Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

I was not familiar with Cecelia Ahern until one of her novels, P.S. I Love You, was made into a film. I remembered people were fussing over the movie, so I decided to give her novel a try.

Reading the said novel did not fail to disappoint me. Ever since then, I planned to buy all of her books and always anticipated her upcoming ones. I am truly fascinated by her writing style and by the originality of the story she creates. And I can say that The Time of My Life, her recent work which was released last year, is just that.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Lying on Lucy Silchester’s carpet one day when she returns from work is a gold envelope. Inside is an invitation – to a meeting with Life. Her life.

It sounds peculiar, but Lucy’s read about this in a magazine. Anyway, she can’t make the date: she’s much too busy despising her job, skipping out on her friends and avoiding her family.

But Lucy’s life isn’t what it seems. Some of the choices she’s made – and stories she’s told – aren’t what they seem either. From the moment she meets the man who introduces himself as her life, her stubborn half-truths are going to be revealed in all their glory – unless she learns to tell the truth about what really matters to her.

Lucy Silchester has an appointment with her life – and she’s going to have to keep it.

It is evident in the story that Lucy has a complex relationship not just with her friends, but also with her family. She doesn’t have the heart to spend quality time with them – always finding an excuse to leave before the actual get-together ends – which proves to show her way of escaping from the reality and the truth she must face. But, of course, everything starts to change when she meets her life.

What saddens me the most is the outcome of Lucy and her father’s relationship with one another.  She hopes to have a closer relationship with her dad but couldn’t seem to make it happen. There’s always a tension between them. While Lucy thinks it’s her fault for bringing disappointment in her family, I come to realize that her father has his faults as well. Every daughter wants to make their parents proud, but no matter how hard she tries, her father shows otherwise – her perfectionist father who couldn’t distinguish the difference between reality and ideal.

Anyway, moving on, I like how Lucy and her Life’s friendship deepens as the story progresses. Despite her initial disregard of accepting the invitation to have an appointment with her life, meeting her life has surely made a great impact in her. Her life’s job is to help her get back on track and obviously teach her how she should deal with her life itself. There are times when it seems that her life has already something planned out for her without her knowing it and the outcome ends up satisfyingly good. Well, her life’s efforts are not wasted, that’s one thing I can tell for sure.

Moreover, I also come to love how Cecelia Ahern creates a contrast between Blake and Don’s personalities. Their characterizations are the exact opposite of one another which provide an avenue to let readers think and choose who is better than the other for Lucy. Their differences and how they treat Lucy’s life eventually sends a message that it’s better if someone you love appreciates your life and is interested in it, rather than letting one eat up something that’s more important than the ego.  Aside from this love story, this book is also a story about self-fulfillment with an added humor to make this a fun read. There are indeed parts where I find myself laughing at the exchange of dialogues between characters of the book.

One thing I find funniest and totally relatable is when Lucy describes her detestation toward a girl because it undeniably equates to how I exactly feel when I dislike a person. Just like Lucy, I also get a feeling about a person immediately even by his/her mere presence – the one, quoting Lucy, “of those girlfriend feelings that you get about other girls.” And then everything related to that person would be a reminder of him/her and become the object of hatred.

Overall, I love everything about the book. Cecelia Ahern has her way of creating a realistic story with an added touch of magical element in it. She personifies an intangible concept or object, like in this case, life. I guess this is also a way of letting readers get a better understanding or clear grasp on how one deals with life and treats it. In the story, how Lucy’s life looks like and acts vividly represents her life in literal sense. Seeing it before her eyes will actually make her want to reevaluate and reflect her life once again.

We can’t escape our own lives because they shape who we are and will undeniably become a part of us. The book is able to teach us that sometimes, slowing down and thinking things through are all it takes to figure out what we really want in our lives. It makes us reassess our lives at a different angle and change it for the better before it’s too late. The Time of My Life captures the essence of not taking life for granted. It’s not about letting someone dictate what we should do in life, but realizing that life is about doing what we want and need, about living honestly and worthwhile.

I would like to end this review with a heartwarming passage I took from the book:

If you have a dream, you want to at least be able to try to achieve it in some way. Something that is seemingly beyond your grasp but that you know that with a bit of hard work you could possibly achieve. Walking to your local newsagent to buy a lottery ticket is not inspiring. Dreams should make you think, If I had the guts to do it and I didn’t care what anybody thought, this is what I’d really do.” (p. 199)


The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Ever since I was first introduced to mythical creatures such as mermaids, fairies, unicorns, and the like, I immediately fell in love with them. I remember the times when I thought of the possibility of their existence and perhaps seeing them with my own eyes and even interacting with them. Of course, they’re just a fragment of people’s imaginations, but that didn’t stop my fascination of them.

