The cruelty of beautiful sentences

 

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“Forgetting,” I said, “is probably as much a part of life as remembering. We’re all amnesiacs.” –page 18

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The time it takes to quit on a book

99DaysIf Stephen Chbosky wrote that we accept the love we think we deserve, is that also true for books? Do we read the books we think we deserve?

I don’t have a lot of complicated habits when it comes to reading but I try my damndest to stick with this one commitment: to finish every story that I have started.

Out of respect to the authors who have labored to produce their works, I feel compelled to at least read the book till the last page before I could pronounce any judgment on it. There are moments when some books make me want to yank my own hair out due to intense boredom: when plots seem to unnecessarily drag on for ages and ages and nothing really happens and you realize there are still 9873363820 more pages before you get to the end.  There are times when I stumble on the occasional misfortune of reading crap literature—when the plot is so convoluted and predictable and the characters drive me crazy with either a.) their mediocrity or b.) their stupidity or god forbid, c.) both.

And yet, I struggle through a thousand yawns and yikes just to make it to the epilogue. Mostly, I do this just so I can justify my dislike for the book. I strive through the agony of every chapter because I want to be able to confidently say that I have the right to say it sucked, that I gave it a chance and it didn’t redeem itself, that my patience as a reader is steadfast and that I am not eternally perched on my literary high horse of snootiness. Yup, I am conceited like that.

But what if you just can’t really go on anymore? 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

Insert heartbreak here

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One of the hardest and tear-inducing parts of book-blogging is writing reviews about books that are so wonderfully-written they literally knock the breath and the words out of you. How does one go about putting an extraordinary reading experience into words? How does one accurately translate the perfection of being enamored, won-over and heartbroken into a couple of paragraphs? How does one begin to describe a book that has meant so many things from beginning to end? It’s like coming across this cheesy, infamous question in every slumbook that ever existed: Define Love. There will never be enough metaphors and adjectives. We are daunted by the enormity of its essence and so we almost accept the fact that our words wouldn’t do our emotions and opinions justice. We try and then we fail miserably. Hence, we procrastinate and we end up not writing—or saying—anything at all.

 I felt this way for a long time after reading Samantha Sotto’s Before Ever After. I could bore you endlessly by listing all the superlative adjectives I can think of and yet it still wouldn’t be enough. All I can tell you is that I cried buckets alongside the soundtrack of my heart breaking in the background when the book ended. It’s almost perfect, it’s painful.The book says,

There are many ways to live forever.

There are also many ways to get hurt and this, I realize, is the most fantastic of it all: I cried because of a book and not because of a boy. I swear, I’d pick literary envy over a messy break-up drama any day. Continue reading

Emma & Gatsby

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A little thing you’re yet to know about me: I immensely enjoy imagined, inter-book conversations between fictional characters. I find it so delightful to have these characters talking inside my head like they exist in one universe and time. This one is a personal favorite of mine, a token of boredom from one humid weekend evening last summer. It’s a conversation over coffee between Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby—sprinkled with mild sarcasm and playful banter about their respective stance on love that I find befitting for the fickle month of hearts.

Please note that all of these lines are taken straight from the books but I am in no way claiming any of these as my own with any intention to infringe on any copyrights. Continue reading