Articles, Book Reviews, Reading, Reviews

Review: CIRCE

Review: CIRCE

I have been fascinated by Greek mythology ever since I was introduced to the Iliad and the Odyssey during high school. The world of the gods, goddesses, heroes and monsters vividly came to life in my teenage mind as I read retellings and versions of it. I think that was the time I felt the first stirrings of my passion for writing.

Reading Circe by Madeline Miller is like going back to the halls of my high school, circa 80’s. The prose is excellent, reminiscent of Homer’s style and dramatic similes and metaphors. The reader is transported to varied worlds with each detailed description of various settings, persons, and objects. 

What makes Circe more compelling and impactive is the way the author intricately wove the events in the Iliad and the Odyssey—and the more recent, loved stories—within its context. In this book, Circe takes prominent place among the gods, even a crucial role, in many of the well-known Greek characters’s lives. At the same time, Miller injected a few modern tales, namely The Ugly Duckling and Cinderella. The result is a powerful, indelible rendering of the life of an otherwise lesser entity in Greek mythology.

But I think the best thing about this book is the portrayal of Circe’s character development. One can’t help but be lured into the web that was Circe’s life, and relate with her throughout her journey. In the beginning, she was considered ugly, without any power except for her immortality. She was called stupid, smirked upon and bullied by her kind. In her naivete (and it is significant to say here, in the absence of well-meaning parents who should’ve genuinely cared for and guided her), she did terrible things out of pure impulse, things which burdened her for life. She made mistakes, she trusted the wrong people, she was used, abused and mistreated. But through all these, she remained her own person, with her values and principles intact, unchanged by cruelty and malice. She may have performed some black magic (turned men to pigs) but it was an act that can only be accepted as rational by a goddess wronged by mortals, a retaliation to their crime against her. Through all these, her concern and consideration of mortals remained, even as she sought approval and affection from her own kind. In the end, it was this tenderness of heart toward those inferior, perishable beings that gave her the ultimate peace she had long wished for.

It is to be noted that except for Circe, Miller chose to depict her gods and goddesses as selfish, self-entitled beings with absolutely no genuine fondness for mortals (and even their own kin) except when they are useful to their whims. The gods caused bad things to happen to mortals, leading them to turn to the deities for help and worship, for their own egocentric, manipulative games. But of course, maybe it’s because this is Circe’s story. She took center stage as the only good one among rotten tomatoes, making others pale in the background. Zeus didn’t even make an appearance.  

There were one or two instances, too, when the author (unknowingly, I presume) slipped into modern tone and language which were totally out of place (and curiously, all involving the “f” word): “That he fucks them, of course.” “I fucked the sacred bull, all right?”

Her evolution, from plain nymph to a powerful witch whom even the mighty gods were afraid of; from an immature, insecure girl to a seasoned woman of substance; from a damsel who saw the world with rose-colored glasses to a wisened mother who will sacrifice herself for her son’s sake, were remarkably well-written, suffused with the joys and pains accompanying each life phase and inciting appropriate emotions from the reader. You can feel Circe’s frustrations, disappointments, sadness, anger and, in rare, scant moments, her happiness. What a journey!

If I were to describe Circe in simple words, I’d say it’s the story of a goddess who lived a colorful mortal’s life. And that is what makes it a great book, being inherently human in its depths—and therefore, identifiable. I love the prose, the tone, and the writer’s style. Truly an excellent piece of literature.

Available on Amazon and Apple Books.

Rating:
4.5/5

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Apple Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to apple.com, amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: Premium Harmony

review

premium harmony

A short story by Stephen King published in The New Yorker.

Stephen King is not the King for nothing. Although his style in this story is a bit different from his other works, it just proves he’s a versatile writer who can spin words and emotions in many different ways.

This tale also requires a concentrated effort in reading between the lines. Underneath the simple language, funny parts and seemingly disordered mess, there’s depth and meaning. I have come upon quite a number of discontented reviews on this, and, quite frankly, I almost became one myself. But I believe Mr. Stephen to be a very talented writer who will not write anything just for the sake of it. As with every story I read, I always look for what the author was trying to tell me, the reader. It’s also a challenge to try to unravel the writer’s mind. After three readings, I came to understand King’s wisdom.

