I have always known I’d die this way—
Hands reaching for what’s left of the sunset
Wilted and dried
Like a sunburnt flower left in a barren land
Sadness almost feels like a second skin now
Purple bruises scatter from unbidden words
They pierce, they hurt
Reminding me of the borrowed prose I never get to return to the world
They say our entire life flashes before our eyes on our deathbed
But I saw a person instead—
Dimples and heavy brows,
A portrait of the carefree man I met at Bo’s
Something pokes from inside my darkened rib
Was it regret? Guilt? Or something else?
I need more time, Charon
Let me immortalize this man with words
Soak my pen in desperation, desire and dread
I have always known I’d die this way—
But why must have to be today?
My hands reach for the last of the sunset
I cry for borrowed prose I never get to return to the world
I have always known I’d die this way—
Last night, for the first time after a long while, I opened my Goodreads account. How time flies… This is where I used to keep a real-time update on my reading progress before.
Now, it remains a quiet place of dusty virtual bookshelves.
In my boredom, I found delight in skimming my old posts — especially reading my thoughts on contemporary YAs. It brought me back to the time when I was most hopeless romantic. Still is (though a little older now). I’m grateful for these books for filling the gap in my lack of experience on love and heartaches. For inspiring some of my poems and short stories. For making my young hear flutter.
Hence, I’ve decided to share them here in WordPress. Perhaps, some people here needs a little extra cheese or a quick read. Hope this helps.
- The Awaken series by Katie Kackvisnky – A dystopia rather than a love story. This is how I would describe the Awaken series. It is set in 2060, a not-so-distant future, where human interaction is almost nonexistent due to the fact that everything can be done online. Kids attend digital school, friends and families get together virtually, shopping are done by the touch of a keypad, etc. These are imagined scenes that are slowly turning into reality in today’s world. A must-read in this digital era.
“Life should be a risk. It’s more than a straight line that you can see clearly from one point to the other. It dips and curves and you never know what’s around the bend sometimes until you get there. That scares a lot of people. But that’s the beauty of it.” ―Awaken
“Hope works like that. It hinds and blends in, only to pop out when you least expect it. It’s always a surprise, something you step on, trip over, or stumble on by accident. It hides in the divots of our lives. in the loneliest valleys. It’s like a child, always playing hide and seek to keep our lives unpredictable. Just when we’re about to give up, hope turns on, like light, to guide out way.” ―Middle Ground
“Every decision we make in life, every new relationship, every job, every change, is a free fall. And it’s not the dive that will kill us. It’s the fear of taking the jump that hurts the most. The secret is to believe we are all capable of flight.” ―Still Point
2. Stargirl series – Why fit in when you’re born to stand out? This is the heart of Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. Talk about living in a world of conformity, this YA series is a breath of fresh air.
“The earth is speaking to us, but we can’t hear because of all the racket our senses are making. Sometimes we need to erase them, erase our senses. Then – maybe – the earth will touch us. The universe will speak. The stars will whisper.” —Stargirl
“Live today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments. Don’t rent them out to tomorrow.” —Love, Stargirl
3. Anna and the French Kiss series – Stephanie Perkins definitely knows how to serve cheesy love stories. This trilogy can be read as standalone novels but it starts with Anna and the French Kiss by default. Anna and Etienne — two characters who once made me made me dream of standing at the Kilometer Zero of every place I visit. Lola and Isla’s love stories are cute too. In summary, these books will show you the funny, awkward and adventurous side of a budding relationship.
“For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” —Anna and the French Kiss
“And I hold my head high toward my big entrance, hand in hand with the boy who gave me the moon and the stars.” —Lola and the Boy Next Door
“What are you working on?” I ask.
“The last page.” He gestures towards the table, where a penciled sketch is being turned into inked brushstrokes.
I smile up at him “It’s beautiful. But what comes next?”
“The best part.” And he pulls me back into his arms. “The happily ever after.” —Isla and the Happily Ever After
4. First Comes Love series – Opposites attract. Do they, really? My fascination for Awaken series made me want to read more of Katie Kacvinsky which, in time, led me to this trilogy. The books explore the intricacies of human relationships through the lives of Dylan and Gray. From budding friendships to the adrenaline rush of falling in love, to the complexities of commitment. It’s a common YA plot but still an enjoyable quick read.
