Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

4 out of 5 stars

Sarah Dessen‘s books never get old. There’s good reason she’s one of the queens of YA contemporaries because she sure does know how to write about young adult lives with genuineness. I have read almost all of her books and even though there are a few I honestly didn’t like, I always give the author a chance to redeem herself and she’s often successful the next time I pick another of her books.

What Happened to Goodbye is a good read for me, right up there with This Lullaby and Lock and Key although not quite as good as Just Listen but it’s definitely in my top five Dessen reads. I really liked McLean‘s character and her unique adolescent experience. Her current self-exploration is very realistic and I really liked the friends she made despite her reluctance in making real connections. The all-around Deb is probably my favorite though. I love the little surprises she reveals about herself day by day. But McLean herself is also one memorable and sympathetic heroine. I like how responsible and mature she is when it comes to taking care of her dad but at the same time, I like that she can also be childish and selfish when dealing with her mom whom she blames for the wreckage of their family.

This is definitely one of the author’s better works, an enjoyable, entertaining, and meaningful YA contemporary about loss, forgiveness, moving on, letting go, establishing new relationships, acceptance and being brave enough to take the many risks of falling for someone. 

Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

4 out of 5 stars

If it weren’t such an addictive read, I probably wouldn’t have had the patience to finish it because I admittedly find it longer than necessary. It was the classic thrillers and her online conversations that kept Anna‘s narrative entertaining.

I have mentioned in several reviews that I am not a huge fan of unreliable narrators but Anna is quite a sympathetic character because of her sarcastic humor and of her condition (agoraphobia) due to a traumatic experience which also consequently rendered her an alcoholic.

It’s impressive how Anna’s life took an eventful turn despite being confined alone in her home especially since the arrival of the new neighbors, the Russells. Blame it to her nosy-ness, watching her neighbors from her window because of boredom.

The twists were quite unusual too. I found them unexpected, albeit just slightly unbelievable. Nonetheless, it was as a whole an entertaining and engaging thriller and I’m glad I was finally able to read it. I mean, the author is my namesake so I just had to read it. Lol. Definitely looking forward to seeing the movie.

Review: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

3 out of 5 stars

I was hoping to get a quick YA romance fix from Seven Days of You and that’s exactly what I got. It’s got one of my favorite tropes-friends to lovers although it’s a bittersweet story because Sophia is bound to move out of Tokyo to New Jersey and is about to leave her friends and her potential more than a friend behind.

I enjoyed the tour around Tokyo, the descriptions of notable places around the City, including the food although I honestly think the author could have exhausted the setting better to make it really feel like Tokyo. It’s not like I know better but I just feel like there’s more to the city than just the popular places, most I already know of.

The narrative is playful and emotional at the same time, a bit dramatic to be honest at times but it’s still quite entertaining. Sophia is a sympathetic character and her personal struggles are quite relatable. The rest of the characters are also memorable. The conclusion although is indefinite makes the reader hope that there’s a possibility for Sophia and her possibly more than friend.

Review: Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover

3.5 out of 5 stars

Colleen Hoover will be that one author for me I could reliably go to when I want to read a romance that would not disappoint and Heart Bones, just like the rest of her new adult novels, is something you wouldn’t expect, more meaningful than you thought it would be and has enough substance you otherwise wouldn’t find in other romance novels.

But I hate to admit that this one seems to lack what I think of as the “Hoover Effect”. It doesn’t seem to have that “kapow” factor like her last book before this one, Regretting You. The latter for me was honestly breathtaking. But I don’t know, this one, it’s the first time that it took me a long while to finish her book. It was only till chapter 23 when things start looking up and the first half of the book just felt like a really long prologue.

But my feelings, when all Beyah‘s questions about Samson were all finally answered. My heart did quite break. *sniffs*

The story per se is amazing but I guess I just found the writing a little bit lacking and I honestly find the meaning of Heart Bones in the story overly corny, argh! But still, it’s definitely worth the read and I would forever be loyal to the author’s work.

Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

4 out of 5 stars

A surprisingly good read. Sam is a very relatable character. Just your average teen who couldn’t rely on her superhuman good looks nor excessive popularity. She doesn’t fall into a particular high school group and is more than happy to leave the whole high school thing behind. I knew of somebody exactly like her. Myself, of course. Lol.

I really liked the premise of the story. I find it quite original that Sam is interning at their local paper, Herald Tribune, as an Obituary writer. It sounds morbid but somehow she makes it sound inspiring and challenging.

“It’s sad to think that for some people, an obit is the only time they’ll be in print, and they’re not even around to enjoy it.”

