Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Renee Carlino
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Pages: 320 pages
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M

“Once there was you and me
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Before we were strangers
Do you still think of me?”

I’ve had Before We Were Strangers for quite a while, and I’ve been wanting to read the book for so long now, but for some reason I have been putting it off. I remember being completely captivated by the synopsis of this one, and I immediately ordered a copy off The Book Depository because I haven’t seen a copy in the bookstores here in the Philippines. To be honest, when I started reading this the other day, I was debating whether or not this book was worth it. I was thrown off guard because I thought that this was going to be centering around adults around the age of 20-25, because the genre is new adult after all. However, I got two perspectives, starting with an already working male main character who was already divorced once, followed by their perspective set years ago back in college. It was not what I signed up for, and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it because of that. However, as I read on, I felt more and more connected to the story, and I began to love it.

“The present is our own. The right-this-second, the here-and-now, this moment before the next, is ours for the taking. It’s the only free gift the universe has to offer. The past doesn’t belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own. The only way we can realize that fantasy is if we embrace the now.”

I’m not sure about this, but I think most of the story takes place when Matt and Grace were still in college years back. It shows how they became friends, and how their friendship developed into something more. Although it seemed like there was always something between them, Grace didn’t want a serious relationship then. It gave us a glimpse of how Matt’s photography career began, and how Grace developed her skills with the Cello. Separated by Matt’s leaving for a job in another country and some misunderstanding, the two never saw each other again. At present, Matt still works for National Geographic with his ex-wife and his boss as his best friend. Then, one day, Matt sees Grace on the train, so he created a post on Missed Connections, which created the bridge for them to meet at the present again.

“It was like the universe was teasing us; we saw each other just a second too late.”

My goodness, this book ripped my heart out to sheds! Although it has been more than a week since I read this book, I can still feel the hurt whenever I remember what transpired in the novel. There was a lot of deceit, hurt, misunderstanding, mistrust, and of course, love. It wouldn’t be complete without love, wouldn’t it? I really connected with the characters and the story, and although it was kind of predictable, it still ripped my heart to shreds. I felt like I could relate to the characters, although I wasn’t sure why. I was really able to put myself in their positions, and experience the story as they were experiencing it. My tears didn’t even care that people would judge me. It just continued to flow, because the emotions that this book made me feel were just too much.

“Life was passing me by at high speed as I sat back with my feet up, rejecting change, ignoring the world, shrugging off anything that threatened to have meaning of relevance.”

I really loved how the story turned out to be. It was kind of slow in the parts when they were in college, but the present point of view makes up for it in excitement. I love how the story was still kind of realistic, in how people just don’t forgive easily just because they love someone; especially because they love someone. I think the ending was a great way to tie things up, but of course I still can’t help but wish for more. Perhaps a companion novel from another character’s perspective?

“That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.” 

Anyway, I really, really loved this story overall, and I would definitely recommend it! I really connected to the story, and there were so many amazing quotes in the novel as well. The emotions were just a shot straight through the heart for me, and although it hurt like hell, it felt amazing to feel all those along with the characters as well.

4.5 ughdssdfs stars. 

ARC Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven


Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 400 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 


Last year, I read All the Bright Places and it completely shattered my mind. Immediately, I knew it was one of those important books that everyone has to read at least once in their lives. So when I learned that Jennifer Niven was coming up with a new book, I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. Sadly, and most likely because of my high expectations, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

Holding Up the Universe is no doubt another important book. The message that it wants to get across is beautiful. I love how Niven always chooses topics that are unique and seldom talked about. In this case, Jennifer Niven chose to talk about Libby Stout, a girl who once was called “America’s Fattest Teen,” and Jack Masselin, a guy who has prosopagnosia. I would like to say that this book is cliché because after all, it’s a love story of a fat girl and a guy who is part of the in-crowd, but really, it’s anything but cliché because the story runs deeper than that.

