[783]: What Makes Us by Rafi Mittlefehldt

You’re seventeen years old. You’re conscious of all the social injustices in your world. You do your best to take part, in fact, you even start a protest. You’re not afraid to speak your mind. But on the very first protest you led, a counter protest almost ended badly. But then one of the reporters present figured out who you are, who your parents are. From there, the secrets of who your real father was revealed. All your life you never knew. You didn’t know that your father was a known terrorist who set off an explosion during a parade in New York City, killing 4 people and injuring more.

But your mother hid you. Changed your identity in an attempt to escape the guilt, the blame, the consequences of your father’s actions. Until all was revealed.

This is the story of Eran and how in one single moment of impulsive anger had changed his life, made him question who he was and how much of him was his father. Will he follow his father’s footsteps? Or will set himself on his own path?

This was a tough read. I saw anger in all sides, ignorance, and reluctant forgiveness in some. A mistake that started 15 years ago blew up in something that could’ve been catastrophic. It’s sad, really. To blame a boy who was only two years old when his father committed a heinous act, then try to accuse the mother of having knowledge of her deceased husband’s plans, and therefore should be guilty.

I felt Eran’s isolation and anger at the world, especially at his mother for keeping that secret. He became lost and unsure of who he was in a span of a day. I felt his shame and guilt; his hurt for seeing his entire neighborhood shun them and attempt to drive them off the city. I also felt the moment he questioned and doubted his mother’s culpability, to his shame, when all she tried to do was to save him from people’s judgement.

What Makes Us made me think about the world outside my home. That even though I often found myself lost in the commentary section of political debates, it’s not enough and a complete waste of time, to be honest. It also made me think about truth, justice, and how far I will go if I ever find myself in Eran’s mother’s shoes.

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[782]: A Lie for A Lie by Helena Hunting

This is the first book in Helena Hunting’s All In Series — which is a spin off from her Pucked series. A hockey themed romance that centers on Chicago’s fictional NHL team. I have been enjoying most of the books in Pucked, and no matter how many books I’ve neglected to read, Ms. Hunting somehow makes going back into it virtually painless. I don’t know if it’s because she writes the most memorable characters, or is it because simplicity of plot, characters, settings makes it so.

In this novel, we meet RJ; a once rookie, now a superstar in his own right basically trying to escape the wilderness of professional hockey. The partying, the women who throw themselves at them, and the media hounds. On his flight to Alaska, he encounters Lainey, a biologist who was on a research trip to study the Alaskan wildlife. Long story short, their meet-cute was awkward but their chemistry was undeniable – one that they couldn’t ignore. When Rook abruptly left due to family emergency, Lainey had no means to contact him. Months later, they meet again, but the reunion was far from sweet.

I can never turn down a hockey-themed romance. I have no clue why. It’s not like I’m a huge hockey fan to begin with. We do have an NHL team in my city that I follow but not as religious as I follow the LA Chargers. I think it’s the aggression that I tend to see when they play on the ice. And while I actually haven’t read about a hockey player whose aggression follows him in the bedroom, I still think hockey players are hot. Lol.

Rook is no different. He may be a bad mofo on the ice, but he’s a teddy bear in real life. He truly cared that he lost touch with Lainey and did his best to try and make amends when they were finally reunited. I also loved Lainey. She’s an independent woman who made do with the hand that she was dealt. There was a surprise here that I absolutely loved. I know some romance readers don’t like that plot device, but I’m a huge fan.

Serial books aren’t always fun from one installment to the next but one thing is for certain: Hunting knows hockey romance. She could keep writing books in this world and I’ll keep reading them.

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[781]: Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

The writing duo of Keeland and Ward are one of those author collabs whose work I tend to enjoy. I haven’t fully explored their back list, but I can at least admit that whenever I see they have a new release, my ears perk up. The instant reaction is the compunction to one-click that baby right into the oblivion that is my Kindle.

