Flawed

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started with Thanks for the Memories and I have not stopped since. 

Flawed, however, was a total turnaround story wise for her that I had to check if I got the author right. Don’t get me wrong, I also liked this book; but, the light feeling I usually have after reading Ahern’s books is not here in this one.

Flawed follows the life of Celestine North, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight simply for doing an act that is against the law but is the right thing to do. I don’t do spoilers but suffice to say that the absurdity of the reasoning got stuck with me that I breezed through the book in quite a short time. 

I just could not believe the consequences of Celestine’s simple act of compassion. It poses the question of “are you willing to do the right thing even if it is the hard choice?”. Some would just argue maybe it was not the right thing after all. But then again, thinking about it is different from actually doing it. I know that in every day, there are struggles in making the right call – especially if self preservation surfaces. 

I’ve learned that people aren’t cruel. Most people aren’t anyway, but people are strong on self-preservation. And if something doesn’t directly affect them, they don’t get involved.

Courage and strength – if only someone could have an endless supply of it.

I’ve learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.

One thing Celestine has going for her though is the amazing support from her family. They stuck with her even with the additional challenges of having a Flawed person at the house – dad, mom, grand dad and even her sister. I honestly do not know how one person can survive a branding without a strong support system, especially with consequences that severe.
To end, I want to highlight this quote from her math teacher:

We see being Flawed as a strength, Celestine. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you’re never the wiser.

Totally agree. 

This book, however, has a sequel; so, as expected, it ends with a cliffhanger (good thing the Kindle version I bought had ten preview chapters).

I Know This Much is True

I surprised myself with this one since this is not the kind of book I usually read. I even had doubts whether I would finish it. But 30% (I use Kindle) into the book and I decided to push through. 

What I liked about the book is how invested I could get with Dominick.  I read about his past hurts, misfortunes and struggles then journeyed with him in his road to “renovation.”  

Renovate your life, the old myths say, and the universe is yours – Dominick Birdsey

He was not dealt with the best set of circumstances and I felt for him as I read through the book.  I, at times, even had to put down the book since the anger and grief can be overwhelming. In some ways, I shared the same thoughts with Dominick as (a) he tried to go through his grandfather’s story – what was the point of learning about all this pride, self righteousness and arrogance, (b) he tried to deal with his family – schizoprenic twin brother, secret filled family and unknown father, and (c) he tried to navigate his personal life – divorce, death of first born child and career.  

But what are stories if not the mirrors we hold up to our fears?

By the end of it, I was rooting for him to find the strength and support to tie loose ends and just live on, which I was glad that he managed eventually in time. I guess there is something about inner resilience of individuals that can be very inspiring, especially for Dominick who has entertained the thoughts of suicide at one point.

Embedded throughout this book was the anger felt by Dominick and how he was able to eventually able to manage it with the help of professionals (i.e., shrink). He was able to navigate his past and reconcile with his present. This is more ably put by Dr. Patel as:

Life is not a series of isolated ponds and puddles; life is this river you see below, before you. It flows from the past through the present on its way to the future.

But my biggest takeaway is how growing up can lead to a lot of eureka moments, which are actually glaring realities but takes time to sink in. As Ray puts it, “things get clearer when you get older”. Some of my favorite quotes in this book are as follows:

Love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness – Dominick Birdsey

To be human is to be humble. What choice is there, really? Let none of us attempt God’s work. – Father Guglielmo

Would it not be futile for you to make such a command? To assume that the river would ignore its inevitable course and bend to your wishes? You are limited, my friend, in what you can and cannot control, as are we all. If you are to become healthy, you must acknowledge the indeluctability of your brother’s course. Acknowledge your limitations in directing it, Dominick. And that will free you. That will help to make you well. – Dr. Patel

Be humble and forgive. Then, peace of mind follows.

The Bookshop on the Corner

The opening lines of Jenny Colgan’s message to the readers adequately captures what this book was all about:

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, xxx

This book builds a good case for anyone to try and pick up a book… somewhere out there is a book that would peak and suit your interests – may it be a children story book, a series about cowboys and aliens, an end of the world apocalyptic novel or simply the bestsellers (either fiction or non-fiction).

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

If only Nina, the protagonist, can talk to us; finding those books would have been easy. Scattered in the story are anecdotes on how she was able to touch the lives of various characters just by finding the right books.

But the key takeaway for me of the story is how readers actually need to manage real life.

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down. Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not real life.

As much as we want it to be, books are not real life. 

I am not arguing against reading books.  I could personally attest on its value in helping me cope with whatever struggles I was facing. However, this book reminds us that there is still real life out there to manage and how complicated it will be if we mix our literary journeys with reality.

“It’s not about fricking romantic picnics and moonlit walks and storybook stuff! This is real life.

