Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

[WARNING: Definitely NOT a spoiler-free review]

And I sat here, blinking through my glasses, thinking to myself: "You must not screw this up." This book was so precious that I doubt if my words would ever be enough to express how great it was and how closely I hold it dear to my heart. This book deserves a special place in this blog, and before I let my feelings settle and wait for what feels like the perfect time to write a review, I opened my notes and started banging my fingers to the keyboards. Well, banging may be a bit overboard. But, yeah, on I typed - loudly, and a bit forcefully. The surge of emotions seeping through the ends of my fingers, translating them to words… sentences… paragraphs - to this: my thoughts. (Sorry The Beginning of Everything and sorry Red Queen, you two shall wait.)

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
(via Goodreads)

Honestly speaking, after I flipped through the last page, I was a mess. I just want to embrace my knees, lie down, and sleep. I didn't cry, but there's this hollow, constricting feeling in my chest that may or may not suggest the beginning stages of crying. My mind's abuzz, and I just want to hug someone tight and sigh endlessly until the hollowness was gone. But I was at the office, in full-on business attire, at 9:00 in the morning, trying to put myself together because, obviously, this is never a perfect place to fall apart. I even got as far as the Author's Note and the lengthy Acknowledgements just for everything to settle. But it didn't.

I spent the nights reading it thinking about Dead Poet's Society, Catcher in the Rye, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Virginia Woolf, famous (and even the not-so-famous) last words, that book about suicide I've read years ago (Ang Paboritong Libro ni Hudas), Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Norwegian Wood and all those little things - swirling. The things I like and the things that I don't like thinking about - all came surging to the surface, there's no holding them down.

And as with Hold Still, Norwegian Wood, and all the special books (God knows how many) I've read that depicted mental illness so accurate it actually hurt, this was so spot on - not glossed over, but just a damn straight sketch of what it's like. I've explored this subject so hard, so deep in the past few years - reading many resource materials, spending hours browsing Wikipedia pages over and over that, at this time, its seed has already taken root in the innermost corners of my mind.

It was great - in an I-can't-put-it-down kind of way. It was, at times, gripping. And, at times, romantic. But most of the time, the book was downright depressing it was almost too difficult to read.

So many things happened in the past: most of it I don't exactly talk about… and some, so much time has passed, I finally got my head around it so it finally felt part of a bigger picture I've yet to see. It's not really news, since this blog, has been and still is, a witness to all of my undulating thoughts throughout the years (this and my diaries). I still suffer from recurring bouts of anxiety, and some days, it's just gray - but I always get back on my feet: too soon, too quickly. For me, it's just part of a cycle. It turns and it turns, and God knows when it would stop and where. I don't run trying to escape it, I just let it settle. And then, just like that, it would fade - slowly, but at least it dies.

But unfortunately, for some, that is not the case. The Settling suffocates and cripples them, and the Fading, a far-off dream threatening not to be realized. The bright, clear days were barely there.

And for some reason, there's a side of it I understand - the suicide, I mean. It's sad: people trying to off themselves just because they feel they have no choice and that no matter how much they run to escape it, they won't ever be fast enough.

I've read reviews that the book was excellent but it tends to put an emphasis to the two main characters too much, almost forgetting to flesh out the secondary characters. But for me, that's what we are at that stage: self-absorbed in our own pain, but not in an intentional, imposing way. We tend to amplify what we are experiencing ourselves, and, in the process, painting other's suffering dimmer than ours. But that doesn't mean the latter is truth.

It was sad, and, at times, it was funny. It was bittersweet in the truest sense of the word -- but it was lovely in every way. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey will forever live in my heart. You, Theodore Finch, is one awesome YA character that I'll find a hard time to forget. #sobsmessily

To that friend who recommended it to me too many times until I got around to read it, THANK YOU from the bottom of this beating Heart.

My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes [to follow]

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


It's been, like, almost 3 months since the last time I ever attempted to update this place. I've been trying, believe me - but the weight of obligations and priorities just kept dragging me down I have to do something about all of them. I've been too busy for the past few months and somehow, I know that I am starting to lose something in me.

There came a time when I can't even write for the life me -- my mind too crowded and too fuzzy to even focus on something. And I was afraid - that it left me just when I needed it. It was a pretty damning thing to know: having something so necessary taken away just like that.

