Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Memory of Light

16-year-old Vicky Cruz wakes up in a hospital’s mental ward after a failed suicide attempt. Now she must find a path to recovery – and perhaps rescue some others along the way.

Last year, I had a – thankfully – brief stint into the dark side of depression. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and some really awful thoughts about my life. But, I got better. I was able to talk to my family and friends, and I am grateful that I didn’t spiral down into a complete mental breakdown.

Yet, that darkness never totally leaves you. And ideas can never be killed. I admit, during stressful moments, I still tend to overthink and panic. But, I’m trying to handle it, and be more positive.

Maybe that’s why lately, I’ve been attracted to books that deal with depression and anxiety. I can relate to the character’s struggle and pain. Mental illness is a real disease that many people experience, yet so few truly understand.

Books about mental health is enlightening for those who are confused, and maybe helpful to those suffering. Real life is hard and complicated, and it’s nice to know that even fictional characters understand it too.

Anyways, that’s too long of a rant for me. Let’s get back to the book review:

Short Summary:

Vicky Cruz was a teenager with everything good in her life. Her family was well-off, she was studying in an esteemed private school, she lived in a huge house with her cat and nanny. Yet, she woke up in a hospital after failing to take her own life.

At the hospital, she met new friends with such different personalities from the ones she knew all her life. There was the energetic Mona, brooding EM, and saintly Gabriel, and the force that pulls them all together, Dr. Desai.

With the change of scenery from her overachieving family, to helpful and understanding friends, Vicky was able to find peace and comfort. She slowly learned how to cope with her illness, and not let her depression control her.

Yet, sooner or later, she had to go back home. Back to the place where the memories and pain are like black clouds covering Vicky’s fragile blue sky. How can she let her father understand something she barely understood herself?

And with her newfound friends, scattered away dealing with their own crazy lives, Vicky needs to find the inner peace and strength to keep them together. And she had to find the will to live in a crazier world full of people who don’t understand what it was like to be trapped inside her own head.

What I Like:

I like Vicky and her character’s development over the course of the book. I like that the book explains depression as a tangent object: like a thick yellow fog obscuring every sane thought in your head. It’s real, and it’s a real struggle to be happy when the voices in your head tells you that you don’t deserve happiness.

Sure, Vicky had a grand life. She was a rich kid, and her whole life was ahead of her. Her mother died, but death is a part of life. And in death, her mother found peace away from the pain of cancer. Vicky still had her father and older sister. She had a best friend, and a boy who liked her. There was no reason for her to be mentally depressed, yet she was.

And that was real, and raw. Depression needs no reason. You could be the queen of the whole universe, but when that storm hits you, it hits you hard. Vicky’s struggle with understanding the whys and hows of her illness is something we could all relate with.

Aside from Vicky, I also like how the other characters were written. They were not the perfect, but their flaws make them human and real. (I don’t know how many times I’ve typed the word “real”, and I apologize.) Reading the book, you’d feel the author’s emotions and experience his journey with mental illness. You might not totally understand it by the end of the book, but at least you’ll have some inkling, a small glimpse into what other people are feeling every day.

What I Didn’t Like:

If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it was the ambiguous ending. Not sure if this is a stand-alone novel, or part of a bigger series. It’s a good read either way. I would love to know more what happened to Mona, EM and especially Gabriel.

Aside from that, I totally enjoyed this book. If there is a sequel, I’d love to read it, too.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. I recommend this book to those living with mental illness, those whose loved ones suffered from depression or anxiety, those who don’t understand why they can’t control their thoughts or emotions, and those who just want to know what it is like to be different.

The author also provided some useful hotlines and websites at the end of the book, if you are suffering from depression or have suicidal thoughts. Mental health problems are real, and awareness is one step nearer to the cure. Maybe by reading this book, people will understand it better, and be able to help those who are in need.

Details:

  • Title: The Memory of Light (Paperback)
  • Author: Francisco X. Stork
  • Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books – 2017
  • Pages: 352
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-47433-7

Get your own copy by following this link!

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Before Ever After

Prologue:

Atocha Station Madrid, Spain – Three Years Ago

Jasmine.

It was not Max Gallus’s top choice for his last thought, but it would have to do. He wondered if there was time to say it out loud.

He had difficulty telling which came first: his phone shattering against his cheeks, his skin tearing from his ribs, or the flames taking dibs on what was left. He was certain though that the Silence came last. It always did.

A love story that began with a death, Before Ever After is unlike any other Young Adult books I’ve ever read.

This book is special to me in many ways. For one, its author, Samantha Sotto, is a fellow Filipino. And I was also lucky enough to meet her, and have my copy signed during the MIBF a few years back.

before ever after

Honestly, I still can’t understand the dedication. LOL! But I really love this book, so I don’t mind not knowing what it says.

Will list the details and where you can buy your copy below!

Short Summary:

Shelly quit her job as an advertising copywriter. She decided to postpone the reality of her predicament by spontaneously joining a Slight Detour group. It was touring company owned and managed by Max Gallus. Together with other campers, they traveled and learned a different history of Europe via Max’s stories.

Soon after, Max and Shelley got married and lived a normal, and happy life. Until tragedy struck and Max died in a train explosion in Madrid.

Shelley was starting to live half a life without Max by her side when another surprise knocked on her door. Enter Paolo Rossi, an Italian stranger who looked similar to Max. He claimed to be Max’s grandson – which Shelley found ridiculously impossible.

