The Reading Year so far

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So this is equal parts exhilirating and embarrasing because you know, reasons. 

Obviously, the first half of this year has been one big spectacular failure so far when it comes to keeping this blog active and consistent with reviews but the completely ironic silver-lining on this is the fact that I’m doing pretty serious damage on my TBR pile and zooming into my reading list in the speed of light. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little but seriously—2015 can possibly be my most productive year in reading yet. Continue reading

Monthly Wrap-Up: Atta Girl! April

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If beauty is in the eye of the reader, what is your definition of an excellent heroine?

Is it someone with otherworldly charm that makes her an instant standout among the crowd? Or is it someone with superior intelligence and a natural talent for sass? Would it be someone who is as mysterious and profound as a wallflower? Or would she be fierce and fearless as a fighter? Is it someone with extraordinary kindness of heart or someone with an admirable sense of resilience against hardships? Is she noble and self-sacrificing for the sake of the ones she love or is she bravely pursuing independence because she appreciates her self-worth and her entitlement to freedom?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years. Hence, I vowed to dedicate at least a month to celebrate the many types of young women in fiction—a hurrah for the heroines, because why not? And so I decided April would be the perfect time for this mission: when summer is at its zenith and the promise of hot heroines can set the whole world on fire.

Seven books later and this is the most important thing I learned: there is no such thing as a perfect heroine. Sometimes they are capable of being stuck-up, annoying, intimidating, conceited, distant, insecure, and unlikeable. But these flaws are important because it makes them real; it makes them representatives of our hurts, our dreams, and our passions. The best heroines are the ones that make us understand that no matter how ugly the world could be, there are still infinite ways of being beautiful, if only we search deeper than what meets the eye. Continue reading

Monthly Wrap-Up: Misfit March

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Fact: I am in love with strangeness.

I am forever fascinated with all things weird mostly because I believe it is everywhere, in everyone.  Sometimes we’re so blinded by our mundane everydays that we fail to see an outrageously simple reality: There’s no one else like you in the world. All the sappy self-help books in the planet would tell you that despite all our similarities, every single one of us is unique.  These days I’ve been finding myself pausing a lot and just mulling over the gravity of that fact and letting it play carousels inside my head.

What makes you weird makes you extraordinary. Hot damn.

For March I have read six wonderful books featuring characters with varying levels of quirk; people who are, in many ways, different from the society or the world they live or grew up in, whether they meant to or not. People who never seemed to fit in or belong anywhere besides the shell of their own selves. People who have stories that transcend the bizaare, the macabre, the wildest of imaginations. People who defied to be forgotten by becoming one-of-a-kind—in good ways, in bad ways, in OMGWTF ways.

You and I, we are all misfits just wanting to find our places under the sun. Some of us find it in the hollows of the high school hierarchy, or a house full of strangers, or in the pursuit of possessing things. Some find it in letters from the future, or an imagined memory of a jungle several oceans away, or even just a place to safely dream of freedom.

Me? I find it in between the pages of books. Continue reading

The Game That Plays Us

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I tried looking for the best word that could describe this book yet failed big time not because of my limited vocabulary but because this book resisted, no, defied, being boxed in a one-word description. At first I decided ‘thought-provoking’ is accurate enough because it had me thinking from the first page down to the last, had me conflicted about the multitude of themes it touched on, had me revisiting things I learned from college (I graduated with a degree on Consular and Diplomatic Affairs, what a coincidence!). But then I also like to tell you that it’s also just as equally intense, compelling and just well, for the lack of a cooler adjective, fantastic. So kindly excuse the lengthy, pretentious-sounding review ahead, friends. You are warned. Continue reading

Monthly Wrap-up: February & F-words

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Holy cheesecakes, this month has been assorted kinds of surreal. 

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been gravitating towards romance and stories heavily-centered on love whenever February rolls around and yes, I am aware of how this makes me a legit walking breathing cliche but whatever: when it’s the month of hearts, we are all licensed to be sentimental and sappy and starry-eyed and I swear to god I will shoot anyone who says otherwise with cupid arrows and a confetti of roses. It’s Valentines, shut the hell up and swoon.

And oh, how I did. If falling in love feels like falling in love with books, please believe me when I say that I just wanna lie here in my puddle of fictional feelings forevermore and I don’t ever wanna get back up. Continue reading

When Cute is not enough

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The moment when a reader reads through the book blurb and plot of a novel to decide whether to buy the book or not is one of the toughest, most unbearable forms of flirting, ever. Every book is a commitment. Every plot is a promise of a good time. Will it be the kind of love that won’t make you shut up for days and weeks and sends your heartbeats in marathons at just the mere mention of its title? Will it be so good that you’d willingly give up sleep for it and read it all through the night? Will it be an excruciating experience that will forever haunt you in your waking hours? Will it be a frustratingly-mediocre, yawn-inducing meh?

I bought Katie Fforde’s ‘Love Letters’ on a whim during one of my spontaneous strolls at my favorite Book Sale branch several Februaries ago. It looked harmless enough, stacked between piles and piles of cliche chick-lit and trashy paperback romances. Fine, this is yet another episode of me being enchanted by a book cover (how very adult of me, I know), but what really made me take it home was the plot. Our female protagonist is a bookish woman working at a bookstore (of course) who finds herself in sudden participation for organizing a literary festival that gets her on the task to convince one of the most popular and promising writers in modern fiction—who also happens to be her favorite author of all time and a well-known recluse—to be their main attraction guest. A BOOKISH GIRL IN A LOVE STORY WITH HER FAVORITE AUTHOR? It’s every bookworm’s romantic fantasy, okay. There’s no way on earth that I will pass up on that one.

Did I like it? Yes. Did it rock my world? Er, not really. Continue reading

I read, I wept, I loved

akfmI’m very iffy (and cranky) about Romances and I swear on everything sacred it has nothing to do with my apparent lack of experience in the love department. Sure, I sit down for the occasional cutesy chick-lit every now and then but I usually avoid straight-up, hardcore love stories because most of the time they end up terribly generic; it’s either too draggy and full of fluff that I get bored waiting for my tears to come out or it’s too plain melodramatic that I get bored to tears. Also, there tends to be a lot of eye-rolling involved, not to mention the guaranteed impulse to gag myself with a spoon or to barf mentally at the cringeworthy declarations of devotion. Okay, so I’ve probably grown into a soulless robot but I blame it on my having read Nicholas Sparks at age 9–I thought Romantic Fiction was nothing but alzheimerlandia where everyone is doomed in the worn-out ragged trope of falling in love and dying. Yes, I was scarred pretty bad.

I am therefore wonderfully caught off-guard by Christopher Castellani’s A Kiss from Maddalena, because it shattered all my juvenile traumas about romances. For once, no one’s dying from cancer, suffering from alzheimers, divorcing or killing each other, finding their lost parents, or are secretly vampires. It’s ironic because the plot and backdrop of the novel is in fact on a grander scale and yet the intimacy and the genuineness of the characters’ lives still resonate from cover to cover. We get a vivid first-hand account of the second world war and its aftermath in Italy—we don’t just meet a pair of lovers or a family; we meet an entire town and the many ties and traditions that binds them together. Most importantly, the book is still very much anchored around the bittersweet affair between Vito and Maddalena—probably the most passionate and saddest tale I’ve read in recent memory.

I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I still repeatedly read the last paragraphs like these are from a page torn off of a haunted love letter my soul has been wanting to write for so long. This book gives heartache a voice and oh lord, how I listened to it sing. Thank you Mr. Castellani, my faith in Romances has been completely restored. Continue reading