BUT I realized that it would totally leave me only if I allow it. That I will always catch it, outrun it, only if I really want to. So I am starting again. Again and again, until all ink is spilled and all inspiration exhausted. I'll keep at it.

I am a writer. I am flat out declaring it because I know no other word(s) to call it. I am someone who take solace in the written art, someone who bleeds ink and rebels in it. 

And when someone says, "You're good with words." - always, always I beg to disagree: what does that even mean? To be "good" with words? I am not "good" at it - but rather, I find comfort in it. I like using them, I feel the NEED to use them. It's a connection that goes bone-deep. 

I love words, and for years and years, I don't really know if it ever loved me back. But I needed them like I air and I am in no damn business to change that anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Life Lately #02: A bookwormism update after such a long, long time.

I'm in this sort of a project right now and the very objective: to vanquish the crippling Feeling and not go to THAT dark place again -- because, in the first place, I'm not really sure if I can even afford to. So yeah, be it a coincidence or not, but I'm in this rampage of reading YA books with somewhat depressing storylines. So far, I've read the following:

And, to wrap up this month and this project as well, I'm targeting to finish these two books before October comes.

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan; Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

As THE Great Chuck Bass put it:
You know what’s even more effective? Excess. Eat anything too much and you won’t want it again. 
And I am actually believing that right here, right now.

I've been reading too fast, absorbing too much lately - I almost wonder if anything's wrong, or if I'm picking up and absorbing things the way these books are supposed to be consumed. But they're affecting me, even if its just for a moment. The books I've read, so far, were worthwhile - and can never be easily forgotten.

I've read depressing stories so much in the past few days that, more often than not, left me a little broken inside. There's just too much going on. I've been feeling uncharacteristically upbeat and bright for the longest period from what I can remember. This is the defense mechanism my weird brain came up with, I guess. "There's too much negative going on," maybe my brain thought, "we need to balance it out, or else we need to raise the red." I'm in this weird state of being happily positive, while reading negative stories and instilling depressing things in my mind. The complicated situation I am putting myself in almost makes me laugh.

I am expecting that, at the end of this, this weird feeling of wanting sad things, tragic endings and all things depressing would just go away - at least for a while. And if it did (I sure hope so), everything would just be roses and butterflies. I think I deserve that even just for a short period of time. As Theodore Finch put it and made it clear, I also do want a perfect day. And I hope it comes - it would really help.

I am planning to have a kind of Murakami reading fest this coming October, and I can't afford to have these dark, depressing thoughts while subjecting myself to the surreal. It would just be too much. The realizations won't be pretty, I can only imagine the horror.

And short or weird as this post may be, I am cutting this crap now because my battery's on critical level already and I'm too lazy to get my charger and it's past 1 in the morning, and I need to be at the office no later than 8:30 AM. So until next time, bye. ;)
I wrote all this while listening to Ryan Adam's take on TSwift's Out of the Woods, ON LOOP. What say you? ;3

Thursday, September 10, 2015

See you at the 36th Manila International Book Fair!

It's that time of the year again!  Block your schedules on the 16th to 20th of September 2015 for it is the 36th MANILA INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIR

It may be a bit surprising, but this is honestly the first time that I will be able to attend the MIBF. I've been missing so much, right. I might've been living under a rock for so long during the past few years that the fair only caught my attention last 2012. 

2012 - I can't come due to school responsibilities.
2013 - The schedule of the fair overlapped with my board exam dates.
2014 - I was at Davao for client field work.

Freakin' reasons~ >.<
To think that it's been going on for so long. Lol.

So long story short, this is my first time -- and I can't vouch for others, but most of the time for me, the first is always worthwhile.

So yeah, I've been hunting down tickets on the internet for the last few days and luckily I found some. For one, Fullybooked is offering free tickets for the event. Just drop by any of their branches around Metro Manila and you're set.

