All My Lonely Islands by VJ Campilan: Book Review

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Synopsis from Goodreads: One crisp March evening, Crisanta and Ferdinand arrive on the remote Batanes islands for a mission: locate Graciella, whose son, Stevan, they saw die in a tragic accident a decade ago. But they need to confess something to her: Stevan’s death is not all what it seems. Oppressed by a decade of painful memories, Crisanta and Ferdinand must race against time—from the wild swamplands of the Sundarban forest in Bangladesh to the back alleys of Manila to the savage cliffs of Batanes—to offer Graciella the truth that they themselves cannot bear to face.

Publisher: Anvil Publishing

Date Published:  2017

Date Read: February 2017

Number of Pages: 204

Setting: Batanes, Philippines / Dhaka, Bangladesh

Get your copy here.

Source: Sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Exceptional writing style, truly worthy of its praise.

This book won the Grand Prize for the Novel 2015 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for a reason. It is without a doubt truly worthy of that prestigious award. Now how to give the justice it deserves? I have zero idea, but I’m trying anyway. I have to point out first that this book is very well-written in all sense of the word. The words used in each sentences were carefully crafted so as to give life to the story. And though it was fairly a short read, it was a book that you need to savor. It is the book that you don’t rush finishing, but still ultimately look forward for an unadulterated time to be alone with it. It has this melancholic vibe to it that one can’t simply shake off. A book that will give you that sense of foreboding and as the story peaks up, you’re hanging on to every sentence leading to the inevitable end.

I truly adored how the story was written, it was a recollection of Crisanta’s life  from childhood up to her teenage years in Dhaka, Bangladesh and all the events that transpired between then and the present times. How the main character was able to reconcile the demons of her past with her present self. And can we also talk about how the narration was so vivid and beautiful it is as if you are truly there in the story. Batanes, Dhaka and Sundarban were all described with such eloquence and impressive imagery. The author painted these places in such a beautiful light, without sugarcoating it. It was presented in the most realistic way possible and I think that contributed to the overall beauty of the book. All My Lonely Islands also highlighted a lot of Filipino cultures and traditions though most of the book transpired in Dhaka Bangladesh. A book I will definitely recommend to those who would want to know  more about the Philippines and its haunting beauty.

Each character was unique – flawed, yes, but forgivable. Take for an instance Ferdinand, this troubled boy who didn’t have an easier life and was always living up to what people purports him to be. Oh that part when his parents found out that he was in trouble, the relief on their faces – because he was something they could define. Good god, that was a great explanation. I don’t want to reveal much of it, I wouldn’t want to spoil anyone anyway. I loved Ferdinand’s character, this may not be the same to others. But his character was the one who improved a whole lot. Crisanta’s character on the other hand was pretty consistent one, her character was the perfect depiction of every Filipino teenager, or every teenager for that matter. I was able to relate to her in more ways than one. And Stevan, how do I even start with Stevan? I wish there was more of Stevan. He was the character I wanted to know more of. He seems to be that boy who was also trying hard to survive each of his grueling days in high school, just as much as everyone else. Every character in this book was well thought out adding color to the story.

The subtle hints provided by the author in each chapter was enough to keep you going, enough to keep you interested. It wasn’t revealing everything at the first instance, there was the element of surprise and coherence. Every event was connected to the other. The side stories are also exceptional, like the one about Pobrito, man, that hit me hard. It was heartbreaking, ugly, depressing and yet I was so drawn to it, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Who would have thought that this was only the first book of the author? It seems to me that she had been writing all her life to come up with something that’ll hit you hard, of something that is so thought-provoking you couldn’t help but pause and ponder on the words you just read. And if being a Filipino is the only association I can have with this author, then I am damn proud to be a Filipino. Filipino talents are indeed world class, this book is the proof of it. This book struck a special cord in my heart, I’m confident to tell (yes even just two months in the year) that this book will be included in my Top 17 Books of 2017. This book deserves to be read even once in one’s lifetime. Honestly the blurb didn’t give the book much justice. If I passed by this one in a bookstore and read that blurb, I would be curious, but not enough to be inclined to read it right away. I just wish there was more to the blurb, it wasn’t able to fully grasp the whole beauty of the book. This is the only issue I have with this book, but hey this is what reviews are for. So I’m really trying my best to persuade you guys to not just depend on blurbs. Take a chance on a book, take a chance on this one!

