Wednesday, December 7, 2016

 A LIST OF CAGES by Robin Roe
January 10, 2017
A LIST OF CAGES is not your average contemporary young adult novel. With deep raw emotions and a loud call for compassion, Robin Roe wrote a debut that may mark every reader forever.

Fourteen-year old Julian is reclusive, anxious, and suffers from self-esteem attacks. Five years ago, he lost both of his parents in a car accident and he was immediately folded into foster care. As a high school freshman, school is very difficult for Julian. He has learning disabilities, which makes him an everyday target for bullies, and, sadly, his teachers never cared enough to help him.

Adam, meanwhile, is a high school senior, whose present elective is to help the school psychologist track down Julian and make sure he doesn’t (conveniently) miss more appointments. It should help that Adam was once Julian’s foster brother, but the present Julian that Adam is trying to engage is too different from the one he remembered. So, despite their age difference and preferences, Adam threw in some effort in including Julian into his circle of friends and adds some sense of normalcy into the boy’s life. 

As the story unfold, Adam suspect that things are much worse than Julian lets on, but Julian is frantic in keeping his friend at arm’s length. Undeterred, Adam is resolute to find out the answers to his worrying questions.
"I know it’s pointless, but I find myself doing it now. Projecting thoughts and whispering names. Trying to send out a message that will never be received."

This book caught me off guard. I didn't know when the tears start spilling, but they certainly did. Julian’s story squeezed my heart; it was so painful that at times I wanted to shout, but can’t.  What happened to him was harrowing. I terribly wished for him to open up, tell the truth, to call for help. I could feel his anguish and fear -his list of cages- that entraps him. This book could hurt you too. 

Statistics says (1) that there are an estimated 400,000 kids in (USA) foster care right now; (2) that foster kids can suffer from PTSD at almost two times the rate of returning veterans; (3) that the average age of a foster child is 9-years old; (4) that half of all foster kids are in non-relative foster homes. Julian’s story confirms that these statistics are the reality. I highly recommend that you read it too. ūüĎć

Book details: 
Author:  Robin Roe
Publication:  January 10, 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre:  YA Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*Thank you, Disney-Hyperion, for the egalley.
*This review contains a quote from an uncorrected copy.

Book Review | A LIST OF CAGES by Robin Roe

Friday, October 28, 2016

Image courtesy of

You have to forgive me if I do this review using a long pole. You may have realized by now that I shy away from reviewing renowned books by high-profiled authors. It is as if my inadequacy might somehow contaminate its spirit, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. Besides, books of that caliber, more or less, have already been dissected and autopsied by listed review sites. Still, this book has been niggling at me for some time now, I am reluctant to open another McEwan unless I get to say something about it first. Hopefully, that “something” will be significant.

THE CHILDREN ACT moves around a childless High Court judge. Fiona Maye, distinguished for her accomplishments at adjudicating delicately knotty cases in the Family Courts. One of her most difficult has recently been served -a life and death decision for Adam Henry, a 17-year old Jehovah’s Witness, in need of blood transfusion.  Fiona decided that a personal visit to the hospital is in order to determine whether Adam is mature enough to make his own decisions; or that the implementation of the Children Act 1989 is duly necessary, which means junking both the parent’s petition and their religious precept.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, Jack, Fiona’s husband for 35 years, announces that due to their lack of sexual intimacy for the last seven weeks have decided he needs a passionate affair.  “I need it. I’m fifty-nine. This is my last shot,” he argued –apparently, he already has a young statistician waiting in line.

What will follow is the author’s scrutinized account of the character’s self-confidence and power beset by betrayal and self-pity. In her years of separating herself from sentimentality and insignificance, she had never been threatened by this kind of crisis before. In that disarrayed condition, she was stirred by Adam’s condensed naivet√©. Adam, in return, was enraptured by Fiona’s genuine servile attention. With music and words between them, they found a kindred spirit in each other. In McEwan’s prose, I was carried by the same emotions, akin to Fiona. In those moments, they seem inescapable for me too.

In her review for The Guardian, Tessa Hadley wrote that Ian McEwan is fascinated by “the great institutionalized authorities”, choosing characters that belong to the echelons of their profession. This is my first McEwan novel, so I have to rely on her with that information. What awed me, though, is his view of the conflicting powers of an individual –commitment, resilience, compassion. People, even people of power or with great advocacy, will be subjected to vulnerability, one time or another.  Threat and problems arises when the personal blurs the professional lines.  Sometimes, a single act may tinge a purpose or may even turn a whole event. On how we face and move on from these circumstances are the questions that we need to ponder.

The ending was unpretentious. It quietly glided along.  Nevertheless, the paradox of the title screams at me.  

