Songs of Our Breakup

Songs of Our BreakupSongs of Our Breakup by Jay E. Tria
Playlist # 1
Number of pages: 180
My copy: ebook

Every breakup has its playlist.

How do you get over a seven-year relationship? 21-year-old Jill is trying to find out. But moving on is a harder job when Kim, her ex-boyfriend, is the lead guitarist of the band, and Jill is the vocalist. Every song they play together feels like slicing open a barely healed tattoo.

Jill’s best friend Miki says she will be out of this gloom soon. Breakups have a probation period, he says. Jill is on the last month of hers and Miki is patiently keeping her company.
But the real silver lining is Shinta. Having a hot Japanese actor friend in times like these is a welcome distraction. This gorgeous celebrity has been defying time zones and distance through the years to be there for Jill. Now he is here, physically present, and together he and Jill go through old lyrics, vivid memories, walks in the rain, and bottles of beer. Together they try to answer the question: what do you do when forever ends?

As I mentioned in my Open Road Summer review, I like books with music and bands. So when Jay E. Tria’s book, Songs for Our Breakup surfaced in my radar, I was curious although I was a bit hesitant with the Japanese-sounding characters because I’m not a huge fan of foreign lead interests in my Filipino romance novels. I think I was in line at a bank without a book when I decided to read this, and a few pages in the book, I was hooked.

Jill and Kim have been together for seven years, until their break-up came that ended the relationship that Jill has known for a third of her life. It’s even more difficult to move on, because her ex-boyfriend is the lead guitarist of the band where Jill is the vocalist. And as expected, most of the songs they sing share memories of their relationship and Jill’s not sure how much her heart could take. Her best friend, Miki, stays by her side, picking her up when things get too hard, and then there’s their other friend, Shinta, a Japanese celebrity that they befriended during one music festival. Shinta provides the distraction that Jill needed, as she wrestles with the questions that the break-up has left with her.

Let me get the obvious thing out of the way: the book shares an almost similar title with the Piolo-Sarah movie that came out a few months ago, but like what other reviews said, it’s different from that. I should know, because I watched that movie. :P There’s so much more going on in Songs of Our Breakup compared to that movie, and it was made entertaining because of the fun cast in this book. I loved everyone in the band, Trainman, and how their friendship seemed to spring alive in every page. I loved their banter, how they played off one another and know each other so well that even if there’s this elephant in the room with them, the rest of them fought for their friendship and the band just to keep them together.

And then of course, there’s Shinta, who was a delight to read. I liked him, and perhaps all his screen time made me join his team early on in the book. I liked how he also felt like a member of the band because of his friendship with them, and how he was especially fun and gentle with Jill. His storyline wasn’t so surprising, but it was still a pleasure to watch that unfold and I was really cheering for him at the end of the book. However, I also can’t deny that my heart went out for Miki, the best friend, because…well, he’s the best friend, and I also have a soft spot for those characters! I liked him, and I wished that he did something different in the book to give him his share of the spotlight…but if he did, then we probably wouldn’t have book 2. ;)

As with every book with a band and songs, I wished the songs here were real. I’m not sure if Trainman would be the kind of band I would religiously follow, but I would probably enjoy their songs if I catch them in a gig or something. I liked how the songs in this book fit exactly with the major moments in the book. And because we’re all about heartbreaks and feels for this book, I have to say that the last duet kind of destroyed my heart (and made me almost waver with my team choice haha). If there’s any song in the book that I want to be real, it’s that duet. Please let that happen?

With all those points, plus the great writing, I thoroughly enjoyed Songs of Our Breakup. It gave me so many feelings after I was done (which I realized probably contributed to the feelings I had later that night when I watched Heneral Luna, but that’s another story) that I couldn’t stop thinking about it after. This book also made me kind of appreciate Japanese lead interests, because hey, if it’s someone like Shinta, then why not? :P Songs of Our Breakup is not exactly for light reading because of all the feelings, but there’s something pretty cathartic about this if you allow yourself to indulge and accompany Jill in her story. I can’t wait to read the next book (because Miki!), and really, just read whatever Jay comes up with next. :)


Favorite quotes:

“You don’t really stop loving someone…it’s just that you’re different now from the person you were yesterday. And you can’t go back. Even if you can, why would you want to?”