The central theme is about marriage. Specifically, the marriage of two incompatible people, Ray and Mary. Or, by analogy, people who have drifted apart from each other, who have changed over the years, who have grown apart. It depicts the image of many marriages today: marriages where boredom and indifference had set in, and love, that glorious feeling they had at the beginning, has faded in a background of monotony, resentment and discord.

“When they argue, they’re like greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. You go past the same scenery time after time, but you don’t see it. You see the rabbit.”

I wouldn’t change anything in this story. The story was perfect for me. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To some, reading this may be like a road leading to nowhere. But if you walk carefully and slowly, you’ll find yourself treading toward a sure destination.

The story begins with the state of their marriage: ten years, childless, nearly bankrupt, arguing a lot. His wife was barren, overweight, constantly bickered him on his smoking and over almost anything, a bit extravagant for his own taste. He’d bought her a dog, a Jack Russell named Bizz, whose loyalties turned to her, and the three of them were on their way to Walmart to buy grass seed for their lawn, which she insisted is needed to be able to sell their house. They stopped at Quik Pik to buy a purple ball for her niece, again, at her insistence and with his compliance. There, two things happened one after the other, giving Ray the freedom he didn’t know he wanted.

The ending was expected of Ray, whose character background was well-portrayed – his unhappiness and discontent over his marriage – and who, after his initial shock and sadness, was already thinking of a life diferent from what he had for the last ten years.

“It comes to him that now he can smoke all he wants, and anywhere in the house. He can smoke right there at her dining-room table.”

He was finally free of a suffocating, dull marriage, and he was looking forward to a bright future. (I was thinking of the dog, though. The author didn’t mention if Ray took him out of the car before he drove to the hospital with the windows closed and the air-conditioning on.)

“Ray smokes all the way to the hospital with the windows shut and the air-conditioning on.”

When you think about it, even the title depicted the theme of the story. Ray said it perfectly:

“‘That off-brand. Premium Harmony, they’re called.’ They taste like homemade shit, but all right.”

Ray was settling for less in life: cheap cigarettes as well as a boring life with a fat, bickering, disagreeable wife, and an ungrateful dog who loves his wife more than him – just to survive or to exist. He was trapped and didn’t have the guts to get out of it. The solution was taken out of his hands, and in a span of one hour! Lucky fella.

 

Rating:
5/5

Stephen King is an acclaimed award-winning American best-selling author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction as well as non-fiction books. Many of his books have been adapted into films and television series.  

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Book Reviews

Book Review: They Called Me Wyatt

(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure at the end of this post.)


I recently reactivated my Reviewer Account on Netgalley and was surprised that it’s been a year since I’ve read a book from there. Probably because I have my hands (and Kindle app) full of books from Bookbub, Bookscream, Book Cave, and Love Kissed, where I am subscribed. (For those who don’t know it yet, these are sites that mail you books at sale prices or even free. You’re welcome ☺️). Truth be told, I still have MANY, MANY books to read but I couldn’t resist picking this one up.

The blurb of They Called Me Wyatt was nothing short of intriguing. Read for yourself:

They Called Me Wyatt
by Natasha Tynes

When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.

Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?

See what I mean? I was hooked. I wasn’t too keen on the cover but the premise definitely got me reading the book. Aside from wanting to know who killed her, this different kind of reincarnation was a fresh take on a fictional work. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is divided into two parts. Part I is wholly from the point of view of Siwar, the Jordanian girl who was pushed to death on her 25th birthday, and whose consciousness transferred to Wyatt, a three-year old with whom she shares her birth date. The how and the why of her reincarnation, if you can call it that, was not explained. Maybe because it simply is unexplainable.

There are laughable incidents when Siwar realised she’s in a different body. They served as a breather from all the mystery and darkness that surrounded her murder. 

I avoid looking at myself in the mirror. The first time I saw the face of a blue-eyed three-year old Caucasian looking back at me in the mirror, I shrieked. Both Noah and Krista laughed at my reaction.