Anyway, I was really worried for the first part of week because I can't really find the time to drop by Fullybooked because I was stuck doing client work at Libis. Taking into account all the traffic congestion around that area during the rush hour, it was hard. That's why I was really thrilled when we finally changed our venue and continued our work in our office at Makati. I went to Greenbelt the first chance I got. And I got me some tix! :D *happy kid*

A photo posted by Riza Ponciano (@rzzzp) on

Adarna Publishing is also giving away printable (carnival-inspired) tickets that can also entitle you to one entry for their t-shirt raffle. I'm sure there're a lot of other companies and publishing houses that are giving away freebies, so it would be better if you make a quick search before heading out to the event - for maximum fun! :)

CELEBRATE OUR COLLECTIVE LOVE FOR READING! Be sure to drop by and spread the love. :) 

For more info on the 36th Manila International Book Fair, please visit HERE.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Celebrate with us: It's International Literacy Day!

For me, being able to read is one of the nicest things in life. I've learned to love it at such a young age and I never stopped. It has been such a huge part of myself.

It builds one's character.
It exercises the mind, the imagination.
It brings us to worlds beyond our wildest dreams.
It can even help reduce stress (did you know that reading for even just 6 minutes can reduce stress by 68%?).

I can go on and on about the amazing-ness that is 'reading' but it is evident: IT IS DEFINITELY A PRIVILEGE. Sadly, this privilege is not something that everyone is able to enjoy.

According to UNESCO's recent statistics, "775 million adults (15 years and older) still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (497 million) are women. Among youth, 122 million are illiterate of which 74 million are female."  And it is sad.

That's why to raise awareness of this important issue, UNESCO proclaimed September 8  as International Literacy Day -- which is TODAY! And to celebrate it, Grammarly has gathered the latest literacy statistics from around the world into an infographic.

Literacy Day
Click HERE to view Grammarly's article on the matter.

To close this, I leave you with this precious quote from one of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin:
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one."
- Jojen Reed (A Dance with Dragons, GRRM)


This post was written in partnership with Grammarly. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Guest Post: Devising the Andalucían Nights Trilogy by Hannah Fielding

Masquerade (Andalucian Nights, #2)
When I first started to write Indiscretion, I had no idea that this first book in the trilogy would be the beginning of a long romance with Spain. But when I visited that beautiful, flamboyant country and met its passionate, life-loving people – and immersed myself in the literature and culture, the architecture and history – I soon realised that I had a deep affinity with the Spaniards.

In my early draft of Indiscretion, the book was set in the seventies, but by the time I’d reached the middle of the book, I realised that it would be difficult for me to become involved with another country for my next novel – I had learnt so much about Spain that I was deeply in love with the country and with everything Spanish. That is when the seed of the next book, Masquerade, began to germinate in my mind. And so I moved Indiscretion back in time, to make room for not one, but two sequels following the next generations.

With Indiscretion set in the 1950s, the story takes place during General Franco’s regime. That means for Indiscretion’s heroine, Alexandra, who arrives in Andalucía at the beginning of that decade, Spanish society seems to be frozen in the Dark Ages. In many ways, this first book of the trilogy has the feel of historical fiction, because the world which Alexandra enters is not the modern-looking one she is used to in England.

Masquerade, the second book which has just published, is set in the second half of the seventies. Franco is dead. Now that the tyrant is gone, the nation is reborn; Spain has opened its borders to outsiders and is preparing to enter the European Union. Consequently Luz, Alexandra’s daughter and the heroine of Masquerade, has a much more emancipated attitude to life, as do her parents and the book’s hero.

In Legacy, the final book which will publish in spring 2016, the story takes place in the present day and Spain has changed out of all recognition. It is a much more liberal country now, where old prejudices and narrow-minded concepts are almost a thing of the past. However, the problems the hero and heroine have to face, the hurdles they must overcome, are of a more complex nature and are almost more challenging.

My Andalucían Nights Trilogy, then, is a journey through Spain’s different historical periods, focusing on how my heroes and heroines confront the issues facing their respective generations. But across all the stories there is one constant: passion, passion, passion! What else could you expect from books set in the country of the flamenco dancer and the matador?

Author Bio

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.

To date, Hannah has published four novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; the award-winning Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and Indiscretion and Masquerade (from the Andalusian Nights Trilogy), her fieriest novels yet. She is currently working on her forthcoming book, Legacy, the final title in the trilogy, which is due to be published in spring 2016.