Their latest (which I read in one night — soon after I got in the mail, no less) didn’t disappoint. You’ve got a Brit who followed his dreams right to the US of A, and an American novelist with a pet pig. The best part of a romance novel is how an author (or authors, in this case) connects two unseemingly likely characters right into the path of love. For Griffin and Luca, it all started when they were kids and with the aid of a good ol’ snail mail. Once pen pals for years, the two lost connection when they were on the cusp of adulthood. There were reasons, of course. But Griffin never did find out what they were. One night, when Griffin was feeling the sting of rejection, Griffin wrote Luca a hate mail that she didn’t get to read until years later.

Admittedly, this book was emotionally-charged than usual. At the risk of spoiling one of the driving force of the plot, Luca, over the years, had become a recluse. She shied away from people and being in public places. She does her grocery shopping in the middle of the night when there’s very little chance that she’d run into people. Aside from her ancient therapist, she spoke to the grocery clerk that works the night shift and her pet pig, Hortencia. Her world shrunk considerably. And then there’s Griffin – whose station in life couldn’t be more different.

In other words, they have a huge stumbling block to face if they ever want to give their relationship a go. There’s also the distance: Griffin is based in Los Angeles, and Luca in Vermont. Regardless, they’ll give it a fighting chance — until they couldn’t.

While it would’ve been tempting to let Luca be the type of character who miraculously found cure for her disorder in a man, the authors didn’t cop out and do just that. Luca needed patience, kindness and generosity in her partner so I feel like Griffin was just that person. It was frustrating at first, to give Luca her space, but in the end, I understood. Because sometimes, the pressure of trying to be “normal” for the people that we love hurts us more than we realize.

Once again, the writing duo of Keeland and Ward deliver in spades. A story about how important it is to accept that sometimes, we have to give the people we love what they need even if it means forgoing ours. Griffin understood Luca’s predicament and he didn’t push her just because he wanted to be with her. If you’re asking if this ends in HEA, *spoiler alert* it does.

Huge shout out to Montlake Romance and Thomas Allen & Sons for letting me be a part of this blog tour. Please follow along!

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[780]: The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong

I’ve always found that novelists from Scandinavian and Asian countries to be first class story tellers in the Thriller genre. I don’t know what it is but their books, as well as the movies just give me the chills.

The Good Son definitely fit the bill as well. Written by a Korean author, this book tells the story of a man who woke up bloodied but somehow relatively unharmed. Upon further examination, he finds scratches and bite marks on his arm. And as he moves about his house, he finds his mother in her bedroom — in a bloodbath with a deep slash across her neck. He realizes too soon, and with uncanny calmness that he may have had a hand in her death.

The story pieces together in a series of flashbacks while he tries to figure out the next step: turn himself in? Bury his mother? Or dispose of her body then leave the country altogether. But the more time he spends trying to decide his next move, the more bodies fall.

The terrifying thing about the story is the undetached way he spoke of the deaths. Because, yes, soon enough, the readers will realize that our character gets a thrill out of killing people. Especially the process of how he stalks his prey then calmly watch them bleed. As if he’s roasting marshmallows or something.

We also learn that he’s always been deranged even as a child. The first time he saw his dad used an antique razor while shaving, he asked with cold-blooded intensity if he could have his blade when he dies. Which was the reason why his mother hid it from him over the years. But he found it anyway. It was especially chilling to find out that he had a part in the deaths of his father and brother.

The Good Son challenges the basic idea of nurture vs. nature. And while in most cases, someone can be nurtured into someone not homicidal, this is an exception where nature definitely wins over nurture.

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[779]: Silent History by Eli Horowitz, et al.

I was under the impression that this book is a horror. But as the chapters flew by, it quickly become clearer that it was more Sci-Fi than anything. I enjoy Sci-Fi/horror anyway, and since I don’t have very many of those, I’m always game to dive in. However, I felt that this book went way too long for my taste and it didn’t have the sustainability to keep a reader like me.