A few months ago, I discovered The Last Unicorn from the blogosphere. I’m not much of a classic book reader, but since there’s a unicorn in it, I decided to give it a try. Plus, I’ve been reading rave reviews about it, so I didn’t think twice about buying and reading the book.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone…

…so she ventured out from the safety of the enchanted forest on a quest for others of her kind. Joined along the way by the bumbling magician Schmendrick and the indomitable Molly Grue, the unicorn learns all about the joys and sorrows of life and love before meeting her destiny in the castle of a despondent monarch – and confronting the creature that would drive her kind to extinction.

After reading this book, all I think of is that Peter S. Beagle did such an amazing job in writing the story. His descriptive writing perfectly captures the true nature of a unicorn, just as what the people imagine the creature to be. In the book, the unicorn is depicted as something which holds great power and possesses utter beauty beyond the ordinary. It is also evident that it brings security, serenity, and beauty to the forest where she lives. No other creature can compete with her appearance; thus, other animals would not dare to approach her, but can only admire her in awe from afar. This unicorn, an immortal creature incapable of having feelings and emotions, seems not to belong in this harsh and cruel reality of the world. Because of this, she becomes a mere spectator, detaching herself from the world.

Throughout her life, the unicorn never thinks of leaving the forest, but one day, after hearing the conversation between two hunters, something inside her convinces her to leave and find others of her same kind. As she ventures out, she encounters human beings who will bring both good and bad to her life; as well as the Red Bull who is responsible for the disappearance of the other unicorns. I won’t be giving specific details about the contents of the story to avoid any spoilers in this review.

I like how each human character affects the life of the unicorn, especially Schmendrick, Molly Grue, and Prince Lír. The three of them are able to establish strong character development as the story progresses, each having his or her unique personality – Schmendrick trying to become a great wizard, Molly Grue regarding the unicorn as her friend not just a mythical creature, and Prince Lír learning what it has to be done to become a hero. I can say that they somehow unexpectedly filled the unicorn’s heart where a hole was initially supposed to be.

The whole story can, in fact, be related to the world we’re in today. For one, Mommy Fortuna’s deceiving powers and heartless nature towards creatures remind us of the reality of how evilness can bring injustice and inequality to the world, that there is a prevalence of injustice, that the innocents helplessly become victims, and there’s this ruling class oppressing those under them. On the other hand, while this situation exists, some people, like Captain Cully, are believed to be Robin Hood versions of them. Although the ballads about them are lies, I guess readers will get the realization that it may be a form of escapism from the harsh reality. Even the curse of King Haggard’s castle is not an evil curse we often think of in fairy tales. People will actually be surprised by the nature of the curse.

Overall, I undoubtedly love everything about the book! Peter S. Beagle has his way of writing the story in lyrical prose – even including originally composed songs and poems in the book –, which I believe is a creative way to transport readers to a magical, fantasy world where they could let their imaginations run wild at its fullest.

Lessons can also be learned from the book. Readers will be enlightened by the importance of a decision between duty or sacrifice and the desire of one’s heart, as well as about the immortal and mortal condition of a being. Throughout the story, the characters get to understand and appreciate the situation of immortal beings, and vice versa. An immortal creature becoming a mortal can never understand humans as he or she may feel imprisoned or limited in the capabilities, since being immortal gives one the freedom from the constrained time and space. On the other hand, a mortal being, having to encounter an immortal being, will humbly embrace the fact that he or she is limited. In the end, it all boils down to this mystery: that no matter how limited a person may be, this acceptance and their capability of having emotions or feelings push them to savor each moment and make their lives worth living for.

I truly recommend this book to all, young and old.

Seeing Julia by Katherine Clare Owen

Another year has passed and a new year welcomes us with more challenges, opportunities, blessings, and bliss. It’s about embracing the new and the future while we let go and learn from our past as we continue to grow as persons for each passing moment. The first book I’m about to review for this year perfectly describes it.