Social links

Purchase links

Monday, August 31, 2015

My First Philippine Literary Fest Experience! #PLF2015

It's the Philippines Literary Festival 2015! I attended Day 2 of the PLF and it was such an experience.

Unexpected heavy rains + unnecessary working at 3:00 am led to me to wake up later than I expected last Saturday. So yeah, I missed half of the session I scheduled myself to attend, but I still managed to squeeze it in.

I got my festival pass and started fumbling through the schedule. There was a decent number of books on display. I was initially a bit underwhelmed by the displays as I expected a festive mood, it being a festival and all. But anyway, I quickly realized that the festival's true stars were really the different scheduled sessions throughout the day. 

Books by featured authors Meg Wolitzer and Mathew Quick were in the spotlight.

Armed with the trusty ol' Latte, off I go.

Me and my friend got the chance to squeeze into the Namayan room for the last 30 minutes of the Looking for the Filipino Public Intellectual sesh by The Manila Review. It was a very refreshing discussion on identifying public intellectuals, how to be one, and their importance. How it was the public intellectuals' duty to make their opinions public - there's a reason there's the word "public" to "public intellectual". There was a bit in there where they discussed the importance of the reviewing culture to the Philippines Literature industry - that the Philippines don't really have an active book reviewing culture, and that most of the time, Filipino book reviewers choose to review, talk about books of foreign authors, sometimes totally ignoring the local publishing scene.

To be honest, I was kinda guilty of doing just that. I realized the sheer meaning and contribution that book reviewing does to promote and support our country's local writing community. I think I might try venturing to reviewing local books in the near future -- I just need to find the right book. :)

I was examining the schedule days before the actual event dates and I initially chose to include the Translation: A Creative Act session by Anvil Publishing to my lineup. I was lurking around the book shelves, in front of the Cafe Macaron stand when a lady all dressed in black (black hoody + black pants) with black paint all over her face holding a can of Lysol approached me and invited me to join their session. I said yes, maybe mostly because I was a bit freaked out by her appearance. It was hilarious how I initially thought it was a play and expected that all the members of the panel would be in full costume -- but, they were not. It turned out that the lady was Bebang Siy, author of It's A Mens World, cosplaying as Margo Roth Spiegelman from John Green's Papertowns (which she translated to Tagalog together with her husband, Ronald Verzo). She was really hilarious throughout the session.

They talked about the process of translating a book to Tagalog -- which, now that I think about it, is a really hard job considering all the things that you have to take into account. You have to reread the book over and over, owning the story as if it were your own, mapping the thinking patterns of the characters -- before you can make a decent translation of it. It's not the average word-by-word translation that most of us think it was. It is a long, complex process.They also introduced translating as a viable new career option, which, from the looks of it, was pretty interesting.

Coloring wall from the Hue Can Do It! team.

The last session, Venus Retrograde: A Poetry Reading Session by the Romancing Venus, was definitely the highlight of my day. I remember sitting in that chair, freezing from that all too cold temperature from the airconditioner of Raffles Makati's Ballroom 1. I remember being too excited because this is my first time listening to poetry being performed live -- I've always wanted to go since forever. And I remember thinking that I am in for something special and that I know I would enjoy it even before listening to the actual thing. It was really weird.

Saying that the things I saw right there and then were some of the most heartfelt things I've heard and witnessed in my life was, I guess, an understatement. I can't really explain it, but I was really overwhelmed during the whole thing. It was truly magical. And it was amazing how these ladies can completely put themselves out there in the open -- exposing the rawest part of themselves to people who cared and dared to listen. I've recorded almost everything from that session because I know that these are things that I would want to look back to over and over again in the coming days. And I'm still trying to figure out how to upload everything, and by that time, I guess I'll make a separate post about it.

Random selfie, y'guys! :*

I literally mooned over the girl's room waiting for Roence Santos to come out just to take a picture with her. It was definitely weird but I just can't let the chance pass by since I was really touched, inspired and enlightened by everything that she performed and said in that session. I hope I can encounter her again in the future. *hopeful*

Obligatory shot.

The Philippines Literary Festival 2015.

Crappy OOTD shot, complete with a cup of coffee on hand. :)

I definitely enjoyed the event despite just going to one out of the three days in the scheduled programme. Definitely something worth remembering and gushing about. I hope I could still join next year. 

~ R.


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