Book Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

While Perfect Ruin is very much like Lois Lowry’s The Giver in many ways, it has a lot of unique elements to it that makes it special. With colorful poetry in each word, DeStefano paints a world accessible only through a dream. You will wonder how it will be to be living a simple life afloat in the sky. You will find yourself jealous of what innocence those characters who haven’t been to the “edge” exude, while deeply feeling the quiet bitterness of “jumpers”, through Lex, whose ability to see life from a positive direction was disabled just by being curious and called by something hypnotically wondrous. You will hope that betrothals exist in our world and wish to experience that young, untraceable fondness for someone that can eventually turn into true love.

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I recommend this book to those who would like to dream, daydream, experience love, loss, and utter curiosity about things that are beyond wonder, and most of all, to those who dare to “jump” into adventures, even when everyone disapproves.

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Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is promising and has a very intriguing foundation. I feel intimidated by the plot, scared for the boys and what awaits them,  and the more I learned about what happens in the Maze and the Glade, the more thrilled I have become to get out and see what is outside.

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Instagram: @janoboscher

Having finished reading the book, I can say that I truly liked the plot, but on the other hand, I fell that the story-telling could use a little fine-tuning. The beginning is dark and foreboding, and has sent trickles down my spine which I loved. Compared with other stories I’ve read in the Dystopian genre, the book has a something special to offer although it could do better with simplicity and less details that do not support the story very strongly.

The protagonist (Thomas) has a mysterious persona, which has kept me awake up until the middle, but the twist in his real personality is not as grand and it has had me expecting. His confusion does not seem to match his actions. There is no very distinct characterization. Save from their individual slangs and speech mannerisms, it often feels like every character is the same – who they are, how they act at certain situations, what makes them motivated or mad. The likeness in their characters makes them shallow and predictable. The boys who turn out to be antagonists do not seem to have deep and relatable causes to justify the course of the actions they took, even looking from the younger minds’ perspective. 

Furthermore, what I do not like so much is that the humor is often off and out of timing. There are times when a serious situation is being portrayed but then one of the characters would throw in sarcasm and it ruins the mood, makes supposedly substantial events look trivial. I find the reveal of the big plot contrived and a little too drastic compared to how delicately the pace has run from its onset. I enjoyed the shroud of darkness and uncertainty covering the story at the beginning up to the the 3rd quarter of the story but my amusement was somehow disrupted by the unraveling of the truth behind the boys’ predicament that can be more subtle.

Overall, in spite of the few imperfections I found, The Maze Runner is a decent young adult novel, in my opinion. It is remarkable to me how pictures of the claustrophobic Glade, the Grievers and their unique mechanical monstrosity, the eerie Box where kids are transported into the Glade, the devilish Maze and its snaking ropes of ivy, and other elements of the setting were painted vividly in my imagination. The author is successful in his imagery. He gave the world he created some realness to it. It gives me chills remembering how the walls move nightly, their screeching sound against the floor echoing in my ears. I cringed at how excruciating Changing is, and felt nauseous about how deep a jump the Cliff might have been.

The story might not be perfect for my taste but it aptly got me interested. I am certainly buying the next book to find out what happens next.

If you have read the book, feel free to share your thoughts.

Mothers and Christmases

A bowl of my mother’s sweet spaghetti brings me back to my early childhood Christmases when life was much simpler and her sweet spaghetti was all I would look forward to on a Christmas Day. Today, life is much more complex, I look forward to bigger things, often (and guiltily) wanting more than what I deserve. Today, I am thankful for Christmas (and my mother’s sweet spaghetti) for reminding me that I can be a kid again and life can get simple at least once in a year.

There’s nothing very uncommon about the ingredients she uses – pork, a few bits of hotdog, banana ketchup, cheap cheddar and pasta (two packs you can buy for the price of one – every store has some kind of a promo), but mothers have this thing about their hands that everything they put together turns out to be something really special.

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Asinan (Salt Factory)

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This is how salt is produced in Anda, Pangasinan, Philippines. When the sun fully dries the sea water contained in these man-made ponds into salt, it will be scraped off, held into sacks and stored in these small huts until small trucks pick them up for delivery to towns and cities. Salt-making provides living not only to many of Anda’s folks but to rest of Pangasinan’s.