“Live a little,” she tells me. “You’re never going to experience anything if you wait around for perfect conditions.” —First Comes Love
“You need to fall apart once in a while before you understand how you best fit together.” ―Second Chance
“Maybe being alike isn’t what’s best. It’s bringing out the best in each other that matters.” ―Finally, Forever
5. John Green – One of the well-known American authors for YA, John Green uses the genre as an avenue for young readers to explore their questions about love, heartaches, meaning and purpose without feeling embarrassed. His coming-of-age novels tend to get movie adaptations which prove how successful Green is in reaching his target audience.
“If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.” ―Looking for Alaska
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” ―The Fault in Our Stars
“She loved mysteries so much that she became one.” ―Paper Towns
6. Rainbow Rowell – “Sometimes she writes about adults. Sometimes she writes about teenagers. But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.” Copied and pasted this description from Rowell’s Author page because I could not have described better this YA author. Hehe
She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ―Eleanor & Park
“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.” ―Fangirl
“There are moments when you can’t believe something wonderful is happening. And there are moments when your entire consciousness is filled with knowing absolutely that something wonderful is happening.” ―Attachments
7. Jennifer E. Smith – I think it’s obvious what pushed me to read these books back then. The titles. Smith’s stories might be a little too cheesy, unrealistic and slightly sappy at times, but for my young hopeless romantic heart, they were sweet and cute. Plus, there were lots of sigh-inducing and poetry-instigating lines in each books.
“Exactly. How can you know it makes you happy if you’ve never experienced it?”
“There are different kinds of happy,” she said. “Some kinds don’t need any proof.” ―This Is What Happy Looks Like
“It’s not the changes that will break your heart; it’s that tug of familiarity.” ―The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
“When there was nothing but space between you, everything felt like a leap.” ―The Geography of You and Me
8. Jess Rothenberg – Dying of a broken heart. At first, I was hesitant about the plot. Her heart LITERALLY broke in half when the guy she likes told her he doesn’t love her. The next thing she knew, she’s dead. It’s a lighthearted story that took me with Brie through the stages of moving on. It’s a decent book, although I find the twist at the end weird.
“No matter how much you think you know a person—no matter how pretty they act, or how popular they seem, you can never know what their lives are really like.” ―The Catastrophic History of You and Me
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Philosophy/Mental Health
“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
This line from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie perfectly summarizes Veronika Decides to Die for me.
Inspired by events from Coelho’s past life, this book tells the story of Veronika — a 24-year-old woman who seems to have everything anyone could ever ask for. Nonetheless, she feels dissatisfied and makes a decision to end her life. She lives and survives and finds herself in a mental asylum where her life completely change.
I finished Veronika Decides to Die last week but it took me a while to wrap my emotions around it. Not sure if it’s the timing, since I was going through another anxiety phase when I was reading it; or because I haven’t considered suicide yet; or because Veronika’s troubles hit very close to home.
Life and death are the central themes of the story, as are madness and conformity.
This book will make you ponder on the consequences of living a repressed life, one that conforms to the norms set by society or that is bounded by one’s own limiting beliefs. It will have you thinking about the days when you feel like Veronika (tired of your prosaic life), or Zedka (unable to keep your emotions at ease), or Mari (too afraid so you choose to escape the real world), or Eduard (constrained by other people’s demand and pressure). It will make you question your authenticity — and insanity.
What would I do if death comes sooner than I expected? Truth is, I don’t know. But just as Vilette is a “safe place” for these people to express themselves, I’d say poetry is my own. Perhaps through these poems, I’d get to figure out myself and life.
Overall, this novel left me more questions than realizations (which is a good thing). Looking forward to finding the answers as I live my numbered days. 😀
“Love, whether newly born or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.”― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne died, on this day, in 1864. May this quote awaken the spirit of love within us all in these trying times when anger, hate and fear are at its height.
I dream in fast forward
Of that which never was
My pale, moon-drenched skin
Shiver ‘neath the grieving stars
I wait in quiet desperation
Feeling nothing of the real world
Seeing only that which
I have not yet held
Between midnight breaths — a poem
Reviving my half dead hope
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Sharing this one from Rabindranath Tagore who was born 160 years ago. This piece is not just a poem, it is a prayer that still speaks true to this day.
