The Fact of a Body: Book Review

 

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The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

My Rating: 5 stars

Things break us, but they make us too.

The Fact of a Body had me completely undone. I related to this book more than I’ll ever dare admit. It is just so beautiful that you can feel the flurry of emotions just enveloping you wherever you are, whether you’ve gone through such a horrible thing or not. I think this book is for everyone. It gives light to what happened, what happens, and what keeps on happening.

Children are so precious and still so fragile. They’re still freely sculpted by their environment. This book talks about cause and effect. Will a child molested become a pedophile and do the exact same thing? Is it all a process that keeps repeating itself? I believe that everyone has a capability to break out of their molds and eventually children grow up and do exactly that. The process isn’t easy, but it does come naturally.

The past greatly affects us in every way. Be it our actions, our words; whoever we become is all because of what happened. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the epitome of strength, bravery and love. The levels of empathy people can be capable of is simply amazing. The final chapters was simply beautiful. Love wins after all, it’s why it hurts.

I’ll admit I was more interested in the memoir part than the murder case, although you just feel how it’s related. I honestly did not expect the flood of emotions. I went into this blind. I didn’t read the synopsis or any other reviews. Something just called to me when I saw this book. The voice was so loud, it resonated in every word and filled me completely. I had to stop every now and then to catch my breath. I’m at awe at how Alexandria made something so repulsive and horrible into something so beautiful.

The Fact of a Body perfectly depicts the beauty of our flaws. Five stars, and that’s not me being biased. I have never been held by someone’s words so much that I won’t ever get out of it. Alexandria’s words will stay and linger. If she can confront her demons head on, so can we all.

Travelling to The End

orphantraincover-001Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

My Rating: 5 stars

When pain becomes unbearable, we sometimes think that the answer is to stop feeling any attachment towards anyone else that could potentially hurt us. This book reminds us that it is simply how life gives us lessons. We live, we come across people that come and go, we hurt with goodbyes, we experience and then we learn.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I ended up gaining so much. Looking around me now, I see what I’ve taken for granted. I see now that somehow, even amidst adversities, it could be so much more worse. There is always a good side, even when you can’t find one anymore, because there always comes a point where we choose not to believe and hope because we know it will hurt and cause more difficulties, and yet life forces us to keep going on and somehow we thrive even with nothing.

Both Vivian and Molly felt like outcasts; they’ve both developed ways to cope and survive. For a long time, the past has stayed up in the attics of our homes, but it’s never too late to go up there and relive the past; feel the fresh cuts of memories and be surrounded by ghosts of people who have touched our lives. This is what this book is about: the games of fate and destiny.

I believe that children who have seen and felt the cruelty of the world and the people, are forever changed to somewhere being more than mature, but experienced. These children now know better than to imagine fantasies and interlace them into reality; they expect the worst and brace themselves. There is no longer foolish expectations that things will come easy, instead they go about expecting and facing obstacles in their paths.

We never know what comes next; Life is full of the unknown. But expect that it will be difficult, it will be an adventure, and it will be painful. There is always a journey to an end that is inevitable. It now all depends on how we travel.

Getting in Touch With Our Innerselves

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Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 5 stars

Growing up, I imagined myself being older and the freedom that came with age. I thought adults were free. I was so terribly wrong. In fact they’re so imprisoned by all their regrets, the layers and layers of deceit and expectations that define and restrict who they want to be.

It’s indeed difficult to find real people these days. Everywhere you look, every one looks a like —the resemblance is extremely striking; clothes, mannerisms, speech, everything is copied. There’s no originality.

It’s like we forgot what we were all once like. We omitted the embarrassing parts, the dirty pasts and called them shameful. We reinvented ourselves; escaped the past and turned our backs forever. Nothing is again the same. We’re simply a whole person after we’ve fought, won, lost our triumphs.

This book really draws out the real me. I connected with every character, even when my current life situations are far from theirs. Most of all, I remembered —no, I understood that things won’t always be the same. Common knowledge, I know. But there comes a point where we forget that things can change; that anything is possible. For a time we feel trapped and hopeless. We get consumed by our past and our presents; our fears let us forget and miss possibilities and chances, all because we fear so much in this world: failure, disappointment, pain, suffering. But this book reminds us that we’ve got a power to change our fates.