In here, we find a generation of children without voice and no means of communication. It was as if they were born without that part of their brain. Parents, doctors, scientists were confounded. The children can’t speak, and unable to make any sounds at all. They were shunned by other children who can speak, treated as if they were mentally handicapped. But the worst part of all was that they were vulnerable to predators. Case in point, a kid who was abducted while shopping in a mall when he couldn’t scream for help.

Told in part as chronicles of testimonials, The Silent History contains a world whose ability to communicate vastly changed. Half of the world spoke in a telepathic manner but was not taught and can’t be learned. Though this book is 500-some odd pages, I found myself racing through 50% of it. It was a fascinating world, one where half the population scrambled to learn about a new kind of language all together.

However, it doesn’t take time until I found myself lost — not in the story, but literally lost. The plot quickly becomes convoluted. With the discovery of nanotechnology that enabled the children to speak, the Science of it all complicated what was an otherwise absorbing story. And as the cure was slowly introduced, so were the factions that contributed to the chaos. It was harder to keep track of the number of points of views — and there were many.

The cure, while great on the surface, became a bone of contention for some parents and the government. After the kid was saved from the sexual predator that kidnapped him, the government instituted a law that aimed to protect children under the age of 6. They made it a law to have all outfitted with the cure. And while I can understand why the parents would want their kids to have the ability to speak, I also saw why some parents were against it. In essence, the cure would invariably change their children into different people altogether. Some chose to let the children decide for themselves as adults.

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[778]: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom follows the story of a world that succumb to the zombie apocalypse. Told through the eyes of a pet crow, Shit Turd walks us through a world suddenly devoid of ‘mofos’ — humans, in other terms. Ever loyal to his master, ST tried his best to cure Big Jim from his zombification. But when all else failed, he had no choice but to leave the only home he’s ever known to try and make sense of what became of the world. Accompanied by Dennis, Big Jim’s bloodhound and ST’s only remaining friend in the world, they set out to rally the rest of the animal kingdom and salvage what was left.

Part horror-part dark comedy, Hollow Kingdom was largely an homage to the humanity’s penchant for destruction. And while it was not said that the cause was a virus created in a lab, I think that the author aims to show us that Mother Nature is more than capable of destroying those who was determined to destroy her.

The use of the animals’ points of view was brilliant itself. Because at the end of the world, the only living things that will remain are those of the floras and faunas variety. If you’ve read Anne Bishop’s The Other series, you will have a sense of the kind of perspective you can expect. There is a detachment and an uncanny amount of lack of emotional range. Astute, honest, candid, and somehow humourous. But that only changes as soon as the animals speak of their human families. I especially ached for ST. He was heartbroken as he witnessed the slow demise of Big Jim, his owner. He was trained as a house pet from the very beginning and had considered him as his best friend.

ST is a sentient crow, and because he saddled the worlds of humans and the animal kingdom, he felt the enormous responsibility to find a cure — or an explanation at the very least.

I enjoyed this book. It was ingenious and heartwarmingly funny. And despite the horror of waking up in a wasted world, Ms. Buxton was able to show the beauty in its haggardness.

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[777]: America’s Reluctant Prince by Steven M. Gillon

The summer of 1999 was the first time I’ve become aware of the impact the Kennedys have in America and the world as a whole. Tragically, it was because John perished in the sea with his wife, Carolyn and her sister, Lauren.

America’s Reluctant Price brought that feeling of loss back to the surface all over again. At the time, it felt like an incredible weight sat on my chest. And it was because of a squandered opportunity to know a great person when they were still alive. The loss felt greater somehow. It was like losing a person before you even get to know them. It left me feeling hollow.

Before I read this book, I can count on one hand all the things I know about John F. Kennedy, Jr:

  • He was a Kennedy.
  • He lived a charmed life.
  • He was handsome and magnetic.
  • He would’ve made his parents proud.
  • Had he lived, we would’ve perhaps change the course of America’s political landscape and made a great impact on the world.

But with every page, this book offered an insight that was every bit shocking, tragic, and beautiful at the same time.

John’s life was far from charmed. He was a mediocre student who barely scraped by. He was surrounded by people who were hypnotized by his presence and his name. Most of the time, he didn’t know who was real. Posthumously, he still fascinated the world.