Libby Stout is not portrayed as some shy girl who just lets people talk sh*t about her because she’s fat. Yes, she had moments when she felt down and wanted to give up, but she doesn’t take crap from people. She fought back, punched people in the face, and stood up for herself and others. She even gave most people a lesson, and I definitely learned from it too. Although she lost her mom at a young age, she is close with her dad and her therapist, Rachel.

“Life is too short to judge others. It is not our job to tell someone what they feel or who they are. Why not spend some time on yourself instead? I don’t know you, but I can guarantee you have some issues you can work on. And maybe you’ve got a fit body and a perfect face, but I’ll wager you’ve got insecurities too, ones that would keep you from stripping down to a purple bikini and modeling it in front of everyone. As for the rest of you, remember this: YOU ARE WANTED. Big, small, tall, short, pretty, plain, friendly, shy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, not even yourself.”

Jack Masselin, on the other hands, acts like a douchebag. You know, the typical “cool kid” who doesn’t care about anyone else. However, the truth is, Jack has to act this way because he can’t recognize faces. And no one knows, not even his family, because he can’t even admit it to himself. But underneath all that, Jack has a big heart and the courage to set things straight when he has done wrong. He loves his family deeply, and he stands up for what he believes in.

Although my mind gets how amazing this book is, I couldn’t really connect with the characters. This is why even though the book is technically good, I couldn’t give the book more than 3 stars. I didn’t connect with the characters nor with the story. It took me a really long time to finish this book because I just didn’t feel the urge to finish it. For the most part, I was convincing myself to finish it. There’s nothing wrong with this book at all, but I just really couldn’t connect. I know a lot of people might judge me for this, but this book just wasn’t for me. Ultimately, I am still a Jennifer Niven fan and I would still read whatever she comes up with next, but I just didn’t click with this one.

couldn’t-connect stars

ARC Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge


Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Untitled #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  September 27th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 448
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I have always been a fan of Rosamund Hodge’s writing. Despite the not-so-high ratings of others for her books, I found Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound to both be 4.5-star reads. However, with this one, I would just have to say that it has lost me. I didn’t really like it, and I wasn’t as sucked into the story as her other books. I think it might be because the other two are standalones and this one is part of a series, so the first two were complete and this one isn’t. 

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is told in two perspectives of two simultaneous events that were happening. One is from the side of Runajo and Juliet, while the other is from the side of Paris and Romeo. I am usually a fan of dual perspectives, but for this one, I just hated it. I would have liked this book more if it were only told from the side of Paris and Romeo because I found that to be more interesting and badass. Also, I found that the alternating chapters just took away from the excitement that was currently happening, and it just disrupted the flow of the story. 

I also thought that this book was excessively long for a story that is not yet complete, and there were certain things that didn’t need to be included. I think if this was only done in one perspective, then that could have been avoided. I also didn’t like the awkward chapters in the middle, which recounted the three nights that Romeo and Juliet spent together. And ugh, the ending didn’t feel like a proper ending because there were still so many things left unresolved. I mean, I get that this book is part of a series, but I just really didn’t think that that ending was enough.

All that aside, there is one thing that I love from this book though. Even though it was marketed as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, it focused on friendship rather than romance. Yes, there are snippets of romance here and there, but mostly it focused on how the friendship between Runajo and Juliet, and between Romeo and Paris developed. That’s something that’s not usually explored in books, especially in fantasy books such as this one.

I also liked how the topic of obedience and loyalty to family was explored. In this novel, it showed how blind loyalty and obedience can bring you harm. This novel shows that we can only be obedient and loyal to our families to a certain extent, because otherwise we would be blinded by all the horrible things that this is causing.

Finally, I really like the title and the cover of this book. The title is so paradoxical, and it just rolls off your tongue easily. It gets confusing, but it’s part of the charm. The book cover, on the other hand, is so cleverly crafted. I mean, it was love at first sight for me when I saw the cover, but after reading it and looking at the details, I feel like the creator really knew what the novel is about. Ahh, I just really admire the book cover!