There is another annoyance to my new status. I’m very uncomfortable with my boyhood. I have a penis and testicles and the whole package. I try not to look down there when Krista changes me, but having a penis is hard to ignore. It’s always protruding, always there.

In Part II, the point of view switched between Siwar and Wyatt, who is now a fully grown-up man, extremely interested in Middle Eastern culture, with her niece as his girlfriend. The development of Wyatt’s awareness of Siwar’s presence in his mind and her hand in almost all aspects of his life was convincing and unnerving. It raises many questions as to his true identity and personality, though. How much of Siwar was Wyatt? Who, really, is Wyatt? Or, worse: Is there really a Wyatt?

For the most part of the book, Siwar’s loneliness, regrets and sadness prevailed. Dying young has robbed her of many things in life. She had many dreams and aspirations which were cut short by a murderer. But perhaps, the most glaring of all her misgivings was her disappointment in dying with her virginity intact. Her insecurities and repressed sexuality resonated throughout the book. In relating her life story, the author brings us a vivid glimpse of Arabic, specifically, Jordanian culture, and how girls are treated (or judged?) there, especially when it comes to having relationships with boys. The narratives involving Siwar’s involvement with several boys foreshadowed the solution of the crime. The twists and turns are enjoyable and the murderer turned out as someone you’d not imagine it to be.

There are a few typographical and grammatical errors which could have made reading this book more pleasant. But all in all, They Called Me Wyatt is a fine work of fiction that is at once humorous, poignant, and suspenseful.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order the book here.


Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Into the Water

61OLegHQzvL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Into the Water

Author: Paula Hawkins

3.5 out of 5 stars

I loved The Girl on the Train. The movie was great, and while I have yet to read the book itself, I was content to let it remain in my TBR list, secure in the thought that if the movie was that good, the book would be no less.

When I learned that Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water was the winner of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards, I could not pass up the chance of reading it. The book got 48,247 votes, beating Dan Brown’s Origin. Wow. To beat Dan Brown, that was certainly something. So I put Dan aside and said hello to Paula.

Into the Water is a psychological suspense set in the rural British town of Beckford with cliffs, a bridge, a river and the mysterious Drowning Pool, where several women were killed or committed suicide over the years. A fresh new death involved the main character’s sister which proved to be incidental in uncovering the mystery and horror of past deaths. The plot was good but the execution was, regretfully, not very much.

For starters, I feel there were too many minor characters in the beginning. Taking into account the book’s blurb, it was expected that focus will be on the introduction and character development of Jules and Lena. Of course, this is a writer’s tactic to confuse readers into guessing who the murderer was – introduce many characters so the readers would be baffled. But I think there is a thin line that divides confusion from a disorderly mess. I felt there was “character dump” in the first chapters.

There were too many POVs too. Not just told from the perspective of each character, but also told as per type of POV: first person, second person, and third person. Some of these, sadly, did not move the story forward, making its pacing slow and dragging. The twists were not very thrilling for me too; they came out as lame and disappointing. I feel there were also a few plotholes: why would a police officer be allowed to investigate crimes similar to what he went through as a child, and what happened to the teacher? Unless the writer was thinking of a sequel, of course.

The ending was also predictable. It was blatantly clear from the start who the villain was. It seemed the author went to a lot of trouble hiding him from plain sight, choosing to weave a winding maze of characters and backstories to confuse the reader and blur the plot.

All in all, I don’t regret reading Into the Water. Paula is an amazing writer who can evoke emotions and stir the mind through her words. I’ll be sure to read The Girl on the Train one of these days.

But for now, back to Dan.

Articles, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Wonder

(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure at the end of this post.)


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

“August is the Sun.” – Via

5 out of 5 stars

If I were to sum up the message of this wonderful, heartwarming, uplifting book, it is that it tells the triumph of a good and kind heart.

Auggie is a ten-year-old boy with a severely deformed face because of bad genes. The book narrates his first time out of home-school and straight into middle-school in their community. He has been sheltered since birth but now has to learn to socialize and interact with strangers, who almost all, are either scared or turned off by his ugliness.

