Review: Angels of the Pacific

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (William Morrow) for promotional purposes.

What a book! I personally found it to be a brutal and heart-wrenching read because the story really hit home for me. Short personal story: I am half Filipino and my maternal grandparents lived through World War II in the Philippines. My grandpa lived in Bataan, which was one of the centers of the war. My mom told me that my grandpa would describe that time in life as always running and never having any shoes. In fact, his birth records were destroyed during the war. When he came to America, he had to have a paper from the Philippine government certifying that his birth certificate was destroyed during the war. It’s crazy to think that my grandparents lived through some of what happened in the book. 

This book gave me goosebumps multiple times while reading it. I knew the Japanese occupation was harsh, but reading about the reality of it was something else. I’m so glad that the book shed light on life under their occupation and didn’t hold back on its depictions. It is so overlooked and needs to be acknowledged. I also liked how the book subtly touched upon the Philippines and their previous colonizers (Spain and the US). 

It is evident the author put in a tremendous amount of research in writing this story. Both Tess and Flor’s storylines were compelling, engaging, and well thought out. I liked how their stories showed two different points of view (one from an American nurse and one from a native Filipino working as part of the resistance) and how their stories intersected.  

Overall, if you are looking for a different take on World War II or just want to learn more about the Philippines during the war, I highly recommend this book! 


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Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher as part of a blog tour. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative. 

I just want to preface this review by saying this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Like the main character of this book, I am half Filipino and half white. Seeing myself represented in literature means the world to me. I also want to say that I’ve never been to the Philippines so I can’t speak to anything in that regard.

Wow. This book was everything. I don’t even know where to begin. 

First off, all the Filipino culture was amazing to see. I’ve never read a book with this much Filipino culture. Every time I saw something, I was like, “Yeah, that’s my culture right there!” By the way, that happened a lot throughout this book. 

The blurb on the back of the cover compares this book to Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. That was likely a marketing ploy, but in a way I do see merit to that comparison. There’s something about Randy Ribay’s writing that reminds me of Angie Thomas’s. They both like to bring up big points in subtle ways. If you’ve read my review of THUG, you’ll see some examples. In this book, one example is when  the author casually brings up the American human zoos. Tito Maning says to Jay, “Do you know the Americans stole entire villages and then displayed them in your country as I they were animals in a zoo?” (pg. 153). Yes, that really did happen. Just google, “1904 World’s Fair filipino.” I only just learned about that when I was in college. 

I thought that the author did a great job describing the President Duterte’s war on drugs in a multifaceted way. He showcased different viewpoints on it and shared actual accounts, like the story of Kian delos Santos, who was unjustly shot and killed by the police. 

I also loved how the author tackled the issue of identity and being biracial. As a fellow biracial Filipino, I could relate to Jay a lot. Being biracial is such a tricky thing and the author captured it perfectly. 

There’s a little bit of LGBT representation which I appreciated. It’s always nice to see the LGBT community acknowledged and normalized, even when it’s not a part of the main storyline.

As for the plot and what happened with Jun, there was a lot of gray areas, which made it feel realistic. Things aren’t so clear cut which is what happens in real life. I appreciated that approach. 

Basically, I just want to thank the author for writing this book. Not only does this book successfully highlight the biracial Filipino American experience, but it also shines a light on a lesser known social injustice. 

To end, I want to share a quote that really hit me:

“It strikes me that I cannot claim this country’s serene coves and sun-soaked beaches without also claiming its poverty, its problems, its history. To say that any aspect of it is part of me is to say that all of it is part of me”

pg. 227

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.