Overall, I was disappointed in this book because I have loved all previous Rosamund Hodge books that I read, but there are still some qualities to salvage this book for me. I’m not sure if I will read the next book, but I would surely love to know what happens.

2.5 disappointing stars

Review: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson



Title: I’ll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2015
Pages: Paperback, 429
My Rating: 4 Stars

From the author of The Sky Is Every­where, a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying – all at once. For fans of John Green, Gayle Forman and Lauren Oliver. Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world. 

I’ll Give You the Sun is a book with a lot of hype surrounding it. I wanted to read it so badly for so long that I even went ahead and ordered the UK version on The Book Depository because I saw that it had amazing paint splatters inside. It was so overhyped at some point that I had really high expectations for it. Then began the reading process, and honestly, I didn’t like this book at first. I was slow to start and I didn’t get what all the hype was about. I actually kind of felt cheated because everyone was raving about it and I just didn’t get it! I didn’t get the point of the book, and I didn’t get what was going on. However, it was only after I finished the whole book that I began to appreciate how truly amazing and hype-worthy this book is.

I’ll Give You the Sun is told in two perspectives – Noah from the past, and Jude during the present. It alternates chapters between two people and two timelines. I have to admit that at first it was a bit confusing but you can just get used to is as you go along. It explores themes of family, friendship, first loves, bullying, LGBT, adultery, self-growth and self-love. It has a simple enough story, but the book was able to touch the surface of many different subjects.

I think what really took me off guard after reading this book is how things are never what they seem. We often judge people by their covers, and oh, how mistaken we are, if this book is to be any basis. The characters in this book held grudges against each other, not knowing what the other did to protect them. They were quick to cast judgements and hate, but if they just let down their prides and talk it out, they would learn that only love lies underneath their actions. This made me think of how often I am quick to cast judgement on those around me, especially on my own family, and it made me realize that maybe we just don’t communicate enough for us to understand each other enough.

Although I thought this book centers on romance, fair warning, it does not. Romance is but a small part of this book, which is mainly why I thought there was nothing happening at first. I thought this was going to be centered on romance, but apparently, I was wrong. It actually has elements on romance in it, but it’s not the main focus of the story. Noah and Jude both found their romances, and of course those parts made me swoon as well.

I don’t think I can get into much detail about this book without spoiling anything, so I’ll cut my review short. I feel like the things I want to mention will be, one way or another, considered spoilers by some because it will give a hint to where the story is going. Anyway, I really liked this book, and I really recommend it to anyone who is interested. Just be warned that this book does not center on romance, and remember to give the book a chance until you finish it before you judge if you like it or not. Happy reading!

4 eye-opening stars

ARC Review: The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day {4.5 Stars}


Title: The Possibility of Somewhere
Author: Julia Day
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Pages: 320
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Together is somewhere they long to be.

Ash Gupta has a life full of possibility. His senior year is going exactly as he’s always wanted– he’s admired by his peers, enjoying his classes and getting the kind of grades that his wealthy, immigrant parents expect. There’s only one obstacle in Ash’s path: Eden Moore—the senior most likely to become class valedictorian. How could this unpopular, sharp-tongued girl from the wrong side of the tracks stand in his way?

All Eden’s ever wanted was a way out. Her perfect GPA should be enough to guarantee her a free ride to college — and an exit from her trailer-park existence for good. The last thing she needs is a bitter rivalry with Ash, who wants a prized scholarship for his own selfish reasons. Or so she thinks. . . When Eden ends up working with Ash on a class project, she discovers that the two have more in common than either of them could have imagined. They’re both in pursuit of a dream — one that feels within reach thanks to their new connection. But what does the future hold for two passionate souls from totally different worlds?
I was given a copy of this book by St. Martin’s Griffin 
through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh my goodness, this book definitely took me by surprise in such an amazing way! I have to honest, I didn’t think much of this book when I first requested it because I have been having a bad streak with smart/high GPA main characters lately, but this one definitely salvaged that trope for me. I’ll try to get into what I want to say quickly, but no promises!