But here, we see the real truth behind the handsome face — behind the charmed life. The truth was, he was burdened by the legacy of his name. Constantly afraid that he would never be good enough. I suppose it would be akin to having Michael Jordan as your father. That no matter what you do in life, the legacy will follow you around, and you will never measure up.

He was a devoted son who also did his best to be a good husband. but Carolyn could not cope with the same burden that John carried. Hounded by the paparazzi, she became a recluse. She ended up hating being married to someone whose birthright was in the same vein as royalty.

The truth is, John’s life was full of tragedy. Starting with his father who was assassinated in front of his mother. And it was almost befitting that his life would end tragically.

Most of the reviewers have commented that there’s nothing new about this biography. That if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. As one of the thousands who will always be in awe of the Kennedys, I will never stop reading about this family. I will forever be thinking of what could’ve been, what kind of life he would’ve led, and how great the world would’ve been had we not lost him.

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[776]: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

“I was both relieved and irritated when Reva showed up, the way you’d feel if someone interrupted you in the middle of suicide.”


I pretty much waited throughout the entirety of the novel for our nameless character to kill herself, to be honest. Not because I wanted her to meet her own doom on her terms, but it’s because she left me feeling like she was always on the precipice of offing herself. On the surface, she didn’t have anything to feel bad about her life: she’s wealthy, beautiful, and a job at an art gallery fresh off university. But she somehow found herself perpetually in the winter of her discontent. (Though, I’m sure saying that a person has no reason to be depressed about is toxic. Not to mention, that statement is counterproductive, completely insensitive and obtuse.)

This book, however, is exactly about that: our character’s self-induced, heavily medicated coma sleep but on her own terms. She wakes up intermittently only for personal hygiene and sustenance. Otherwise, she’s shut herself from the world. By her reasoning, the world has virtually forgotten her anyway. Her parents didn’t have time for her; her only semi-stable relationship has run its course; and her friend, though a constant presence in her life was a bit of a self-involved user. Her therapist can only be relied on for prescription drugs. So at the end of it all, the unsuspecting reader would feel as if they went through the wringer themselves. And I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

I have not read her first book. But based on the reviews, it seems like Ms. Mosfegh has a penchant for subjecting her characters to some pretty unconventional ways to deal with their mental and emotional anguish. The most shocking thing about them is that she makes it work — she’s very convincing. In here, our nameless protagonist has a pretty severe case of self-hate. That regardless of her seemingly blessed fortune, she still found ways to debase her own self. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find happiness at the end of the book. Or even a glimmer of hope that she’ll be happy with herself. The heartbreaking thing of it all is that this book climaxes during 9/11 and thereafter. So while people around the world found it in themselves to be happy about their lot in life, our character seemed unattached. And considering she lost her best friend in World Trade Centre, I didn’t find anything that closely resembles to a spark of life.

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[775]: Inside Out by Demi Moore

Demi Moore didn’t pull any punches in her memoir. When she decided to excise her demons, there wasn’t enough holy water left in the world to douse all the bad jujus she unleashed. The book in itself is not a big volume by any standards. At less than 300 pages, she was able to convey a highly emotional, painfully honest confession about her life, loves, failures, addictions, and perseverance.

She was a teen from New Mexico, constantly embroiled in her parents’ dysfunctional relationship. Abusive at times, toxic even. It was painfully clear that she would either follow in her parents’ drugs and alcohol addled footsteps, or she could choose a different path. And while those demons won out for a time, she somehow always found a way out. She was determined to be better. Determined to not make the same mistakes. But fame, money, and freedom always comes at a cost.

Her romantic relationships always start off ideal in their own ways. But what was common was there was always an age gap. Her first real relationship was with a man 12 years her senior (he was 28, she — 16). Her mother sold her for $500 to a man old enough to be her father. But before that, she had her first sexual intercourse with a neighbor with whom she thought was her friend. He was 23, she was 15.