But the photos he showed were solid proof. And also a website, showing a familiar man wearing a custom-made scrabble tile necklace, and Shelley could no longer deny it. Max was alive and living on an island somewhere in the Philippines.

Shelley and Paolo hopped on a plane to find the man they both thought they’ve lost. Along the way, they tried to find the truth of Max’s identity through the stories he told Shelley all those years ago. Is it really him? How did he survive death many times? And most important of all, why did he leave them behind?

What I Like:

I love the story and overall tone of the book. I didn’t feel like I was reading. Instead, it’s like someone is telling me their story. It was as if I was talking to Shelley and Max.

I liked that the main plot is different from any books I’ve read. Its originality made it exciting to read. It has mystery, romance, and history. I loved that the historical side of the stories has a basis on truth. The wars, the revolution, the eruption of Roman volcanoes. They all happened, and Ms. Sotto was able to weave history into an intriguing novel.

I liked the ending. It was ambiguous, but it gives the reader hope for an ending they wanted. Although a few times I felt like Shelley’s decision was stupid, I could understand her logic. When you meet the person you want to spend your life with, wouldn’t you do everything to ensure your “forever”?

I love Max’s character, most of all. He was carefree and friendly. He loved deeply. Every decision he had ever made in his lifetimes were all to protect his loved ones. He was a protector, but he has weaknesses as well. He was a complex character, and I love every layer of his story.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like that it was less than 300 pages long. I wanted more. Hahahaha!

Seriously, though, I really wanted to know more about Max’s and Shelley’s story. And I am hoping that Ms. Sotto will write a sequel to satisfy my curiosity about their “happily ever after.”

Would I Recommend?

Definitely! I recommend this book to YA book readers. It is a romance book with just enough mystery and thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a relatable love story that will make you laugh and cry at the right moments.

And if you have a slight obsession with chickens (the clucking kind), this book is for you. You’d love Max’s stories and adventures with his loveable hens. 😀

Star Rating: 5/5

  • Title: Before Ever After (Paperback – First Edition)
  • Author: Samantha Sotto
  • Published by: Crown Publishers New York – 2011
  • Pages: 295
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-95517-3

Get your own copy by following this link!

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Playlist for the Dead

Here’s what Sam knows: there was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. All he left Sam was a playlist – and a note, saying that he took his own life.

But what Sam doesn’t know is: why?

A riveting intro, don’t you think so? I did. It’s what attracted me in the first place. I bought this book during the Manila International Book Fair 2017, and I was a curious cat when I read that summary.

Playlist for the Dead is Michelle Falkoff’s first novel. The copy I have is a hardbound first edition, published by HarperTeen. I’ll list down the details at the end of this review.

Short Summary:

Sam and Hayden were best friends since childhood. Hayden was from a prominent family with two strict parents. Sam, on the other hand, lived on the poorer side of their community with a working mom, and an absentee dad.

Hayden was dyslexic and was constantly bullied by his brother, Ryan, and his two friends. Sam and Hayden bonded over their love for music, comics, and computer game. For a while, their world revolved around the two of them and their interests.

Until the day they attended a high school party. Sam felt that Hayden was drifting away from him, and their night ended with a verbal fight. The next morning, Sam found Hayden dead – overdosed on pills and booze.

Hayden left Sam a thumb drive with a collection of songs and a cryptic note: for Sam – listen and you’ll understand.

It was where Sam started to search for the reason behind Hayden’s suicide. Along the way, he met new friends and even fell in love. However, not everything was as simple as it looked. When bad things started to happen to the people that made Hayden’s life hell, Sam’s sleepless brain even began to doubt his self.

So, that’s as much as I could say without revealing the whole plotline. 😛

What I Like:

I like the book. It was interesting and relatable at some points. I like that Sam is not a total black-or-white character. He was a teenager, with angst, fear, and doubt. He was also very caring to his single mother, and his bullied friend. He was loyal, but not blindingly so.

When he was confused about making new friends after Hayden’s death, I could totally understand his perspective. When we lose an important person in our life, being happy could sometimes feel like a betrayal of their memory.

I liked Astrid’s character as well. Although not as much in the end. She opened Sam’s eyes and heart to new things. He was able to heal with Astrid’s help. There were a few parts where I felt that Astrid was just pushing it, but it did help to move Sam’s character forward.

The ending was satisfactory, but not what I was expecting. It’s a realistic ending, though. Real life doesn’t always have a happy ending, and it’s nice to see fictional life to reflect the same. It felt like there is a possibility for more – maybe a sequel?

What I Didn’t Like:

There were some plotholes in the story. For instance, Archmage_Ged and his cryptic messages to Sam. Maybe I need to reread it to understand this character’s purpose in the novel.

Astrid’s story is also a little confusing. I don’t like the way she played with Sam’s mind and using her friends for her own vendetta. I felt her reasons were too shallow to justify the things she did.

Would I Recommend?

Yes, I think I’ll recommend this book. The songs included in the novel could be a good musical companion while reading.

Teenagers who feel like books are too commercialized would definitely relate to Sam’s or Hayden’s characters. I am an adult, and I couldn’t put this book down. I finished the whole thing in 2 days!

Star Rating: 4/5

Book Details:

  • Title: Playlist for the Dead (Hardbound – First Edition)
  • Author: Michelle Falkoff
  • Published by: HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers) – 2015
  • Pages: 279
  • Features: songs as chapter titles
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-231050-7