Okay so most people are probably tired of the old cliché where the couple hates each other at first and then gets into a relationship with each other but I’ve always loved the tension that love/hate relationships brought. I just didn’t know how much I’ve missed them before reading this book, and this book definitely brought back my desire to read such books. Another old cliché in this book is where the characters have to hide their relationship because the parents and friends don’t approve. I thought that I was tired of this, but for a time this has been avoided since it has become cliché, and I think I kind of missed it. So yeah, definite plus points for this book!

When I finished like 10% of this book, I immediately knew that I was going to love it. It made me feel so giddy, and I couldn’t help but smile while I was reading the book, even though I was in public and people probably thought that I was crazy. It just made me feel light and fluffy, and all the amazing things that I look for in a contemporary romance novel, and I just freaking loved it!

I really connected with the main character and the story. There were also a couple of times where I got teary eyed because I just felt everything the main character was feeling. I definitely got the frustrations on her part, and I was really able to put myself in her shoes. In some ways, I felt like we were very similar, and in some ways the opposite. I really admire Julia Day’s ability to just make the reader feel every emotion that the main character is going through.

For a fluffy contemporary book, this book was sure filled with drama. A lot of things happened throughout the novel, and although I consider this book fluffy, there were some hardcore stuff going on with the main character’s family. In my opinion, that aspect was not delved into much, which I kind of preferred because I’m tired of the cliché.

I really admire Eden because she’s such a strong, independent woman. She stands on her own two feet and is not afraid to voice out her opinions. She went through a lot but she never complains. To add to that, she takes matters into her own hands and makes the best out of the situation that she’s in. She worked hard for what she wanted and never expected help from anyone. I really think that Eden is someone to look up to, and I feel like I actually already do. I just felt like I should be more like her and start taking matters into my own hands.

This novel definitely made me feel all the feels, and that’s both the good feels and the bad feels. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but that made sense in my head haha! Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I think I really missed the old clichés, and it’s also a way for me to break from the new clichés. I recommend this book for those who love relationships that start with the couple hating each other, because I promise you, feels!

4.5 i-can-totally-relate-and-all-the-feels! stars. 

ARC Review: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner {4.5 stars}

Title: The Memory of Things
Author: Gae Polisner
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Pages: 288
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

I was given a copy of this book by St. Martin’s Griffin 
through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was only in prep 1 when the planes hit the twin towers. I remember not understanding what my teacher was saying when she told us the news the next day, and I just proceeded to talk with my seat mates. Being in the Philippines and being just a kid, I was clueless about what happened. It wasn’t until years later that I learned and was able to comprehend the tragedy that struck New York that day.
According to the author’s note, this book is not about tragedy but about hope, solidarity and peace amidst tragedy, and I think that it’s the perfect description for this book. Kyle was moving away from the twin towers when he saw a girl in need of help. The girl lost her memory but Kyle took her with him to their apartment. This story follows how Kyle took charge in the absence of his parents, needing to take care of his paralyzed uncle and the girl who lost her memory, all while tracking his parents and sister through the disaster. 
I know that this is not about tragedy, but let’s just talk about that for a moment. Being in the Philippines and a kid when it happened, I didn’t really know how big of a tragedy 9/11 is (and I use is because it still affects a lot of people until today). I knew that it was a tragedy, but I didn’t care much. However, reading this book really made me feel what it was like to be in the middle of the tragedy, and the horror that everyone experienced. This book made 9/11 resonate in my heart and my memory. 
Gae Polisner’s writing style is just amazing that it allowed me to experience everything as if I was there myself. She writes in such a way that I was able to really absorb and internalize everything, and that’s such a powerful thing for her to have because not all authors can do that. Sure, most authors can make us feel something, but not to this extent. And I’m glad that Gae Polisner used her talent to write about this topic because it’s something that not many talk about. 
Now onto the romance part. The romance is the clichéd convenient romance because they’re the only two teenagers there, but it was also realistic in a way. They knew that things will be different after the tragedy, and they would have to deal with people outside of their bubble. In that way, it was realistic for me. Romance is not the central part of this book and it didn’t really make me feel a lot of feels, but I think that it was a really important part of the story, with what the author was trying to get across. 
Aside from the above-mentioned things, I don’t really know what more to say about this book and I why I really liked it. It’s just amazing overall and I don’t know what details to give. The whole book just tied together so well from beginning to end. It’s such a powerful novel, and I believe that everyone has to read it. It wasn’t boring in any way, but it was kind of somber because of the overarching frame of tragedy. I would really like to read more books like this one when I get the time, and if you guys have read anything like this, please recommend some to me.
4.5 cuts-through-you stars. 