May the 4th be with you!
…and also be with me because I badly need it in these lazy days. April went as swift as it arrived and here I am with a late monthly wrap-up.
So without further ado, here goes..
Things I’ve written…
April has been a busy month for me outside blogging. I have not written much this month, despite the world celebrating National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo).
- Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth
- this time, i found my breath.
Books I’ve read…
Started The Red Tent by Anita Diamant during the Holy Week and it was satisfying read up to the end. Wrote a review — Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
As for my book haul, I received two copies of Atwood on World Book and Copyright Day from The Book Snoop. Those who know me well know that I’m impulsive when it comes to books. When I see it, I get it — so long as I find it a worthy deal. However, these two were the first ones that I waited longest. I completed the 30-day rule, a challenge I personally set (just because), before I decided to finally take them. Waiting was a roller-coaster of emotions. I was anxious. I was impatient. But in the end, all the wait was worth it!
- The Blind Assassin (Php 249)
- Alias Grace (Php 399)
Alias Grace, the miniseries, is also available on Netflix for those who prefer to watch the movie first before reading.
Places I’ve been…
Went on two day hikes this earlier in April. One in Liloan’s Lataban Hills, and the other along the Naga-Minglanilla loop.
Typhoon Surigae, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Bising, however, completely turned out plans around later on. We ought to visit Camotes Island but since sea voyages were suspended, we had to make a last-minute Plan B. We decided to go to San Remegio and spend the weekend at Maayo Resort, a Caribbean-inspired resort in this northwestern part of Cebu. It may not be the weekend we expected but it was definitely fun! 😁
Here are some videos from our trips.
It took me sleepless nights and a slit wrist to unlove you. My eyes, once insignias of misery, now glow beneath the cloudless sky. I no longer freeze on a Bublé song. No longer break on the streets where you used to hold my hands. The forget-me-nots have died under my pillow. And on moonlit nights, I dance.
It took me sleepless nights and a slit wrist to love myself.
Now, I wear a tint of blood on my lips
To remind you of what you left
And will never ever get.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Religion/Feminism
Short Synopsis: Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.
What I Liked:
- Diamant’s writing. Poetic and lyrical were my reactions when I read the first few pages of the book. I love the tone of voice Diamant used for the main character Dinah. Her prose is very visual and animated. It felt like listening to a spoken word poetry.
- A breath of fresh air. I’m not a keen Bible reader. I am one of those who only knew Dinah as a name mentioned in the Bible. That is why I find it refreshing to read a fictional first-person narrative about her version of her life. Through the eyes of Dinah, we get an insight, if only re-imagined, of biblical times. We get to learn about their cultures, practices and way of life.
- The curiosities in the Red Tent. In the book, women we’re treated by men as subordinate — submissive, used, cursed — a scene still recognizable in today’s world. However, their resilience shines within the boundaries of the red tent, where I would say most of the interesting scenes happen. It is where women go during their periods (although I find it a little weird that all the women in the story has a synced cycle). In the red tent, the lives of women are kept alive through storytelling and memories. In the red tent, secrets, conversations and feelings are shared. In the red tent, you get a sense of how powerful women can be. Blood signifies both life and death, beginning and end, pain and pleasure, tears and joy. Such interesting things to ponder.
What I didn’t like: The book, in general, takes a feminist slant so I understand that the POVs are focused mostly on women. However, there were slightly biased depictions of men. Some lack character development, while others seem like trifling characters.
“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.”
“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”
“Of all life’s pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.”
“I could not get my fill of looking.
There should be a song for women to sing at this moment (giving birth) or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment.”
“Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art.”
“It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”
Final Thoughts: Captivating. Rich. Beautifully and poignantly penned. It may only be a fictionalized version but every page brims with life.
I’m glad that this novel did not end with forgiveness of sins and starting all over because some sins are far too great to be forgiven, more so forgotten. But not forgiving others does not necessarily means living every day with anger. This is what Dinah showed me. It is choosing to walk away from the bad and move forward. And, sometimes, the closure we seek cannot be found in others but within ourselves.
My reading heart is full.
Have you read The Red Tent? Did you like it as much as I did?