Lucy got out but she has never forgotten. And in this way has she really gotten freedom? The book points out that adversity isn’t an excuse to turn out bad. In fact the book portrays sufferings as inspiration. All form of self-doubt, self-hate, is all a chance to become a better version of ourselves. This book is life itself —what it means to be part of this world; Perspective. I think this book gave so much perspective, both literally and figuratively. I lost count of how many people told their story and how they saw it, how they got affected by it, and yet everything was so seamlessly connected. There was no point in the entire book where I questioned or doubted that this is real life, because this is what happens.

I’m likely never getting over this book, nor will I ever forget it. Because after turning the last page, I find myself just staring in space and thinking about all of it. Not just about me, but in general. Most books would make me think and question my life, this one made me understand life.  I’m sitting here thinking about how everything happens so fast and yet so subtle; every change of season is barely noticeable. Unless snow starts to fall and then flowers begin to bloom, and only then do we realize. But even then, it can still so easily be missed.

I’m here thinking about how amazing life is, considering how painful, troublesome and dramatic it all is. Because it’s true, life is such a drama but this book will remind us that it could be worse. But it doesn’t make you feel guilty, the way we’d feel once we realize  other people are starving and don’t have a proper roof above their heads; it only makes you aware that life is what you make it —and this, we should take to heart and never forget.

I also realize I should likely try to summarize this book but seriously no form of summarization will ever prepare you for the journey this book will take you. And trust me, it will take you so far. The ending was wonderful. It made me realize that what we want from this world is so far from what we really need: Connection. Being alone is so sad, especially amidst adversities. Keeping all those things bottled up is so destructive. But at the same time you ask yourself if it’s reasonable to complain about? This book really made me feel less alone. It was like meeting an old friend who knew me from the day I was born, to the days I found hard to live, and to the days I found strength to keep going. There are times hope is nowhere to be found, and Lucy Barton really could’ve just ended up repeating the cycle but instead she got out and lived the life she wanted. She is an inspiration, a symbol of hope, and the proof that things will be okay even when you think things are at its worst, it actually isn’t and things will get better.

There is so much this book has to offer, just like life has so much to offer aside from all the flowing of tears and pricking of hearts. Life can be so much more. Elizabeth Strout knows and understands life and everything that comes attached to it and she’s here sharing it with us. I’m so lucky to have received an Advanced Reader’s Copy for this book. Thank you, Random House. I am so honored and proud to know of an author who walks outside the grid and still survives.

Love Never Dies

 My Life as A Bench by Jaq Hazell

My Rating: 3 stars

In love, there are always walls; steps to climb and obstacles to overcome. I’ve read books about lovers being separated by social status, age, sex, race, time, and distance. But books like this reminds us that in the end, love wins. 

This book is about Ren and Gabe; how we find love so unexpectedly and lose it just as easily, and yet it’s still there. At the age of seventeen, with her entire life ahead of her, Ren dies unexpectedly and finds herself as a bench. Yet even as a bench, Ren still feels her love for Gabe and struggles to relive every moment from the day they met, the love they shared, to the fate that drove them apart. 

The bench thing is an odd concept really, but I suppose nothing is completely gone as long as someone cares enough to remember. However I’m not one to believe in spiritual possessions and the like. I do believe that people seek peace whether in this world or beyond so it does somehow make sense. Perhaps I just don’t think about what happens afterwards. 

The book further tackles subjects on family, friends, and overall life as a teenager. There was a point in the book that talked about teenagers and their self-absorption. Honestly, I don’t think it’s just teenagers. I think everyone is self-absorbed in a way. It’s just that teenagers are more rebellious and find the need to fight against things that they don’t agree with. 

I’m not a very romantic person either and honestly romance isn’t even my genre. But it was easy to fly through the chapters of this book and involuntarily cross my fingers that love proves to defy gravity, break logic, and even crossover the spiritual world. I did not find the need to roll my eyes, so for those who are tired of clichés this could be your next read.

Overall, 3 stars. I love the cover, the title just screams supernatural. I won’t lie however, it was a tad bit predictable. Maybe that’s just me finding the cliché in every romantic story whether in real life or in fiction. And yet it didn’t become boring; the writing style made it easy to keep going and to finish the book. The characters felt a bit bland however, even though the concept is fresh; the book really needs more building up. There was no climax, although the ending was satisfying thank goodness. I understand it must’ve been a challenge to write in a perspective of a bench so kudos to the author for making it work and seem so natural.

I was lucky to receive an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I recommend this book to hopeless romantics, to people who have felt love and grief, and to the rest of us who have forgotten what it felt like and what it means to live, to love, and to die.