ARC Review: I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl


Title: I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Author: Gretchen McNiel
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 13th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 352 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She’s starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.

So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically-guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it’s time to use The Formula for herself. She’ll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win her boyfriend back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.

Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity, and fix everything she’s messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 


The concept for I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s concept is not that unique as I have seen it in other books like This is My Brain on Boys and The Boyfriend App but the author definitely made it unique in her own way. That said, I should probably avoid books like this in the future – books where the girls use some kind of academic knowledge in real life and things fail. Sometimes the character tends to seem robotic in this book, and although the author manages to make things unique, I find that they can be predictable, or as predictable as can be when it comes to contemporary. For the most part, I did enjoy this book, it’s just that I realized that this type of book is not for me.

I learned at the beginning of this book that the main character’s mother is a Filipina, and that made me really excited about the book. It’s quite rare that I see any Filipino characters in the books that I read, so it was a fantastic surprise! Bea’s mom also use Tagalog words like Anak, and I really saw the Filipino culture in her. Bea’s parents are also divorced but I liked that she has a good relationship with both of them, and even with her stepmother. She even lives with both her mom and dad on different days of the week, so they really get to spend time together.

This book focuses on a certain formula that Bea uses to make her and her two other friends popular because a new student, Toile, stole her boyfriend from her. It follows their transformation, as well as the new drama that emerged resulting from that transformation. I found Bea to be naive and heartless at times, but I realized that it’s understandable, given that this is set in high school.

My main issue with this book is that I didn’t connect with the story nor the characters. Overall, I actually found this book quite entertaining because a lot of things happened, but I just couldn’t fully enjoy it because I couldn’t connect. Sometimes it felt like there was too much drama going on and the friends were constantly fighting, but for the most part it was entertaining, like from a detached point of view. See, I found the drama entertaining! What is wrong with me?

Anyway, I liked the tension in the romance aspect, but that was about it. This book is kind of a ‘meh’ read for me. I mean, I read the book and didn’t exactly feel bored, but I didn’t feel excited either. I enjoyed it, but not that much. I just wished that I connected with it so I could give it a higher rating.

3 couldn’t-connect stars

SST Review + Giveaway: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow


Title: Girl in Pieces
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Mental Health
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 416
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in 
exchange for an honest review as part of the Sunday Street Team. 

When I first read the blurb for Girl in Pieces, it was either in early January or not even 2016 yet, but I already felt like I needed to read the book. So just imagine my surprise and happiness when I got approved for this book! I was really excited and began to read immediately.

However, to be honest, I didn’t really like it at first. Yes, I was excited to be reading a book about cutting but it felt awkward at first because the writing style is very much unique. I also felt like the way the other characters (Blue, Luisa, Ariel, etc.) was weird and unnatural. I don’t know why it felt that way, but it felt like that at the start. As I read on though, the way they talked either became better and more natural, or I just got used to it.

“Everyone has that moment, I think, the moment when something so … momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this pieces should go there, and that one there.”

