of Gaiman’s novels, his last book, Anansi Boys, in my opinion wasn’t the best of the bunch. When I started reading The Graveyard Book however, any lingering disappointments were dispelled as this is Gaiman in top form. His language is simple, compelling, and has that particular charm of being vague and short but says it all, as if everyone was familiar with its context. His characters are complex and interesting, from the adopted family of our protagonist to his enigmatic enemies. One impressive technique is how Gaiman never explicitly mentions what kind of creature the hero’s guardian–Silas–is yet it is apparent to readers thanks to context clues and dialogue. The antagonists, while two-dimensional, are given that extra layer near the end of the book which can probably be best described as the book’s “Gaiman-ish” moment.

The structure of the book is also to be lauded. There are eight chapters, each representing a phase in our hero’s life. Each chapter save for one (it’s a foreshadowing chapter) stands well on its own and doesn’t leave you in a cliffhanger. However, that doesn’t mean the book is any less interesting because of it and Gaiman writes it so that one is eager for what comes next. There’s a big pay-off in the end as Gaiman works with all the threads he established previously yet leaving room for expansion and conflict–all the while satisfying the target audience of the book.

Overall, The Graveyard Book is highly recommended and one of Gaiman’s books that pack a punch irregardless of your age group. The characterization, its pacing, and the writing style are all synchronized and culminate to an enjoyable and layered reading experience.


The auction for an Advance Reader’s Edition is still ongoing and will end on August 21.  Click here for the link.  An excellent gift for the die-hard Neil Gaiman fan.  Good luck bidders!

Online Buzz- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (Debut Novel)

One upcoming debut novel that’s been getting intense coverage online is Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle. An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

Andrew Davidson’s agent initially rejected a cool US$1 million offer for the book, and it turned out to be a wise move as Doubleday wounded up paying US$1.25 million – for a debut novel!

Doubleday publishing has been working overtime pushing the publicity buttons for this title taking advantage of the vast resources available online.

From USA Today:

The campaign is burning up online. At burnedbylove.com, visitors are sharing details about intense relationships. A Gargoyle Flickr Group lets people post gargoyle photos. There’s content on MySpace, Facebook and Doubleday’s YouTube channel.

“It’s definitely our most ambitious in terms of creating a campaign that engages the current social-networked way people are using the Net,” says Doubleday’s Jeffrey Yamaguchi….

For full The Gargoyle details visit: http://doubleday.com/thegargoyle

You can also read an excerpt of the book on the site, or download it as a PDF.

Also be sure to check out the online elements to the book: http://burnedbylove.com

For early reviews and pre-order, check out the Amazon.com page.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson will be out August 5, 2008 (USA).

Shelve-It: Book Review on Radio on Jam 88.3 FM

Shelve-It – the book lover’s haven on radio, features book reviews and other literary features hosted by DJ Lana every Thursdays around 8:00pm on Jam 88.3 FM.

Upcoming books to be reviewed are Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, The Bobby Gold Stories by Anthony Bourdain and The Green House by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Copies of the books will be given away at the end of the show, courtesy of Avalon.ph.  Tune in!

Book Review: The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

A Perfect Circle

His is a pen of fire with heart’s blood as his only ink.
     -The Dante Club

I rarely give a 5 whenever I evaluate a book, but this thriller deserves all the kudos it can get. The novel is very well-thought out; it certainly reflects how well Matthew Pearl knows his Dante. The plot is quite impeccable; the suspect was really unexpected! When I found out about it, I was very shocked as to why it was that person responsible for all the murders. Though the killer’s reasons are valid and interesting (interesting because the killer’s motivations are very much rooted to the literary context of the novel), they also came off as psychological, and therefore, ordinary. I compare the prose to a picturesque view: the beauty of the way the book was written is something to be deeply appreciated, like a grand view of the sea that needs ample time for someone to able to take it all in. It was slow-paced, yes, but the slowness makes the gradual unfolding of events all the more sweeter to discover. Pearl threw a couple of verses from the Inferno itself, and the Dante Club’s usage of such verses solidified the connection of Dante’s celebrated work with the lives of the members of the Dante Club. In fact, what I like most about the book is that Pearl put meat and bones to the prominent literary personages that are now commonly just referred to as names, personages that have been put on a pedestal to be revered and venerated, but not really known intimately. The book was gripping because I was immensely fascinated in reading about the thoughts and actions of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, J. T. Fields, and James Lowell, however fictional they may be. Such prominent literary figures were the main cast of the novel, and it was just very amusing to see them live their ordinary lives a century ago. Reading about them working, talking as friends, calling for a horsecar, and even just walking around Cambridge somehow breathed life into these literary figures that were only just normally studied in English class. Pearl was able to put them down from the pedestal. In The Dante Club, he not only showed the greatness of Dante, the twisted plot inspired by Dante’s Inferno, but above all, he showed the readers that the prominent members of the Dante Club were really just like the rest of us: ordinary people engaged in mundane things such as family and career. Pearl was able to expertly tie up a ribbon of historical fiction and a brilliant plot. Throughout the novel, I could see how much the historical context of the story influenced the movement of the plot. I give this book a standing ovation because it draws a perfect circle of suspense, gore, history, literature, and greatness.

Purchase your copy of this book on Avalon.ph

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom


Life in Death

What simply makes Tuesdays with Morrie a winner is the fact that it’s nonfiction, that it happened in real life. When I was reading about Mitch Albom’s conversations with his former professor, Morrie, I ultimately thought about how these actual tête-à-têtes occurred in real life. This makes the whole plot all the more magical, because usually, when a tearjerker comes out in the market, I always think of cheesy writing styles and melodramatic scenes that seem exaggerated and not too different from any average soap opera. And although some scenes are melodramatic, they are only rightly so, for in truth, death is a tragic affair. Albom was able to capture Morrie’s courage and strength as his body deteriorated gradually. Tuesdays with Morrie does not intend to be dramatic, it just is. And that sets it apart from all the tearjerkers that Nicholas Sparks and Judith McNaught have to offer. Reading this book made me rethink about my priorities, and hours after closing the book for the final time, I was still pondering about its theme. Certainly, it left a deep imprint on me, as it showed how a person’s life is not measured by his age, but by the number of things he has fulfilled and done in such a transitory world. Morrie’s life, and death, showed us one thing: how a person could have a lifetime in such a short while.

Purchase your copy of this book on Avalon.ph