To give you a brief background of the book, Seeing Julia is the first work of Katherine Clare Owen. It won the Zola Award and garnered the First Place in the Association’s National 2010 Literary Contest. Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

With her husband Evan’s tragic death, Julia Hamilton considers only one truth: death abducts the dying, but grief steals from those left behind. At the funeral, a despondent Julia encounters Jake Winston, Evan’s mysterious best friend, which leads to an inexplicable connection that saves her life, but leaves her questioning everything else. Unsettled by Jake and grief, she escapes to Paris with her young son and her inner circle, Kimberley and Stephanie. Months later, Julia returns to the life she left behind in New York intent on finding out where things stand between her and Jake, but soon learns the venerable attorney has complications of his own. But it’s the revelation of betrayal by the one person she thought she knew that leads Julia to embark on a personal journey in search of the truth about her life, herself, and the answers to her most difficult questions. Can she trust anyone? Or, does she need to learn to trust herself, most of all?

Yes, it’s about how Julia deals with the sudden death of Evan. However with her trustworthy and supportive inner circle, readers will find out if Julia gives in to the grief and continues to mourn for as long as she lives, or if she eventually learns to stand on her own and move on. I guess with the flow of the story, readers might, at first, be as confused as Julia, but as the story progresses, the answer will be clearer.

Throughout the story, I can totally relate with Julia for losing her husband on a sudden tragic accident. Even I can’t stand or bear the idea of losing someone I love and care about. I also can’t envision myself having to go through life without the person I vow to spend the rest of my life with. Julia, indeed, has undergone a kind of immeasurable pain and grief that one can ever imagine. On the other hand, her inner circle proves to be her true friends who have helped her remain firm on the ground and have never let her go astray. They serve as her foundation for what it means to be a family (whether blood-related or not) and a friend whom you can always run to and lean on.

I love how each of the characters plays significant roles and makes a great impact in Julia’s life. Firstly, Lianne shows to be a promising nanny who knows her responsibilities and is somehow passionate about her job without any complaints heard from her. Secondly, Maggie demonstrates her care for Julia through her gestures of being an older sister or grandmother Julia never had. Thirdly, Dr. Bradley “Brad” Stevenson supports and guides her to make the right decision in life. And lastly, Stephanie and Kimberley have been two-of-a-kind, great friends – those whom you can fully trust and depend on, who will always be there for you amidst the hardships and endeavors. Both of them possess this unique quality anyone would look for in a true friend.

As you can see, all characters have been great. Even the way Katherine Clare Owen describes the men in her book is making me feel giddy inside. Brad is thought of as Mr. Hallmark Card man while Jake is pictured as having this charming, gentlemanly, perfect stature combined with a strong sex appeal he sends towards women. He surprisingly turns out to be a father-figure guy as well. Evidently, Jake is all a woman could ever ask for. Could a guy like him possibly exist in reality? I sure hope so.

Moving on, towards the end of the story, readers will be surprised by the shocking revelations revealed by the very characters cited, which I will not mention here to avoid any spoilers. Mixed feelings will arise from the readers, but a story often ends with a resolution, so fear not. One minor detail which I think to be the downside of the story is the fact that the author did not explain or include Gregoire’s reaction to Kimberley’s decision not to marry him and cancel their wedding. Other than that, the book left me satisfyingly full by its magical words and its romantic element.

I am happy that I’m able to gain insights about relationships after reading this book. Apart from finding oneself again and learning to move on from the downside of life being encountered, I believe the book also tackles the importance of a relationship between a couple in marriages.

Marriage is a big thing, and for it to work out, I guess the couple should remain faithful to one another, to trust and to be honest to one another, too. Otherwise, complications may occur which might inevitably destroy and end the relationship. Above all, it’s evident that love is the most important aspect in marriage. All of us want to share this phase of life with someone we love, someone who sees us for who we are, and who will make us feel complete and happy. The process or the search for this right person may be long, but when the right time comes, a mysterious force will eventually lead one to that destined person, forming this invisible line between two persons – an electrical connection, as what Kimberley says – that makes one person feel alive and bound to the other from the first moment.

I love the turn out of events of the book, especially how the story ended. Who would’ve thought that the person you shared your first kiss with might also be the one who will share your last? It’s just so mesmerizing and captivating. And you wouldn’t ask for more, that the simplicity of life is pleasingly adequate as long as you’re with the one you love.

The way how Katherine Clare Owen structured her sentences, choosing the right words magically, moved me deeply which makes me relate more to the story and to the characters. With that said, I want to share to everyone and end this review with a quote that I took from the book which can surely be applied to each of our lives:

“Some things change; and you realize you really just need to find a tail that can make your kite fly to see where it takes you.” (p. 311)