What I really love about this book is how the author truly understands cutting. Kathleen Glasgow understands the struggle of trying to fight something that’s always on your mind, and how your worst enemy is yourself. Throughout Girl in Pieces, Glasgow showed the characters’ relapses, despite wanting to get better. This is a dark, dark book, and I felt like it really took me into the mind of a cutter. A cutter who is not looking for attention, but one who is only trying to help herself in the only way she knows how.

This book is heavy in both the topic and the emotion. It talks about living on the streets, mental facilities, cutting, sexual abuse, alcoholism – all the things that we prefer not to mention in our everyday conversations when these are precisely the things that we should be talking about. I truly admire Kathleen Glasgow so much for bringing all these into attention, and for making people not only aware but feel that these things truly exist.

“I cut because I can’t deal. It’s simple as that. The world becomes an ocean, the ocean washes over me, the sound of water is deafening, the water drowns my heart, my panic becomes as large as the planets. I need release, I need to hurt myself more than the world can hurt me, and then I can comfort myself.”

This book also brought about heavy emotions for me. The characters experienced a lot of complicated things in their past. They suffered through so much and they’re all broken in different places. No matter how hard they tried, they tended to go back to their all tendencies and habits. They experienced things going the complete opposite way of how they wanted things to me. They had to help themselves because otherwise, no one would. They had to go through a lot of shitty and crazy and traumatic things because the universe just wasn’t listening to them. These are all struggles of everyone, but theirs were in a much larger scale. Everything just felt so real to me while reading the book that I couldn’t finish it in one go.

When I got to the end of the book, I felt like wanting to cry and hug Charlie and the author at the same time. Then I got to the author’s note and I wanted to hug Kathleen Glasgow even more. Kathleen, you obviously won’t be reading this, but I admire you so much for being brave enough to share your story to the world; for being able to show the world your strength and weakness. Thank you for creating the words for those who, like Charlie, couldn’t voice their struggles out. Thank you for bringing cutting into the attention of everyone. Thank you for writing so beautifully, and for touching my heart. As early as now, I can say that this will be one of the closest books to my heart. Thank you.

“My own body is my deepest enemy. It wants, it wants, and when it does not get, it cries and cries and I punish it. How can you live in fear of your very self?

I highly encourage everyone to read this book. It’s a wonderful novel that everyone truly needs to read. It’s unique and heart-wrenching, but you will come out of it better and more understanding. Truly, Kathleen Glasgow is an author to look forward to!

4.5 you-have-my-heart stars
If you or someone you know is struggling and 
needs help, please consider contacting:

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
To Write Love on Her Arms: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/
National Runaway Hotline: 1-800-621-4000  

About the Author:

Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She writes for the radio show The Writer’s Almanac and can probably provide you with some interesting anecdotes about historical literary figures if you asked nicely. You can find out more about Kathleen by following her on Twitter: @kathglasgow, Instagram, @misskathleenglasgow (where she posts about sunsets, depression, spirit circles, and books) or her website: kathleenglasgowbooks.com.

Giveaway

ARC Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton



Title: Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Brodi Ashton
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  September 6th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 224
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story’s main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

When I first read the synopsis for Diplomatic Immunity, I was really excited. I felt like this would be a unique story because of the journalism factor in YA, and I also knew that there would be romance between Piper and Rafael. I kind of expected there to be a hint of mystery as well, and I just sounded so interesting to me. However, I was disappointed by this book.

Piper Baird is the type of character that I hate reading about in young adult novels that I read. There are some parts when she sounded like a naive little kid, and then some part where she sounded her age, and yet some other parts like an old person. I just thought that it was confusing and robotic at some points that I just couldn’t bring myself to connect with her. I felt like the narrative was awkward, and the flow was not natural.

In terms of Rafael, on the other hand, he acts and talks like someone older than he is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these two characters are just in high school, right? So I don’t know how he gets away with everything that he does, even if he has diplomatic immunity. I just felt like the characters weren’t acting like their actual ages.

