Finding Our Forever

This is not my usual read. I found it a bit too raunchy than necessary and was not completely satisfied with how everything turned out. I am still thinking what about the description got my attention, or was it simply the title?

Nevertheless, there is still a lot to take away from the book. My personal favorite is how the book shows that our past may affect our present and/or future but it does not have the power to fully shape it. From Aiyana to Eli, it was evident how change can still happen even if you are from dire situations.

My main reservation with the book was with Cora, the main female protagonist. But it may be a case of, as Cora puts it, "I haven't experienced anything like what you have, which is why I hesitate to offer any advice. I don't appreciate it when people tell me what I should do or how I should feel about certain things when they've never been in the same situation."

Then, just to share some of the quotes I liked in the book:

Creative endeavors are one of the best tools we have to ease the pain and anger that's inside many of them

It's the same with regular parents. All kids should be grateful and aware of their parent's sacrifice.

It's important to know when fear's doing the talking – to keep things straight in your head.

At least, it had a happy ending.

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The One and Only Ivan

This was a quick but a great read. The story is told from the point of view of Ivan, a Silverback Gorilla, who was captured as a baby, raised as a human then finds himself in a cage in a mall along the highway when he got too big. He shares the mall with other exotic animals, including the wise Stella, an elephant, and Bob, the stray dog. Then Ruby, a juvenile elephant, comes along.

I know it is hard to put into words how animals really think, since we do not really know how or what they think about. But, for me, the book was able to adequately put into words what they may be thinking. It is as if the author was able to empathize with Ivan, Stella, Bob and Ruby.

The glass says you are this and we are that and that is how it will always be. – Ivan

A lot of insights, which is only possible through observation, was also present in the book.

I’ve learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans. – Ivan

Gorillas aren’t chatty, like humans, prone to gossip and bad jokes. – Ivan

Humans in the story were depicted in various ways – insensitive, brutal or caring, which I think is the simplest classification possible. Ivan was lucky to have Julia and her father George as keepers in the mall since they were instrumental leading to the story's conclusion. Julia, in particular, was key. The world needs more of her really.

Additional quotes I liked from the book are:

  • This one talks about focusing on yourself and not what others think –

Humans don’t always seem to recognize what I’ve drawn. They squint, cock their heads, murmur. I’ll draw a banana, a perfectly lovely banana, and they’ll say, “It’s a yellow airplane!” or “It’s a duck without wings!” That’s all right. I’m not drawing for them. I’m drawing for me.

  • Another one is on memories, as mentioned by Stella the Elephant –

“There’s a difference,” Stella says gently, “between ‘can’t remember’ and ‘won’t remember.’” “That’s true,” I admit. Not remembering can be difficult, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it. “Memories are precious,” Stella adds. “They help tell us who we are.

Overall, I liked this book. Simple but a lot of heart in its pages.

I am still on the fence as to zoos over natural habitat but reading a lot about poaching and illegal hunting makes me think twice. But, I know animals need protection from humans since they are defenseless against bullets and greed, among others.

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life

This is a beautiful book. Honestly, I could probably rank this as one of the best books I have ever read. It has a lot of heart and soul in it. For me, it is able to maturely discuss a lot of sensitive matters, such as the different kinds of loving, grieving, death, and family.

It followed the growth of Salvador from boyhood to manhood through his thoughts. He was blessed with a wonderful support group – Sam, Fito, Mima, Vicente and Marcos – but not an ordinary life. (Though if I think about it, is there really an ordinary life?) Each of the main characters have their own challenges and it is so easy to warm up to them and cheer them on.

There is so much to pick up from this book that I know when I read it again, I would have another favorite quote depending on what I am going through at that point. But, for now, my favorite would have to be this line:

I finally understood something about life and its inexplicable logic. I’d wanted to be certain of everything, and life was never going to give me any certitude. – Salvador

This book also has Vicente Silva, whom I could say now as one of my favorite characters ever. He, for me, can be likened to Albus Dumbledore or Atticus Finch, particularly in his role in guiding Salvador, Sam and Fito in this inexplicable thing called life.

My dad nodded. “Can I just say one thing, Salvador?” “Sure.” “There’s nothing ordinary about you. Nothing ordinary at all.”

Mima, Salvador's grandmother, was also quite special. It was through her that I learned about the beautiful phrase "Dejate Querer", which loosely translates to "let yourself be loved".

Again, such a beautiful book. Thank you Benjamin Alire Saenz for this gift.

Some other quotes from the book:

On anger –

“Okay, maybe I can get this right. Anger is an emotion. But there’s always something behind anger. Something stronger. You know what that is?” “Is that a trick question?” “It comes from fear, son. That’s where it comes from. All you have to do is figure out what you’re afraid of.”

And one more thing: I didn’t want to admit that I had anger living somewhere inside me. But that anger didn’t make me a “bad boy.” All it did was make me human. There was nothing wrong with getting angry. It was what you did with that anger that mattered. – Salvador

On loving –

“I know you don’t. You don’t think she really loves Sam—but she does. Everybody doesn’t love in the same way, Salvie. And just because she doesn’t love Sam the way you or I would like her to doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her daughter. It’s very difficult being a single mom.” – Vicente

On being one's self –

“I never wanted you to be anything, Sally. I’ve always just wanted you to be you.” – Sam

On living –

When is the right time for anything? Who knows? Living is an art, not a science. – Vicente

“Do you remember what you told me?” “I remember,” she said. “I told you that there were only two things you needed to learn in life. You needed to learn how to forgive. And you needed to learn how to be happy.” – Mima

“I know you sometimes think that people are like books. But our lives don’t have neat logical plots, and we don’t always say beautiful, intelligent things like the characters in a novel. That’s not the way life is. And we’re not like letters—” – Vicente

Highways are nice and paved, and they have signs telling you which way to go. Life isn’t like that at all.

I am Malala

I have been on a reading slump lately mainly because of *cough* Everwing *cough* and inability to write a review for this book. I appreciated the book yet find myself unable to string words and phrases to summarize my thoughts about it. Part of it maybe is the awareness that the fight for equal rights on education is not yet over – not just in Pakistan but in other countries as well.

But for Malala, her message is clear:

I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to him all day. He is the greatest. By giving me this height to reach people, he has also given me great responsibilities. Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country—this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish. I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.

I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.

A lot can already be deduced from the book's title – I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. The title is straight forward as I already got to know what she is fighting for and what happens near the end. The book then offers us a glimpse of her parents, childhood, environment and other elements that led to this wonderful story of courage during times of violence and uncertainties.

From my point of view, I would say his father was her primary influence.

My father would say to me, “Any organization which works for peace, I will join. If you want to resolve a dispute or come out from conflict, the very first thing is to speak the truth. If you have a headache and tell the doctor you have a stomachache, how can the doctor help? You must speak the truth. The truth will abolish fear.”

Though her mom may have provided strength through silence, it was his father that was also involved in various organizations and made public appearances.

As her journey continues in the international stage but away from her country, I am curious to see how this journey will end. Just a few hours back, I read she will be studying in Oxford. A lot of challenges remain and I do wish her well in her advocacies in life.

Let me end this with one of my favorite lines in the book:

We human beings don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.

Gratitude. Always.

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.