Why don’t they teach that in school? Emotional Safety 101. How to love without losing your sanity. Instead of people running around claiming they feel it, while not knowing what to do with it, how to handle it, how not to break it, how to keep it whole. It’s a terribly dangerous thing in the wrong hands.

“Oh, you’re not built for depression. You have too much sarcasm in your veins. That protects you.”

So I stand here on the train tracks,
Waiting for you to look back
Turn back
And see me
Sliding in the slipstream
Tumbling in this daydream
But you don’t see me
No, it’s never me.

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Tara Tries to Write

The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle # 2
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 439
My copy: paperback ARC, gift from Scholastic Philippines

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

* * *

So soon after I finished reading The Raven Boys, I grabbed The Dream Thieves from my shelf and started reading, so, so thankful that Scholastic sent me a review copy of this last Christmas. I really enjoyed the first book so much that I just have to read the next one. I couldn’t get enough of Blue and Gansey and Adam and Ronan and Noah, and I needed to know what was going to happen next.

The Dream Thieves started with an even more whimsical tone than its predecessor – now with Ronan as the focus. Ronan dropped a bombshell in the last book, which followed that this book would be mostly Ronan’s story. But there’s more than Ronan’s strangeness — there’s Adam dealing with what he did at the end of the first book, and Noah, still silent but moreso than usual. Then there’s Gansey, still with his relentless search for Glendower the sleeping King, and Blue, who finds herself getting more and more entangled with these Aglionby boys.

There are more characters in this book, and all of them somehow shone on their own right. I loved how Maggie Stiefvater characterized Ronan’s siblings, and the villains, particularly the Gray Man. I really love how his story developed, and in the end, I was kind of sure that he’s one of my favorite villains now. Then there’s more of Blue’s family – all the psychic fun stuff, but also her loving relationship with her mom, Maura, who also played a bigger role in the story.

I think I kind of fell in love with Gansey here, but more because of him and Blue. While I was reading the first book, I wasn’t sure which side to pick for Blue, but after this, I am pretty sure I am on Team Gansey. ♥ (I like him so much that I named my phone after him. Heh)

The Dream Thieves start out really slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys, and I admit that I stopped reading it for a while because real life got in the way. But when I went back to reading, it was easy to slip back into the world of ley lines and sleeping kings, and you have to trust me on this – the build up is so worth it. :)

How soon till the next book comes out?

Number of dog-eared pages: 20

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.


Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
The Nocturnal Library

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful ThingsTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Publisher: Vintage
Number of pages: 304
My copy: Kindle edition

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this bookis a balm for everything life throws our way.

* * *

I first heard of Sugar through Hilary, one of my favorite bloggers. She often mentioned stuff she wrote on her posts, and for a moment, I thought that “Sugar” was someone she knew personally, because she often referred to her like she knew her from real life. Then I wandered over to The Rumpus, and found that Sugar was actually an advice columnist. Now I have read several advice columns before – in magazines, while having my hair done in salons, most of the time. I read them, but they’re not really my cup of tea, you know? Not that the people don’t offer sound advice, but I would rather talk to people I know for advice because they know me better.

But Sugar seems like a different story. I mean, read this:

You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.

How beautiful is that? I meant to read more of her posts, but then I got a copy of her Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of the Dear Sugar columns. Some of my Goodreads friends gave a really high rating for it, so I scanned the first few pages and before I knew it, I couldn’t stop reading. Because this book is possibly one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in the longest time.

The thing about Tiny Beautiful Things is that it is filled with tiny, beautiful things. Cheryl Strayed writes with the right mix of brutal honesty and gentleness in an answer to the people who wrote to her, asking for advice. And these people who wrote these letters are everyday people with everyday problems. Or, some of them may not be everyday problems, but they’re situations that we, perfectly imperfect humans, get into. And I know it’s impossible for one person to truly experience every single thing that these people wrote about, and Sugar doesn’t pretend to do that. What she did instead is meet their problems with her own vulnerability and offer what she has, in hopes of the words finding the their home in the hearts of the people who sought her.