Book details:
Author:  Ian MacEwan
Publication:  September 9th 2014 by Knopf Canada
Genre:  General Fiction
Rating:  ★★★★★


Sunday, October 16, 2016

I read this before going to sleep last night. I should be bothered, because this was branded by some as horror, but I was not. After finishing the story, I slept soundly while Typhoon Sarika was raging outside our windows. Possibly, it’s because I was left satisfied after reading the story.

Lucretia is a 12-year old girl living with her mother on the 4th floor of an apartment building. Loochie (her nickname) seems to be in the minority of girls her age –she’s not popular enough, or maturing beautifully enough- to fit in the regular giggling girl’s clique. But she dearly loves Sunny –her best friend who lives on the apartment upstairs. As you can see, Loochie is not exactly an enthralling girl, neither is her Wonderland-like story believable. Would you believe her if she told you that she was forcibly pulled in from a fire escape window, but mysteriously entered a derelict park instead? Would you believe that she was chased by monsters and flying rats across the park? And that a stadium is the entry way to heaven? Of course not. You’d think that she’s out of her mind.

I am really pleased with all the metaphoric elements in this story. I think it’s a very imaginative technique to use strangeness and eerie characters to mirror dealing with loss successfully. It emphasized how grief can amass more fear instead of optimism, disbelief instead of acceptance, and anger instead of sympathy. This novella is a very convincing introduction to Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver. I was briefly introduced to Pepper, and I think I will like him too.

Book details:
Author:  Victor LaValle
Publication:  July 23rd 2012 by Spiegel & Grau
Genre:  General Fiction
Rating:  ★★★★


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WHAT LIGHT by Jay Asher
October 18, 2016;
Penguin Young Readers Group   

I was given a sneak peek copy of the book through Netgalley. There’s not much to go on with what I’ve read, so I can’t share much, considering (of course) you’ve also read the book blurb.

I could tell that this is going to be a contemporary fiction, which closely involves tight friendship, exemplar family, and idyllic Christmas. In other words, a good background for a love story. Lately, I’ve been reading YA fiction with non-functioning families, not that it didn’t work with the stories, but sometimes a reader finds ordinary relations more responsive. Which brings me to the characters in the book –they are not just likable, they are also very relatable –ordinary people going about their ordinary lives and challenges.

I know for a fact that, oftentimes, it’s the ordinary that can bring out the punch, it affects people, because they can mirror themselves in the characters, or at least deeply empathize with them. Besides, it is set in “the most wonderful time of the year.” So, WHAT LIGHT is really something to look forward to.

TFG will have this as our December book and you are welcome to discuss with us.

Book details:
Title:  What Light
Author:  Jay Asher
Publication:  October 18, 2016;
                       Penguin Young Readers Group
Genre:  YA fiction, Romance
Rating:  ★★★

*Rating may change after reading the final book.
  Thank you Penguin Group for the copy.

Sneak Peek Review | WHAT LIGHT by Jay Asher

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TWELFTH NIGHT  by Deanna Raybourn

Often times, curiosity is indeed a wonderful thing. This is another review copy I clicked out of mere curiosity, really. I’ve seen raving reviews about this Victorian series and its daring female protagonist, and when I saw this novella available in Netgalley, I did not hesitate.

This installment is #5.6 in the series. What’s amazing was, I didn’t have a hard time following who’s who and what’s what. Ms. Raybourn has a knack of moving her readers along without getting lost, and simply introduces everyone in the most unconventional way (it seems to me). Like, meeting Nicholas Brisbane for the first time - naked in bed. A very fine specimen too, I gathered.

So far, I liked all the characters I’ve met, very interesting set of people with strong wit and personalities. Reading this series will never be boring.  I guess I have to set a date for a reading marathon.

Book details:
Title:  Twelfth Night
Author:  Deanna Raybourn
Publication:  June 1st 2014 by Harlequin MIRA
Genre:  General Fiction/ Historical
Rating:   ★★★

*Thank you MIRA for being generous.

Book Review | TWELFTH NIGHT by Deanna Raybourn

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

THE SINNER by Amanda Stevens  
September 27, 2016 | MIRA

I am a living ghost, a wanderer in search of my purpose and place… 

I'm a cemetery restorer by trade, but my calling has evolved from that of ghost seer to death walker to detective of lost souls. I solve the riddles of the dead so the dead will leave me alone. 

Book Review | THE SINNER by Amanda Stevens

Thursday, August 4, 2016

 LEAVE ME by Gayle Forman
September 6, 2016; Algonquin Books
I highly recommend LEAVE ME.

Book Review | LEAVE ME by Gayle Forman

Monday, July 18, 2016

BEST BOOKS of 2016 (so far)

As we reach the middle of 2016 -notwithstanding my expedient tardiness- it's time to take a look back at the best books  I've read so far. Presented in no particular order, here are the reads I've shelve from January to June with my highest rating.

BEST BOOKS of 2016 (so far)