To end, I really liked this book. It was a refreshing feature of various contrasts – urban versus rural living and reality versus “storybook stuff”.  There were some parts I wish were not included but overall well told. 

Nina got very lucky with her friends, acquaintances that became friends (and lovers), and timing.  A lot of things could have gone wrong but Nina had her happy-ever-after after all. 

Now, back to real life I go.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child builds on what is familiar and presents to the readers what happens after the epilogue of the last book.  Without giving anything away, it exhibits strength in having family and friends.  There is the father-son dynamics for the Malfoys and the Potters and the unlikely friendship of their sons.  A lot of Doctor Who moments as well in this one.  However, a surprise character appears in the story, which I found hard to believe.  I may need to review the seven books again if that was plausible.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful read.  Maybe someday I can go to London and watch how it plays out on the stage… though from what I have been reading it will take considerable time since the tickets are always sold out.

Thank you JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne for another story.  Now, will wait for the Newt Scamander movie.  I have already pre-ordered the screenplay due to be delivered on November 2016.

Favorite quotes:

“DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Harry to his son Albus Severus (talking about Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape

“HARRY: They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what – those flaws almost made them greater.”

Book:  Special Rehearsal Edition Script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child via Pottermore/Amazon

Additional Tales from Oz Part 3

Finally done with the e-book (Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)!

The last three stories were all great stories, which makes the end of the book bittersweet.  I will definitely miss the land of Oz, especially the stories loaded with innocence and heart.  It reminded me why I am consistently drawn towards children’s stories.

Title:  The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz is probably one of the quirkier characters (well there are loads of them) out of Oz.  He is one of the first characters Dorothy met in the land of Oz and has been a consistent presence throughout the stories.  So it was only fitting that he gets a story dedicated to him. In this one, the readers finally get to answer: why was the Witch angry at Nick Chopper? who was the tinsmith that helped him? is he the only one of his kind in the land of Oz? All these questions were answered with the usual sense of love, fun and adventure.  Not to mention I got to explore other areas in the land of Oz and meet a new set of characters – Woot the Wanderer, Mrs. Yoop, Ku-Klip and Nimmie Amee.

My favorite quote from this book:

“We are not to blame for what cannot be helped; so let us push bravely ahead and see what may be seen” – Scarecrow

Title:  The Magic of Oz

Ozma’s birthday party causes a bit of pressure to our usual characters – Dorothy, Wizard of Oz, Captain Bill and Trot – to come up with a special gift.  Given how much they all love Ozma, they go the extra mile to come up with an idea and then execute it.  The problem is that Ruggedo (the Old Nome King) finds a way to cause mischief and almost derails their plans.  With a bit of luck, wit and magic, our characters were able to hurdle all the challenges and complete their special gifts to Ozma.

Personally, I thought the Magic Flower was so beautiful (thank you imagination!) and would indeed be a beautiful addition to the Palace of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“A home of any sort should be beautiful to those who live in it, and should not be intended to please strangers” – Lonesome Duck

Title:  Glinda of Oz

Ozma and Dorothy find themselves in trouble as they got trapped underwater with a bit of unknown magic.  Glinda saves the day with her powerful skills and help from other wonderful characters in Oz – the usual suspects and the three Magic Adepts, Ervic the Skeezer and Red Reera.  Biggest surprise was in the end where it was Dorothy that plays a major role in solving their trouble and restoring peace and order once again in the wonderful land of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“I’m glad I don’t know everything, Dorothy, and that there still are things both in nature and in wit for me to marvel at.” – Princess Ozma

Again, I will definitely miss the land of Oz.  But, I feel that am ready and curious enough to move on to my next book adventure.

To end, thank you L. Frank Baum for the wonderful Oz stories!

Additional Tales from Oz Part 2

In my continuing attempt to finish the Ultimate Collection of the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, I brought my Kindle in my recent Tubbataha/Palawan trip.  Living on a boat for 5 days, I used Oz as an escape from the heat and physical exhaustion.  Fortunately enough, the three succeeding books I finished featured my favorite elements from the Oz stories.  It was just simple storytelling with lots of fun, heart and soul.

Title:  The Scarecrow of Oz

This story explores a country under the rule of Oz but separated from it by treacherous mountains.  It covers three phases interwoven beautifully by the author.  I got to know Captain Bill and Trot, who eventually gets to live in the magical land of Oz.  Then, it shifted to Jinxland ruled by The Wicked King.  Pon is a very nice kid and got the dream ending he deserves.  And then of course, I got to meet the wonderful people of Oz once more to deliver justice and ensure that love and peace continue to reign within its boundaries.