And I think it worked, because I could only count with one hand the letters that were close enough to what happened in my life, and yet Sugar’s answers hit me, resonated in me “like a clanging bell.” The truth that she wrote were truths that I could also use in my own life — and I think other readers could use it, too. Her words on courage and love and compassion were a balm to the soul, and even if she delivers them sometimes with an edge, her love shines through, warm and inviting and healing. No judgments whatsoever. Just the loving truth. And that’s what makes it beautiful.

Tiny Beautiful Things is the kind of book where I wished I had some kind of photographic memory, or at least I could remember each quote with clarity so when I need words for trying times, I know what words to pull to keep me afloat. This is the kind of book that I would reread from the first page to the last, the kind of book I will pick up and flip through randomly and still find something to feed my soul. I loved everything about Tiny Beautiful Things, and I hope in my heart that this book finds its way to the people who need it.

Number of dog-eared pages: 125

Favorite dog-eared quotes (among others, because there’s just. too. many.):

Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word “love” to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.

Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams that was built by your own desire to heal.

There is a middle path, but it goes only one direction: towards the light. Your light. The one that goes blink, blink, blink inside your chest when you know what you’re doing is right. Listen to it. Trust it. Let it make you stronger than you are.

Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.

The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.

What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart.

You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.

We have to be as fearless about our bellies as we are with our hearts.

When you set new boundaries there is often strife and sorrow, but your life will be changed for the better.

Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill. You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.


Other reviews:
The Guardian
Miss Bookish Girl
Her Life With Books

Hope Was Here

Hope Was Here by Joan BauerHope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages: 186
My copy: borrowed from Louize

When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope’s not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn’t quite ready to give up yet–in fact, he’s decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.’s campaign–particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times . . . even Hope herself.

* * *

The first time I read about this book was from Peter’s blog, and it had me with the words diner, pie, and hope. I’ve seen Joan Bauer’s books in bookstores but I always ignored it until I read Peter’s review of it, and I put it on my radar. When my book club friend Louize brought a copy during our last discussion, I asked if I could borrow it, and immediately started reading it the next day. I had a feeling it was going to be a feel-good book, and I wasn’t wrong.

Hope Yancey’s real name is Tulip, but ever since her mom left her in the care of her aunt, she changed her name to Hope, something that she thought fitted her better. She moved around a lot with her Aunt Addie, who is an excellent cook and a diner manager. When the owner of the last diner they worked in in New York City stole money from them and left them with nothing, Addie and Hope move to Wisconsin to help manage Welcome Stairways, a little diner owned by G.T. Stoop who was sick with leukemia. G.T. got them onboard because he had other plans for their little town – he wanted to run for mayor to beat the corrupt Eli Millstone who’s had the town in his hands for year. Hope and her aunt gets involved in this campaign, but they didn’t know what people desperate to keep power would do to keep people out…but Hope chose her name for a reason, and even if she isn’t feeling particularly hopeful herself, she is finding that there were a lot of reasons to keep the hope in the midst of the hardest time in her life.

I breezed through Hope Was Here, not because it was a super-easy read but because it was really interesting. I realized that I really like reading about small town, diner settings (case in point: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, and Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins). I really liked the small family that always forms inside diners, and how it makes working there seem really fun, despite it being hectic come peak hours. Of course I loved the food descriptions (homemade corned beef hash and fried eggs with a big piece of maple corn bread slathered with salted butter…mmm), and how food played a big part in their lives without it becoming too much of a foodie book.

I liked how the book didn’t seem complicated even with several plots — G.T.’s campaign, Hope’s issues with her mom, her search for her dad. I liked how they all played with each other well, all supporting the main theme of having hope and keeping it, even if things don’t feel particularly hopeful. Yes, there’s also romance, and one of them I predicted from when the lead interest appeared, but both of them worked quite well. A part of me felt that the love interests seemed too old for their partners, but I learned to adjust how I imagined them later on. I think I just had a bit of stereotype in my head when I started reading it.