“Tall Trees Catch Much Wind”

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

My Rating: 5 stars

Thank you Scribner for granting me an Advanced Readers Edition of this book in exchange for an honest review, I am very honored.

It’s always so difficult to read books by Lisa See. It provokes not only my thoughts but my emotions too. Whether she takes us back to China in the 19th century (See: Snow Flower and The Secret Fan –loved that one and likely the first Historical Fiction I read and the reason I fell in love with this genre), or the present years, Lisa See pulls us inside this wormhole and takes us into an adventure. I’ve never felt more in reality than when I read her books.

I always take my time with her;  I make sure to digest everything properly, taking the time to stop every now and then whenever certain passages or chapters have really stirred me up. I take time to reflect and think about how my life is somewhat like her characters in every book I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Honestly that’s why it’s so difficult to read her books, I’m too emotionally attached because she perfectly depicts Asian culture, tradition and life overall.

The book was phenomenal as always. Very well-researched, but you wouldn’t even notice it. It wasn’t overly exaggerated and in a sense, you just know that the author is speaking from the heart and not the mind. She doesn’t only know, she understands; and I love her for it. I loved learning about tea and pu’er. This book really got me researching what tea cakes look like and I really really want to taste pu’er, (trust that I will be looking for it EVERYWHERE). Also, I’ll guiltily admit that I’ve drank more tea than I usually do ever since I started reading this book. Cheers to tea and its million health benefits!

What I love about this book is that it doesn’t hate on tradition. Sure, it portrays the ignorance and mistaken beliefs tied with tradition, but even then, the author manages to still preserve the love for tradition even when there is a more logical reasoning beside it. Asian culture is very complex, it has so many expectations and stereotypes that often dictate and obligate people to comply with it. We struggle with change and often in Asian societies today, we are torn between advancing and adapting to the modern world without the expense of losing our traditions or insisting on living with old habits and superstitions. We struggle for balance between the two worlds, because we were taught never to forget the values that were handed from generation to generation; at the same time we are aware that changes are as essential to life as breathing.

I will guiltily admit that like any other Asian, I went to cram schools, had tutors, and I also play an instrument. I honestly don’t know why this is so, and the book just made me stop and question my entire being. Why, why, why!? Why are Asians so obsessed with school and being an overachiever? ASIAN STEREOTYPE. Welcome to our world full of pressure and expectation that we simply don’t know who we are without any of it. Of course it could be just me but the characters in this book would surely agree.

It’s sad, really; on so many levels. Growing up in this environment, whether you’re an Asian living in the West or living right in homeland, it’s as difficult as it will ever be. It’s suffocating just like smog that rests right in our lungs. And no matter how hard we try to expel it, we will always seek our parents’ approval. Even as grown-ups, the expectations from our family won’t cease. It’s an endless cycle. I was particularly affected by the exchange between the Chinese adoptees. I was literally cringing, especially the part where Haley’s adopted mom said, “That could be you one day” while they were listening to Sarah Chang who I later know of as a violin prodigy. I understand why Haley gave up the violin after that.

Read this book if you want to understand what we endure, how we do it, and more importantly why. In any circumstance, we could just say no and take control of our lives. We could be ourselves. But to be accepted is to be loved; we were raised to always choose family over anything else. There’s even superstition that if you made your mother cry, you wouldn’t grow to be successful and would one day crawl back into their arms and you can only hope they take you back.

I must admit I cried, really. It’s harsh, it’s painful and it makes you wonder if you’re loved or just this object of love. Most of the time, I just feel like this figurine being polished every now and then for others to see and adore. Haley and the rest will agree. But you know, it’s not all bad. I mean yeah, we miss out on all the fun and excitement but we walk steady paths. We don’t stray too far from discipline and values that will ultimately lead to our success. Happiness, well that will come later. This is what it means to be Asian. And this is why Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the U.S.

“Tall trees catch much wind.”


And yet we stand rigid and strong.

The ending, I couldn’t have wished for anything better. It definitely sealed the deal. Another Asian belief is that there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything follows its own path and you’ll find yourself further, and then nearer to where it all began.

Tesseract

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Rating: 4 stars

First of, thank you PenguinRandomHouse UK Children’s for giving me an advanced reader’s copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was honestly a bit anxious for the writer because it was written in a first person perspective and that doesn’t always work out; it’s very limiting in a way. However Jack Cheng did an awfully good job at changing voices and honestly the overall idea of it being recordings is just brilliant! Although I must admit, I had to skip a few passages that felt a bit too irrelevant but well you know it being an eleven-year-old’s point of view, there’s bound to be some blabbering.