My favorite quote in this book is:

“But nobody can stay alive without getting into danger sometimes, and danger doesn’t mean getting hurt Captain; it only means we might get hurt.  So I guess we’ll have to take the risk.” – Trot

Title:  Rinkitink in Oz

This story had a strong plot with lots of interesting sub plots, which makes it a great read.  I got to meet a simple family trying to live an honourable and honest life in the Kingdom of Regos and Coregos.  I also revisited King Kaliko, who has taken over the rule from the Nome king.  King Rinkitink and Bilbil the Goat’s back stories are also included in the mix.

But the core plot remains on the destruction and eventual restoration of the peaceful island of Pingaree.  The Island of Pingaree is a new Kingdom slightly outside Oz since it is separated by the Nonestic Ocean.  It is very lucky to have the three magical pearls and great set of rulers – King Kitticut, Queen Garee and the hero of the story, Prince Pinga.

I have two favorite quotes from this book:

“This is the way to get ideas:  never to let adverse circumstances discourage you, but to believe there is a way out of every difficulty, which may be found by earnest thought.” – On Prince Pinga facing the challenges set by King Kaliko

“The beauty of life is its sudden changes.  No one knows what is going to happen next, and so we are constantly being surprised and entertained.  The many ups and downs should not discourage us, for if we are down, we know that a change is coming and we will go up again.” – King Rinkitink

Title:  The Lost Princess of Oz

Yes, the title was very catchy and puzzling especially since it is consistent throughout the book how powerful Ozma is.  But the story did use it as an anchor and it was so heartwarming (albeit expected) to see the support from her kingdom and the various friends she met along the way.  There is a lot of nostalgia in this one as almost every hero from the series and additional stories lent their support in the quest to find Ozma.  The quest was even made harder since the regular elements used – The Magic Picture and Great Book of Records – were also gone from Oz.  I also found Ugu the Shoemaker a surprising and unlikely villain of the story.  My favorite new character from this book was definitely the Big Lavender Bear and the Pink Little Bear.  I was glad they offered their assistance in the quest.

“To be individual, my friends, to be different from others, is the only way to become distinguished from the common herd.  Let us be glad, therefore, that we differ from one another in form and in disposition.  Variety is the spice of life, and we are various enough to enjoy one another’s society; so let us be content.” – Cowardly Lion

Sometimes I wonder if I am already too old for these stories.  But as Frank L. Baum puts it in his letter to readers in the succeeding book:  “my books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” I guess that explains a lot.

 

Currently reading:  Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (E-book) (79% completed)

Additional Tales from Oz part 1

NOTE: I finished the Oz series way back but my collection was not yet completely finished.  In the succeeding book, I learned in the prologue that somehow L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz figured out a way to contact Princess Dorothy and, with the blessings of Glinda the Good and Ozma, granted him access to more stories.

Title: Patchwork Girl of Oz

I did not like the story. Though some elements of it are present in the previous Oz books, such as the journey, familiar and new characters, I felt like there was something missing. Fun maybe? Or is it that the journey almost became pointless? (With the previous books, I predicted the end as soon as the journey began.. something about how to handle Magic.) But I guess it is mostly on the new characters… I did not get attached to them like the previous ones.

Nevertheless, it is still a good read after being shut out of Oz for quite some time as we get to learn:

  • how the Powder of Life is created, including who created it;
  • what happened to some of our Oz friends: Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Dorothy; and,
  • that the Old Magician is no longer a humbug — he is learning tricks from Glinda the Good

My favorite quotes in this book were:

“But I never criticize my friends.  If they are really true friends, they may be anything they like, for all of me.” – Shaggy Man

But I have noticed that those who continually dread ill luck and fear will overtake them, have no time to take advantage of any good fortune that comes their way.” – Tin Man

Title: Tik-tok of Oz

After finishing the story, I am quite unsure why it was named after Tik-tok… But I loved the story nonetheless. With the Shaggy Man’s brother imprisoned by Ruggedo, Shaggy Man embarks on a mission to save him. Along the way he meets familiar faces to aid him in his journey, such as Tik-tok and Polychrome, with new characters, such as Rose Princess and officers from the Kingdom of Oogaboo, which makes the journey very interesting.  I loved the use of a Tube as a means to transport to another side of the world.  I also met Quox, the Dragon, that definitely aided them in their journey.  There was also a story of redemption for Queen Ann of Oogaboo.

All in all, I felt like this story had the right mix of the new and the familiar.  It was fun reminiscing the previous stories and then getting to know new ones.

My favorite quote in this book was:

“All the magic isn’t in fairyland,” he (Shaggy) said gravely. “There are lots of magic in all Nature, and you may see it as well in the United States, where you and I once lived, as you can here.”

“I never did,” she (Betsy) replied.

“Because you were so used to it all that you didn’t realize it was magic.  Is anything more wonderful than to see a flower grow and blossom, or to get light out of the electricity in the air? xxx”

Currently reading:  Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (E-book)