This book reminded me of those books that my mom bought for me when I was in elementary and high school — full of life lessons and utter positivity. I can still remember most of them, and I think the reason why those books stayed with me even after years is because the plot felt real, and the characters were wonderfully flawed and yet they still prevailed in the best way. I bet if my mom had read the blurb of Hope Was Here back when she was still buying books for me, she would have gotten this, too.

I think Hope Was Here accomplished its goal with me: when I finished reading it, it left me with hope. Hope in the good things, hope in the midst of difficulties, and gratitude in knowing that there is always something to be hopeful for. :) I really liked this, and if you’re looking for a feel-good book (for the right reasons, and not just fluff!), then Hope Was Here would not disappoint. If Joan Bauer’s other books were as good as this one, then I would love to go through her entire backlist. :)

Number of hypothetical dog-eared pages: 15

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I think hope is just about the best thing a person can have. (p. 7)

New places always help us look at life differently. (p. 10)

Then she hugged me with permanence. (p. 12)

She said you’ve got to love yourself with all your shortcomings, and you’ve got to love the world, no matter how bad it gets. (p. 56)

There’s something about diner setup that soothes the soul. Something about making good coffee in a huge urn glistening in fluorescent light, something sweet about filling syrup pitchers and lining them on the back counter like soldiers ready to advance. It gives you courage to face another day. (p. 61)

The thing I hate most about dying is how we deny its existence for as long as we can. Nobody knows how long they’ve got on this earth. And all we need is to live our lives just a little bit like the hearse is outside ready to cart us away – make the days count. That doesn’t mean living in fear, but we don’t have to be dumb bunnies either and take life for granted. (p. 67)

— you don’t know which way a thing will come at you, but you need to welcome it with your whole heart whichever way it arrives. (p. 174)

It’s a complete rush to get what you’ve been hoping for – to get it so full and complete that it fills your senses. (p. 174)


Other reviews:

Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage

Packing LightPacking Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage by Allison Vesterfelt
Publisher: Moody Publishing
Number of pages: 256
My copy: Kindle edition

What do you need to leave behind?

When I was in college, I figured my life would come together around graduation. I’d meet a guy; we’d plan a beautiful wedding and buy a nice house-not necessarily with a picket fence, but with whatever kind of fence we wanted. I might work, or I might not, but whatever we decided, I would be happy.

When I got out of college and my life didn’t look like that, I floundered around, trying to figure out how to get the life I had always dreamed of. I went down so many different paths for it. Career. Travel. Friends. Relationships. But none of them were as satisfying as I hoped they would be.

Like many twenty-somethings, I tried desperately to discover the life of my dreams after college, but instead of finding it, I just kept accumulating baggage . I had school loans, car payments, electronics I couldn’t afford, a house full of mismatched furniture I didn’t love but that had become my own, hurt from broken relationships, and unmet expectations for what life was “supposed to be” like.

Just when I had given up all hope of finding the “life I’d always dreamed about,” I decided to take a trip to all fifty states…because when you go on a trip, you can’t take your baggage. What I found was that “packing light” wasn’t as easy as I thought it was.

This is the story of that trip and learning to live life with less baggage.

* * *

I found Ally’s blog through Twitter one time and her blog quickly became one of my favorites. I must admit that I really liked reading the stuff she wrote about dating, because I thought they spoke the truth, and not in a flowery way but in a real, age-appropriate, I-can-apply-this-to-my-life way. I was also very, very amazed at how she and her friend quit their jobs, sell everything and then went on a road trip to pursue their dreams. It’s such an exciting thing, things that my friends and I can only think about. I mean, quit our jobs, sell everything and travel? It seemed hardly rational.

When I heard that Ally was releasing a book about her adventures in this trip — and one of the reasons she went on a road trip, I think — I knew I wanted to read it. I find it funny that this book, like the previous non-fiction book I bought and read — came to my life at exactly the right time, and it seemed like the words I read were the exact words I needed in my life.