His adventures and misadventures, his wins and losses, his delights and disappointments were told in a light, sometimes humorous manner, yet with such depth and effect that touch the heart and nourish the soul.

It was so easy reading this book, smoothly narrated not just by Auggie but also by his sister and his friends. I loved that. It gave readers the chance to see Auggie through the eyes of people close to him, and by doing so, we come to understand and empathize with their reaction to his disfigured face without hating or judging them. They were just being human with a heart full of love for Auggie.

I cried towards the end of the book. I cried of happiness for Auggie. I cried, thinking of many more children like him or even not exactly like him who may be struggling to fit in, be accepted and loved by the world. Who, at the same time, struggle with themselves, trying to understand why people are mean and cruel, and trying really hard not to hate them, striving for their heart to remain unblemished and kind and good in spite and despite the bad, harsh treatment accorded to them.

Because that’s how Auggie is. That’s the message of the book.

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use (sic) of strength. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

This book is not just about growing up. It’s growing up with a deformity that you can’t do anything about, and which is nobody’s fault. But the author did not dwell on the whys of it. Instead, she maneuvered on the how-tos of accepting, living with, and overcoming that deformity. Which made this book special, I think. It did not focus on the bad but magnified the good. The good being the courage of a deformed boy to face the world, the enduring, unconditional love of a family, and the bravery and humility to change from cruelty to kindness, from judging to understanding and accepting…and ultimately, loving Auggie.

If you want a powerful, feel-good story, look no further.

IMG_1381
My drawing of Auggie’s face based on Via’s description

P.S. I have yet to watch the movie, but I surely hope it will be as good as the book. I have watched the movie, and the book is way better. (Sorry, Julia.) Also, the book is a consistent bestseller on Amazon! Get it now:


Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: We Were Liars

(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure at the end of this post.)


4 out of 5 Stars

We Were Liars was hyped as a modern, sophisticated suspense novel. I would describe it as a not-too-sophisticated and not-too-suspenseful book, but a powerful one nonetheless.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The first two parts came out slow and dragging. The style was at times a combination of lyrical, phrasal and contemplative, not something that can be found in more usual novels. But all of these describe the justified ramblings of a broken young mind laden with guilt and remorse.

The twist was expected at the end, although it was not that very thrilling. Instead, it came on to the reader like a soft breeze entering a warm room. It was chilling, leaving a profound effect on me.

There is the mystery of the title, though. I was thinking it’s a play on the family name Sinclair but nowhere in the book was it implied, and the author did not bother to explain the reasoning behind the title. Okay, I got it. They were all liars about their true nature.

This book should be read with an open mind, casting aside stereotypes in storytelling. Its plot is deep and wide, encompassing family, young love, manipulation, and jealousy. In the end, it is a story of a shattered family and a broken girl, both facing an uncertain future.


Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Another Word for Happy

Review: Another Word for Happy
Author: Agay Llanera4.5 out of 5 stars
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If there is one word to describe this book, it is this: vivid.

Agay did a great job of weaving the story of Caleb through an amazing way of showing, not telling. Each scene was vividly described, each emotion clearly depicted, that I can actually feel I am there, with Caleb. In his school, in his home, with his mother, with Ginny. And with Franco.

The tone of the story was set at the first paragraph. It was neither happy or sad, or hot or cold. It was somewhere in between. More importantly, it was real. As real as it gets. In modern jargon, I believe it’s termed “true-to-life.” Caleb went through the pains of realization, acceptance, unrequited love, and despondency, and emerged scarred yet armed with a renewed conviction of staying true to himself as he saw fit. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he graciously granted forgiveness and understanding to the persons who hurt him. And in doing so, he turned the tides of his life to his advantage, avoiding a lifetime of anger and resentment.

Caleb’s character development was carefully laid out and crafted. Ginny is adorable, as well as her aunts. Franco is, well, Franco. Human and imperfect, like Caleb’s mother. The flow of the story was remarkably fluid, made more entertaining by naming each chapter after musical terms and compositions which best reflect it.