This is a unique and interesting book, but it just didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would. However, its saving grave is the last few chapters of the book, where I finally connected with the story. The romance aspect of the last part was written so beautifully, and I can really feel what the character experienced, especially with that Post-Anon post. I just wish that the rest of the book could have been like that section, and then I surely would have loved this book!

Overall, this book was just not what I was expecting. I didn’t really connect to the main characters and the story until the last part, and by then it was too late for me to like this book. It is a unique story, but it lacks something.

2.5 not-what-i-was-expecting stars

Review: What Things Mean by Sophia Lee

Title: What Things Mean
Author: Sophia N. Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: May, 2015
Pages: 133
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

FOR OLIVE GUERRERO, DIFFERENT IS MORE THAN JUST A WORD.

What does it mean to be different? 14-year-old Olive is struggling to find out. Everything about her is so different from the rest of her family. She is big-haired, brown skinned, and clumsy in a family of cream-colored beauties who are all popular and Good At Sports. She closely resembles a father she has never known, and about whom her mother never speaks, and no one wants to tell her why. She turns to books and other things in her quest to find answers, and as a way to cope with her loneliness. When she learns the truth about her father, she must decide whether or not she will let the differences in her life define her forever.

A unique coming-of-age story unfolding through dictionary-style chapters, What Things Mean takes a closer look at the things that define a life, and the many ways in which we find meaning.

*Grand Prize Winner, Scholastic Asian Book Award 2014

I was sent a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review.

When Sophia Lee sent me an email regarding this book, I was immediately on board because I love supporting Filipino authors. I didn’t know if I would like the story, but it seemed pretty interesting to me. I felt excited to be reading a contemporary novel by a Filipino author. But then I read it and boom! It’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read and I would read anything that Sophia Lee writes in the future. 

“Maybe, that’s how it’s meant to be. Maybe we all have to let go of things, and people, in order to keep our balance. Maybe that’s the only way to keep moving forward.”

What Things Mean is written in a way that each chapter starts with definitions of a certain word that would be relevant in the chapter. It follows Olive, a fourteen-year-old girl who feels different from her family. Only she has dark skin and likes pickles in her family, and she thinks that her father might be the source of the difference. However, the thing is, no one in her family is willing to tell her about who he is. 

“Maybe she’s trying to understand how, in the space of a minute, something can turn from a thing that fulfills you entirely to something that empties you out.”

What Things Mean is written in such a beautiful way. There were so many notable quotes that I had a fear that I would ran out of sticky tabs (I put sticky tabs when I find a nice quote). Another amazing thing about this book is how I’ve never been in the situation of the main character, but I definitely felt everything that was narrated in the story. Tagos talaga sa puso, grabe! 

“Light always remains. The world turns, and days pass, and the sun warms the places that need it. Maybe that is how it is with everything else. Things go where they are needed, and when they do, we simply learn how to live without them.”

I really think that this is the type of book that should be made into book reports. I think that those in high school would really be able to appreciate this one because it’s easy to understand but at the same time it’s also very meaningful. Everyone is sure to find a quote or two that would be relevant in his/her life. Plus, this book is a quick read, although it’s also a book that’s meant to be savored and taken in slowly. 

“I was always going to be somewhere, stepping over some line. We all were – even if we didn’t want to admit it. There was only forward or backward, and an infinite line of changes either way.”

Another thing I enjoyed is reading about the Filipino culture within the pages. Every time I saw things like chocnut or adobo, I smiled because it’s rare that I get to read something that’s not literary fiction with references to Filipino culture. I’m actually not actually Filipino myself, but I was born and grew up here, so this is the culture that I know and love. 

“I know now that things are always more than what they mean. Things mean different things to people. People are the ones who give meaning to things.”

I really, really loved this book, more so than I first thought I would. This book deserves to be read by everyone, especially Filipino youth. It’s so meaningful yet concise at the same time, so there would be no room for boredom. I definitely recommend this! 
Thank you Sophia Lee and Scholastics for providing me a copy of this novel!

4.5 amazingly-written stars.