That ending was exactly what the book needed – it was a closure. I felt more satisfied than ever, I appreciated that it took its sweet time. Not one thing was forced, it is as if everything happened at its own pace, at its own perfect time. Everything culminated and unfolded into this simple yet profound tale. Im glad I have read this one, made me value life more.

Rating: rating_5stars

“You’re trying to look for rock bottom, to that part of yourself that could no longer feel pain. But there is no such thing as rock bottom. As long as there is left to destroy in you, you’d do it. We always feel the need to sink ourselves because we keep being intolerable, because if we’re suffering then maybe people would give us a break for all the shameful things we do. You think you could impose your own penance, but it never goes away, does it? That kind of deadening that’s worse than actual dying.”

― V.J. CampilanAll My Lonely Islands

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Sunday’s On The Phone To Monday by Christine Reilly: Book Review

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Synopsis: The Middlesteins meets The Virgin Suicides in this arresting family love story about the eccentric yet tightknit Simone family, coping with tragedy during 90s New York, struggling to reconnect with each other and heal.

Claudio and Mathilde Simone, once romantic bohemians hopelessly enamored with each other, find themselves nestled in domesticity in New York, running a struggling vinyl record store and parenting three daughters as best they can: Natasha, an overachieving prodigy; sensitive Lucy, with her debilitating heart condition; and Carly, adopted from China and quietly fixated on her true origins.

With prose that is as keen and illuminating as it is whimsical and luminous, debut novelist Christine Reilly tells the unusual love story of this family. Poignant and humane, Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is a deft exploration of the tender ties that bind families together, even as they threaten to tear them apart.

Publisher: Touchstone

Date Published: April 5, 2016

Date Read: July 2016

Number of Pages: 323

Source: Author provided a copy in exchange for an honest review

 

REVIEW

 

This book has this melancholic feel to it, the kind of melancholia a reader craves once in a while. It scratches a different itch that not all books could.

This book was sent to me by the author in an exchange for an honest review. From the moment I read the blurb, it instantly piqued my interest, though not really something right up my alley, but this book sounded different, it seems like it has its own gravitational pull and the reader will just fall into it like it is the most natural thing. And I did, I succumbed to it, immersed myself in the story like nothing mattered in the world, because for a moment the only thing that mattered was the lives of the characters inside this beautiful book.

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is not your typical read, it is not something you encounter on a regular basis. It was truly a gem. It was all encompassing, covering all facets of life such as love, family, mental illness, the society, loss and so much more. It was life encapsulated into a single book. It was the connection of all the characters that made this book stand out, there was the conventional relationship and the not so usual ones, but everything jived into this perfect harmony that you just couldn’t help but be engrossed by it. It was melancholic as it was raw. The book was written so beautifully, I actually ran out out of sticky tabs. There are so many great passages written here, reflections about life and love. The one thing I noticed about this book was how relatable it was. It magnified the simple things, and we are all aware about the saying that sometimes it is the small things that truly matter. Has this happened to you? Like for an instance you are thinking about a certain thing, it was just something nonsensical, and a little silly to share with others so you just keep it to yourself? This book, assured me that whatever I was thinking, or whatever feeling I was having no matter how silly or noncommittal, that it still counts, or matters. I loved that in a book, the way it reaches out to its readers, how every experience real or fictional, came from something that existed long before us. That what we truly feel and think is universal, and there was some sense of comfort in that.

As I was reading this book, it kind of gave off The Bell Jar vibe, which as most of us already know is one of the most depressing books written of all time. It wasn’t entirely like The Bell Jar, but there are bits and parts of the book that instantly reminded me of Sylvia Plath’s novel. I cannot say that the similarity is palpable, but there was hint of it in this book, making it more engaging and interesting. If you enjoyed The Bell Jar, I think you’ll like this book as well, but don’t go on expecting something as depressing, let’s just put it this way, Sunday’s on The Phone to Monday will give you that nostalgic feeling that no other book could.

The characters in this story were different in their own ways. They are readily identifiable from each other. I loved how the story started the way it did, it was like a journey of some sort with bits and pieces of flashbacks that make it coherent and polished. I learned that this book was originally intended to be a poetry book, and I can definitely see the beautiful play on words. It was lyrical in every sense of the word.

The book will leave you with a calm feeling. It was the peace and quiet after a heavy down pour, it was proportional to the feeling of sipping a hot cup of tea in a cold rainy afternoon. It is as if, everything in the world is okay once more. It is the kind of book that need not require exaggerated events, or heart stopping twists, it was as true and as raw as it could get and there is definitely beauty in that. I loved this book, I wish everyone could find time to read it!