I think the most important thing we can learn from Caleb’s story is not that we have to accept people like him. The most significant lesson here is that we hold in our hands the power to live in peace and harmony, not just with our own selves, but with others too, especially others who are dear to us. Like Caleb, we can also turn the tides in our favor instead of letting bitterness in our hearts take us to the depths of despair and infinitely wrong choices. The secret? To forgive.

I was given an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Better at Weddings Than You

Author: Mina V. Esguerra
eBook, 214 pages
Bright Girl Books
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4.5 Stars

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne must have Mina Esguerra in mind when he coined this phrase. Because if I were to describe my overall experience in reading her latest book, it’s none other than, “Now, that was easy reading!” I sincerely doubt, however, that Mina had a hard time writing it. On the contrary, I feel she breezed through every word and every chapter with effortless flair like the pro she is, until the very end of the book.

Page after page flowed easily through my eyes and mind, keeping my interest piqued and my heart at repeated swoons. The intricate depiction of a wedding planner’s work made me realize the pressure, the predicaments and the creativity of wedding planners. It’s not an enviable job.

Greg is a certified a**hole but one that has a heart for Daphne’s well-being. He also, inexplicably, truly and deeply loves Helen, his fiancee. That makes him a likeable a**hole — in small doses, of course. It’s Helen that is an enigma, tossing and turning between Greg and Aaron, accepting her defeat only in the end. But I still get the feeling she’s not very sure she wants to marry Greg, eventually. Make up your mind (and heart), girl!

I adore Aaron. He is all male, biceps and all, but without the annoying chauvinistic tendencies characteristic of, well, “some” Filipino men. Unlike most men who would bask in and take advantage of a soon-to-be-wed girl’s long-hidden affection for him, he had the decency and the wisdom to face the music and nip it in the bud (or full-grown flower already?) And in that aspect, I disagree with Daphne.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Daphne! Her attitude in life, her work ethics, her independent streak. But blame it on my age and my Filipino upbringing, of growing up in the adage that marriage is not like a spoonful of hot, just-cooked rice which one can easily throw up when her tongue is singed. Marriage is the union of two hearts committed to make it work, whatever the cost. And if one of those two hearts is not too sure, it’s much better to back out of the wedding — which Daphne wanted to avoid for quite unjustified reasons–instead of a lifetime of regret. Thankfully, it was taken out of her hands, and hopefully, taught her a well-learned lesson.

There were times too that I wished Daphne wasn’t too impersonal or maybe just a few degrees warmer to my liking, but I totally understand that’s how she is. No matter. I’m leaving it to Aaron entirely to thaw her somewhat chilly personality, seeing that he’s had a promising headstart already. I’m pretty sure they’d eventually exchange those coveted “I love yous” in the future, and, of course, plan their own magical wedding. After all, they’re the best wedding planner team in town.

Book Reviews, Reviews

Book Review: Ghost of a Feeling

trinidad-ghost-of-a-feeling5 out of 5 stars

I really loved this book and highly recommend this to everyone!

Reading Cris’ story felt very much like steadily climbing a steep, rocky hill, reaching the top, then merrily sliding down, coming to a grassy, peaceful pasture.

The book was beautifully woven with a seamless plot and perfectly, realistically intertwined characters. Chapter by chapter, the pieces of the puzzle were made to rightfully fall snugly to their proper place to form a beautiful tapestry of relatable human emotions and the triumph of human courage.

I love Nathan. He is the perfect guy, the long-suffering lovestruck martyr whom fate (with a stroke of ingenuity and a strange sense of humor) took pity on, giving him a second chance at love because he deserved it.

Cris struck so many chords and echoed the exact same sentiments achingly familiar to many of us. Maybe in varying degrees and in different situations, but the emotions and the never ending questions are the same.

Far be it from me for thinking wishfully, but I sincerely, truly pray that this book can be a personified version of Emilio/Nathan to all the Cris-like people out there. That by reading this, anyone contemplating to jump over the ledge in a moment of utter despair will be stopped and given a new ray of hope – hope that life is still worth living and that if we just KEEP ON, happiness may just be waiting around the corner.

Thank you, Celestine Trinidad, for giving me this opportunity to read Ghost of a Feeling’s ARC in exchange for an honest review.

You can buy this book HERE.