We passed by this quaint asinan (salt factory) on our way to Anda’s Tondol White Beach, one of the North’s unpopular but absolutely gorgeous beaches.

Pangasinan is a province situated at the Northern, mountainous region of the Philippines and its name translates to “The Land of Salt”.

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1st Milestone

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Dear friends,

Thanks very much for continuously fueling my passion and helping me reach my first milestone!

If you’re on Facebook, please check out my page: https://www.facebook.com/janoboscher2.

Let’s spread the love for art and life even more!

Cheers,

Jano

Film Review: The Purge (2013)

Note: This review contains spoilers.

The Purge is a 2013 film by James DeMonaco that introduces us to an annual spree called “The Purge” during which all criminal activities become legal for 12 hours. Ever since its institution, the United States of America hits all-time low unemployment and crime rate, all attributed to this practice. From 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM every year, all citizens are allowed to discharge all repressed negative emotions in any way they want. In the movie, we arrive at the Sandins’ suburban household, as they prepare for The Purge.

The conflict started when Charlie Sandin, the youngest of the two Sandin children, lets a stranger into their highly-secured home during the first few hours of The Purge. The stranger is running from a group of masked participants who is willing to kill anyone, including the Sandins, to get a hold of the stranger.

As thought-provoking and ambitious the plot may be, there are some things that felt awfully wrong about The Purge:

  • For a seemingly strict, overly-protective, difficult father, Mr. Sandin handled his emotions very well at his son’s grotesque stupidity, letting a stranger into their supposedly Purge-free home. If I could gravely screw up without being grounded, I’d sure love to be adopted by the Sandins.
  • Mr. Sandin, just like any other head of the family, is so willed to protect his family, no matter what. Just like any other father, he does the right thing, out of his unquestionable love for his family, by readily choosing to hunt down the stranger that intruded their home and give him away to the masked Purgers, before the Purgers does the hunting themselves, killing his family along the way. He’s determined to fight to the death, until he changes his mind after five minutes and chooses to save the stranger, with the Mrs. Sandin and Charlie’s help that did not have a hard time convincing him to do the moral thing.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sandin finally catch the stranger, manage to knock him unconscious, and are now tying up the stranger up in order not to get free. Regaining his consciousness, the stranger wiggles to get free, which makes the tying difficult. To knock him dead again, Mr. Sandin instructs his wife to press on the strangers side wounds with a letter opener (which she has to fetch at the faraway side table), thinking that this works better than knocking him on the head with something, say the vase they used about three minutes ago to knock him dead.
Photo credits: Universal Pictures
Photo credits: Universal Pictures
  • When they realize that their lives might be in danger now that the masked Purgers have broken into their house, the only safe place for Charlie to hide is the basement. But why doesn’t Charlie or Mr. Sandin lock the basement door when Charlie went there to hide? And is he trying to get caught by playing with that flashlight?
  • Even when you let a bleeding stranger in, angered a group of murderers, or leave your hiding place accessible, The Purge shows that in times of grave danger, someone will always be nearby in time to save your neck:
    • Just before the bloody stranger kills Zoey, Mrs. Sandin hits him with a vase. Zoey is saved.
    • Just before a masked lady kills Charlie at the basement, Mr. Sandin arrives and shoots the attacker. Charlie is saved.
    • Just before Mrs. Sandin is slashed by a masked woman, a masked man pinning her to the ground, two of their neighbors arrive just in time to save her. Mrs. Sandin is saved.
    • Just before the leader of the masked Purgers shoots two of the Sandins as they gather around the dying Mr. Sandin, Zoey happens to be just around to shoot the leader dead. The rest of the Sandins are saved.
    • Just before the Sandins are killed by the crazy neighbors, the bloody stranger grabs one of them shoots another, interrupting the killing. Once again, the Sandins are saved.
  • As overly cocky and fearsome as they come across, the masked group of Purgers seems to have lacked proper purging training. They seem to have exerted more effort putting together their rhetoric and picking the best outfit than actually working on how to efficiently kill. They only have a helpless family of four to kill (which includes two women, and a nearly-adolescent boy), yet more than half of them ended up killed before dawn.
  • Mrs. Sandin finds Mr. Sandin bleeding at the staircase. What better idea to save him than to shout on top of her lungs for her kids to come over, calling out attention from the leader of the masked Purgers who happens to be hunting them? Charlie, by the way, happens to be around and immediately join the scene for the Purger’s convenient killing.
  • When Mrs. Sandin says there’s no more killing, she means it. And although they outnumber the Sandins, and for a motivated group of The Purge participants, the neighbors meekly obliged and waited for The Purge to finish at 7:00 AM and everything ended OK.
  • Why is this bloody stranger being pursued by that masked group of Purgers? What did he do that was so wrong to anger them? Are the masked Purgers a group of vigilantes? What do they fight for? Why does Charlie feel so strongly about letting a stranger in? What is the family’s moral take on this whole idea of The Purge? There was so little disclosed about the Sandin’s “imperfection” that has compelled the neighbors to purge them – why are they so angry at them?
  • And most importantly, (and I probably should have asked this first) why does the youngest member of the family know the password to the house’s high-end security system?