Rating: rating_4stars

“She gave him all the tools he needed to hurt her, and he did the same. Wasn’t that the logic in love?”
― Christine ReillySunday’s on the Phone to Monday

Consequences by Aleatha Romig : Book Review

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Synopsis: Book #1 of the Bestselling Consequences series:

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Aleatha Romig comes a suspenseful thriller about secrets and deception, passion and love, choices and consequences.

Every action has consequences.

Waking in an unfamiliar bedroom in a luxurious mansion, Claire Nichols is terrified to discover that a chance encounter led her into the cruel hands of her abductor, Anthony Rawlings. Claire has no understanding of why she’s there, but it’s been made abundantly clear—she is now his acquisition and every action has consequences.

Learn the rules to survive.

Facing incomprehensible circumstances, Claire must learn to survive her new reality—every aspect of her livelihood depends upon the tall, dark-eyed tycoon who is a true master of deception. Driven by unknown demons, he has no tolerance for imperfection, in any aspect of his life, including his recent acquisition. Anthony may appear to the world as a handsome, benevolent businessman, but in reality Claire knows firsthand that he’s a menacing, controlling captor with very strict rules: do as you’re told, public failure is not an option, and appearances are of the utmost importance.

Captivate the captor.

To fit together the pieces of the puzzle, Claire must follow his rules. Will her plan work, or will Anthony become enthralled by Claire’s beauty, resilience, and determination, changing the game forever? If that happens, will either of them survive the consequences?

Nobody ever did or ever will escape the consequences of his choices.—Alfred A. Montapert

Date Published: August 5, 2011, 368 pages

Publisher: Xlibris Corporation

Date Read: May 2013

Series: Book 1 of Consequences Series

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Dark. Twisted. Intelligent. Dragging. Disturbing

Let me start by saying that I was really looking for a book that will sweep me off my feet, rather the male character would. Honestly I just wanted a light read with not so heavy plot or drama and that would just leave me feeling good about life, love or everything in general. I just wanted to feel good. THIS BOOK DID NOT MAKE ME FEEL GOOD, not even in its simplest meaning or in its simplest form. Can I just say that I was angry the whole time I was reading it? I was seriously contemplating on throwing my e-reader or just grab something and just throw it and watch it shatter into pieces, just to be done with it. I even entertained the thought of not finishing the book, but I decided against it (obviously). well after all a half-finished book is a half-finished love affair. Do you even know that feeling that you are so mad about what was happening in it yet you still continued reading? Hoping all the madness would be somewhat vindicated in the end? Were any of my fury or madness vindicated? I don’t know. Maybe? But then I thought of the Afterward part of the book and I thought the madness was never vindicated. Okay I’d settled to halfly-vindicated. Maybe if I continue reading the next book TRUTH maybe then I would get the justice I deserve.

I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book accompanied by numerous great reviews here in Goodreads. Mind-fucked and mind-blown were just the two popular reviews this book had. Was my mind blown? A little, but I would like to give credits to myself that I somehow saw it (the twist and the ending) coming. This book reminded me of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, maybe if I had read this book first I would have been really shocked by the turn of events.

As I was reading the first few chapters I was reminded of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, all the while I thought it would just be like all BDSM and all that stuff, but I was proven wrong, yes the sub-dom part really played a part on the story, but it doesn’t revolved around it, the story is even deeper. The plot was well thought of, I would really commend Aleatha Romig on that. Everything that happened had its connection towards the end. And I really felt for Claire’s character. And can I just say too that internally I was creaming that Anthony is a Psycho? He really is and I really hate him. I say this book is effective because it was able to move me and draw out emotions, not all books can do that. A criticism though, I find the book too long, I thought there were some parts that can easily be dispensed with and also there were parts that I don’t know, maybe it lacked the proper description, especially the wedding ceremony itself, (oops spoiler sorry) I was hoping that the I dos and the vows will be described profoundly so as to make it vivid for one’s imagination. But all in all, I think it was a good read.

I need to get over the fury and madness I have in myself before proceeding to TRUTH. So if you like psycho-thriller or a twisted twist (eh?) this is definitely the book for you. But if you are hoping for romance, swoon-worthy male character or all the cheeseball stuff, I am so sorry put this book down and grab a YA novel instead.

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Love is when one person knows all your secrets, your deepest, darkest, most dreadful secrets of which no one else in the world knows. And yet in the end, that one person does not think any less of you.