And for a time it may seem like she’s always chasing safety and security that her parents never afforded her. Then she met Bruce Willis with whom she would have 3 daughters. Though it was at the period of her life when she found success in her career, juggling marriage, motherhood, and having a career would prove to be difficult. It was also during those times when she would put more pressure on herself to look a certain way. Punishing her body to levels of exhaustion and hunger. But still she wasn’t satisfied. Even if she was one of the most beautiful people in the world — and still.

She was branded by the media as a diva, one who wanted to get paid more. In the meantime, she was only doing her part to bridge the gap of income inequality in Hollywood. Slowly, she became one of the highest paid actress of her time. But things at home was slowly unravelling. Her’s and Bruce’s split coincided with her mother passing — her mother, with whom she hasn’t spoken to in years. Ironically enough, she’s long decided she will never depend on a man for her happiness due in part because she’d seen what it did to her mother. Unfortunately, her determination to be independent from Bruce lent to their break up.

Then she met Ashton Kutcher — a young actor 15 years her junior. The attraction was instantaneous. He was sweet, loving, kind and very supportive of her career and her family. Subconsciously, she knew she would do anything for him. Until they crossed a line they couldn’t go back from. She tried to learn from her mistake during her marriage with Bruce but it was a one-way codependency that she didn’t know until it was too late.

The only way out is in.

Andy Warhol

The title of Demi’s memoir was taken from painting that Andy Warhol gave Demi personally. And I couldn’t agree more. I think we all need to confront our painful pasts before we could heal and love wholeheartedly. It’s too bad that for most of us, it sometimes takes a lifetime for that realization to come. But for Demi, I think confronting her past was her attempt to eradicate the stigma that has long followed her all her life; and that is that she doesn’t belong, and she doesn’t deserve her successes and her place as one of the most revered actresses in Hollywood, if not the world.

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[774]: The Order of Nature by Josh Scheinert

I was browsing Amazon for Alan Hollinghurst’s novels when this popped up as suggested reading. I read the synopsis and thought that it’s pretty much on par with the type of books I’ve been reading lately. Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve been all over the place with my choices as of late.

In My Own Words

This is a story based on the author’s experiences from his travels in Africa. A continent that has some countries with some pretty strict laws against homosexuality. To be honest, and even before I even opened the book, I was already anxious. I think I know what I was getting into from the get go. I don’t know how else this could end well knowing that Andrew and Thomas’ relationship would lead to one of them in prison, if not, both. But I persevered, after all, we don’t learn anything from the sidelines or in our comfort zones.

There is an underlying almost suspenseful tone to this book. Not in the way that makes one feel like a serial killer is on the lose. But the danger is right around the corner, regardless. It is in the way that constantly made me anxious for them, and in the way that I was on alert for some possible snitch that would expose their covert meetings. The excitement of the burgeoning relationship only added to the feeling of euphoric madness. And while this book’s primary focus is their trials and tribulations that came after their exposure, I think Andrew’s life in The Gambia is a great education into a world that maybe us westerners couldn’t possibly conceive. A world where having multiple wives is okay, but loving one person of the same sex isn’t. Though, if I’m being honest, there is probably a corner of the western world where such belief and practice still exist.

I’m always in awe of missionaries and volunteers who would put their lives in the front lines. When they know that being in dangerous countries could mean peril at every turn. I felt the same way for Andrew. He researched The Gambia before he volunteered. He knew that as a gay man, he has anticipated the feeling of isolation not only for the literal distance from his family and friends but for being a person whose very identity is considered an “abnormality” and therefore not accepted. I supposed he didn’t anticipate to fall in love, however.

I wish I can tell you that this has a happy ending. Unfortunately, it does not. It will, however, strengthen your desire to accept more. To love more, to be kind. And to be thankful that you’re not in a situation where your life and freedom do not hang in the balance for being with the person that you love. It also makes me realize more and more that governing a country based on religion only helps a few, and that it doesn’t serve its purpose. It is more destructive than not. This couldn’t be truer with the state of our politics nowadays.

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