There are just too many questions that are unanswered and so many possibilities that are not explored. The story, although promising, is served half-cooked, and there is no strong basis to excite the viewers. The characters are flat; they lack real motivation that we can identify with. It almost felt like a foreign idea was shoved down my throat and I was expected to digest it without water or taste. There’s just emptiness, and if there was any deeper meaning to the story, it is just lazily told, hence, anyone would find it hard to make sense of. The viewers’ imagination cannot always supply it all. At the end of the 85 minutes’ worth of the gunshots, blood showers, mad laughing and screaming, I was tired, confused, and disappointed.

If this concept was given enough time to be developed and mastered, if the story-telling was carefully planned, the film would have been a masterpiece. Until another filmmaker revives the concept a few years down the line, this film will just be another messy slasher film.

 

Film Review: Evil Dead 2013

Salutations, my bros & sisters in goriness & the macabre. If you thirst for some good ol’ teeth-clenching, muscle-tensing bloody goodness of the art of human disembodiment in films, try reliving ‪Sam Raimi‬’s vintage ‪Evil Dead through the 2013 remake by ‪‎Fede Alvarez‬. If you haven’t seen the 1981 original, before you’d feel like having heart attack before the movie ends – worry not, my friend – just like many other thriller that promisingly establish the horror at the beginning, the ending might strike as a little bit funny and almost clownish (to my taste at least), which must have not been as bad in the ’80s & considering how badly predictable these movies have been over the course of 3 decades. But it sure is not short of blood (you’d see that I meant that literally if you managed to stay conscious to see the final sequence). Enjoy!

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Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno has just taken me to an incredible journey. If you’re a Dan Brown fan, you can, as usual, expect twists in almost every chapter.  And it’s present on this new masterpiece – when you’d think you’ve guessed the riddles right, no, you didn’t – there’s always going to be something to figure out until the very end. The startling revelations compel you to read a few chapters back to make sure your mind was not deceiving you.

If you’re planning a trip to Florence and Venice, try reading the book and see if it saves you the trouble. It sure can make you feel like you’ve been to these great places Robert and Sienna have been to in search for clues that lead to an impending catastrophe. The references to great places and artists of the world are strikingly vibrant.

But the picturesque, cleverly-structured, fast-paced adventure is just icing on the cake. Dan Brown once again shakes its readers’ moral compass, tackling yet another issue involving everyone on this planet. The possibilities in real life are frightening. The story makes its readers realize that the choices we make will define each other’s future.

This novel has made me regret that I didn’t pay so much attention on my high school English when we tackled Dante’s The Divine Comedy, in terms of its lyrical beauty. However, I’m glad it captured the great poem’s true meaning – that there is hope for mankind if everyone summoned the courage to go down and through the pits of hell in order to climb up to paradise. In this world, we all must make a choice and inaction constitutes consequences catastrophic to humanity.

Since I wouldn’t want to spoil your own journey reading the book (those who haven’t), I’m not giving out any more details save for this quote from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno that best summarizes the Dan Brown’s Inferno: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
Chapter 79 is one of the chapters I really liked.
Chapter 79 is one of the chapters I really liked.
"The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death."
“The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death.”

This book was actually a birthday gift from my girl friend. Best gift so far.
This book was actually a birthday gift from my girl friend. Best gift so far.