I make it sound so dramatic, I know, but it was the only thing that fits with my reading experience. Packing Light is a memoir of sorts, of Ally’s trip with her friend Sharaya, and what she learned about baggage, be it physical or not. Ally talked about the preparations for the trip, her doubts, their adventures and misadventures. She talked about the relationships that she formed and lost and strengthened in the course of six months, how she dealt with heartbreak and how she found herself again. In each of the chapters, Ally would share the lessons she learned, and how she learned that in a trip — and in life — you can’t take all the baggage that you have accumulated, but packing light isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

The best thing about books like this, I think, is its honesty. It helps that I knew Ally from her blog before, and her posts are just so real and honest that I knew her book would be nothing less. Packing Light has that same feel, the same kind of intimacy of a good friend who is telling you her story, and her adventures and you learn a thing or two from what she’s saying. I liked reading about how she and Sharaya prepared for the trip, and then she puts it in such a way that anyone could be going through the trip, and the preparations. Ally makes it seem like anyone can do what she and her friend did…and maybe anyone really can. Perhaps not the same kind of trip, but still a trip that has a potential to change your life. Then again, every trip has a potential to do that, right?

Needless to say, I loved Packing Light. I learned a lot while I was reading it, and I bet that if I reread it again, I will learn new things too. This is exactly the kind of book that I’d recommend to read if you’re at a crossroad in your life, if you’re having a life crisis, if you’re feeling a little lost and broken and you don’t want to be alone. But even if you’re not in any of those states, I still think Packing Light is a must-read book. Ally’s experiences teach us about what baggage can do in our life, and how important it is to let go.

If you want read more about Ally’s thoughts on living a life with less, you can visit her blog here. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 98

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

Baggage is like that. You pick it up one piece at a time, and it grows heavy over time, so you hardly even realize you’re carrying it. And the only way we know we’re holding it is if we go somewhere. As long as we stay stationary, we’ll never realize how full our arms, and our suitcases, really are. but when we decide to go somewhere, we discover that we can’t take it with us. (p.18)

That’s the thing with ideas. They start small, somewhere inside of you, and nothing will happen with them until you finally speak them out loud. (p. 30)

It isn’t until we’re honest about who we really are, and what we’re really feeling, that we give others a chance to show us how brave they think we are. It isn’t until we believe in ourselves to do something radical that we invite others to believe with us. And it isn’t until those we trust tell us we’re trustworthy and brave that we actually realize how trustworthy and brave we really are. (p. 40)

Unless I let go of what I was holding, I would never get the answers to my deepest questions: is God good? Can I trust Him? Will He provide for me? Should I jump into the waterfall? (p. 48)

I wonder if what we need, more than anything, is for someone to tell us that we’re going to “make it.” No matter where we are in our journey, or what has gone wrong, I wonder if what we really need are people who are waiting for us, without judgment, willing to say, “Do what you need to do. I’ll be here when you make it.” (p. 84)

I want to be the kind of write who is awake to the realities of heaven, but engaged in the realities of this world. (p. 95)

When you are living in your passion, people around you who were once sleeping will be woken up. That’s how you know. When we become who we were made to be, we come alive, but the people around us come alive, too. Listen carefully. Watch. Are people responding? Are they changing? When we become who God meant us to be all along, we leave a wake of His presence behind us. (p.130)

Open hands to receive gifts that come, enjoy them while they last, and give freely when it’s required. Open hands that live gracefully, with gratitude, with or without a toothbrush. (p. 190)

He’s waiting for us to do something beautiful, something courageous, something totally out of the ordinary.

Your whole life is an invitation. God isn’t going to tell you the “right” answer to force you to the right direction, because if He did, He would only be stealing the joy that comes when you pick yourself. You’ll face obstacles along the way, like we did. There will be breakdowns and sickness, and losses you can’t imagine before you start. But God isn’t punishing you. He’s on your side. He’s never left you. He’ll be with you the whole way. (p. 247)


Other reviews:
Magnolia Grace
Krisi Ruth Johnson