Alex is very sweet and innocent as you’d expect eleven-year-olds to be. But more than that, the author manages to bring in the whole universe –which in turn, makes See You in the Cosmos a very fitting title.

This book just makes you want to smile and hope that things will be okay. It just paints nostalgia as bright as the stars on a clear night. I felt eleven again, back when everything was all just questions no one was willing to answer and so it was always an adventure to find the answers on your own. For me this is what childhood is. The reality is that things aren’t what it seems to be and it’s very important to never lose our inner child who sees the world in 4D.

One good thing to note is that Alex is half-Filipino. Definitely raised an eyebrow at his aye yai yai expression…I mean I don’t think we Filipinos do that??? Hahaha but in any case, I got a bit curious as to why the author chose to make Alex half-Filipino as opposed to being Mexican.

I give this book four stars because it was a good read. I love the cover, the characters, the life lessons; however, I felt that it was too contrived in terms of writing style. But to be fair, it’s hard to write in a child’s perspective. Children have a very precious way of seeing the world, and sometimes we lose that as time passes by.

I would recommend this to children ages 12 and beyond; for those looking for a stress-free fun read, and definitely for those who love astronomy jokes 😉

Oh and I’ll leave you with some quotes from the book that I really liked and are highlight-worthy:

”Most people give up on what they want. They’ll come across the first little obstacle and they’ll give up, and then they’ll try to tear down the people they see doing what they felt like they couldn’t.”

“Sometimes it involves that, but it’s much more than that too. There’s a part of it that’s, like, letting go. Like a sacrifice but in a good way. You trade a part of yourself for something that’s even bigger than you, and it feels good but weird at the same time. It’s totally worth it, though.”

A Lesson on Life 

 

Rating:4 stars

Every family is plagued with some sort of epidemic. Infidelity is the worst of them all. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller  brought out the devastation attached to the word family. The heartbreaks, the ugly parts; the REAL parts lying in plain sight.

This book is about Ingrid and Gil. Student and professor. Lovers. Husband and wife. Mother and father. But in between all that they both were human. There is a point where we think love conquers all. All the rules, all the expectations, the disappointments; there’s a time where we think love completes us. In a way it does, but regrets often come when it’s too late.

The writing style was rather slow. I found myself skimming through a few paragraphs and pages knowing I wouldnt really miss much. The author makes it a point to make their readers visualize. But more than that the author made me experience.

There were points I found it too much to bear that I had to take time to let my heart breathe. It was much too painful. It felt so real because infidelity is real. It happens. Why it does, well I don’t know. I don’t understand it. But as the saying goes:

We are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us.”

*Spoiler Alert*

What made my stomach churn to the point I felt like throwing up was that Gil did his dirty work right in the house where his family slept just a few steps away. No, actually I can’t decide which is worse: the lack of guilt and even the decency to cover up his tracks, or the dedication on his book. That was the climax for me. My heart literally stopped. I was too caught with the story. I felt Ingrid’s emotions, I felt the grief, the loss, the pain.

But to be honest the book was just unfair. Here was Ingrid not wanting to start a family, not wanting to have kids. Here she was her life ahead of her, and she chooses to give that up. Because she believed that love weighed more than all that. But was it really love? Or simply just attraction that went too far.

I try to understand men and why they cheat. I feel like it’s inevitable. I already expect it coming. There’s a point in relationships, once all the surge of waves have come to an end, when all is calm, then starts the storm. We mistake love for other things, because love takes so many forms in varying levels.

I suppose this books affected me so much because…I know what it feels to be like Flora and Nan. I know what it feels to be in the center. Either you’re blind or you watch it all happen. I was both. I turned a blind eye on things I shouldn’t have knowledge on; pretended I was an innocent child, and yet you can never shield children from reality. You can only do so much for them.

The ending brought mixed emotions. Part of me wants to hate Ingrid for leaving her family with only hope to cling to. Hope is ironic. It makes you strong, it makes you weak. It’s there even when you don’t want it to be.

Overall I recommend this book for people who understand. I don’t recommend it for people who know. Nothing will be resolved after reading this book. Don’t expect to find answers. It’s merely a realization; the truth.

Reality.