I also enjoyed the effortless humor of the narrative in the POV of the main character herself. Sam is very realistic with annoying traits in fact but which make her quite more tangible and real.

“Did you even think maybe he was flirting with and you blew him off? You can be sort of…stuck-up sometimes.”

“Stuck-up? Where’d you get that? I’m shy.”

“I know that, Sam. But not everyone does. Shy can come off as snobby. It puts people off.”

There is a little mystery involved as well as an adorable little romance and there are valuable little life lessons deserving to be quoted.

“Writing about the dead this summer has taught me how to live.” 

Review: Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis

4 out of 5 stars

“Sociologists have pointed out that attractive people get treated better than less attractive ones. They get more complimented more often. They get unsolicited favors. They get a distorted impression of their importance. It makes sense. If you looked in a mirror and saw that you were beautiful, you’d be satisfied, wouldn’t you? You’d look more often, and each time you’d feel that same satisfaction. After a while, you wouldn’t have to look in the mirror to get that feeling going. You’d just have to think about it. Or not. Satisfaction with yourself is something that can get to be a habit.”

I couldn’t decide on the next book to read so I just randomly picked Not Exactly a Love Story which as it turned out is the perfect pick for when you don’t know what to read next or not sure what book you’re in the mood for.

Set in 1977, the book is an amusing coming-of-age story about a 16 year old boy, Vinnie, whose life suddenly gets upturned by the divorce announcement of his parents and just a few months later of his mother’s engagement to his gym teacher.

As things start to become too much for him to handle, he decides to call Patsy, the girl next door anonymously every midnight only to be rejected each and every time until one day, he finally gets through and they become weird phone pals. Lol.

As the plot progresses, Patsy starts being attracted to Vinnie’s alter-character as Vincenzo even though that’s his real name (Slow much? Patsy? Lol) and at the same time she begins to like the cool boy next door too, Vinnie. Add in to the mix, “Biff”, the big and popular jock who was supposed to be her knight in shining armor but who turns out to be something more of a Ramsay of GOT in the making although I sincerely hope not. And now her emotions are all mixed up.

It’s definitely an enjoyable story, a young adult romance that’s not exactly a love story because it has a really good quirk and twist to it I could not explain that made it work really well, probably even better than your standard love story.

Review: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

5 out of 5 stars

Peter Swanson is definitely a master story teller. He can tell a story about his old rotten socks and I bet it’ll be brilliant and I’d still definitely read it.

“The clothers we wear cover the truth of our bodies, but they also present who we want to be to the world. They are fabrications, figuratively and literally.”

This is my second novel by him and I find it even more riveting than the first. I could already tell it’s going to be brilliant just two chapters far.

It’s pretty obvious the author’s love for books because the main character here is a book seller just like one of the main characters in his other book I read. It’s a really wise move because any book lover would be lured. It’s just annoying at times because I had to keep pausing to google the titles and authors. Lol.

I’m definitely curious of these eight titles contained in Malcolm’s blog entry containing a list of what he thought as eight perfect murders in books and is now being used by a serial killer as a textbook guide in his killings. I listed the titles in case I miraculously encounter any of them at my favorite secondhand bookstores. I’m frustrated with myself for having not read an Agatha Christie book yet but I am on a mission to change that soon.

As it turned out it’s, the turning point is not at all what I expected. I was looking for something more sinister, a darker motive perhaps of all the killings by “Charlie”, something that would terribly incriminate Mal and prove what a horrible person our main character really is. But I was wrong and as I think about it, it makes sense. Just like All the Beautiful LiesEight Perfect Murders manages to by a literary-thriller that makes you think way outside the box. Now, gimme more P.Swanson books!

Review: Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

5 out of 5 stars

“The quality of mercy is not strained.”

Oh gosh. I loved this book. An enjoyable middle-school historical novel set in Long Island in 1967 during the Vietnam Wars. I haven’t read a lot of those and I’m very glad I came across this one. Not only does this one has plenty of LOL moments, it’s also the kind of book that’ll genuinely make you smile and even make you want to ponder about life. We need more books like this. The cover alone already makes me feel all sorts of warm and light. The rats definitely played a huge role in the story. So hilarious!

“Teachers bring up Shakespeare only to bore students to death. And I was going to be bored to death for eight months. No human being could stand it.”

It’s actually a little kind of reading a more mature Diary of A Wimpy Kid minus the drawings but Wednesday Wars is a bit more structured in a sense that Holling Hoophoop has one specific hell of a nemesis in the person of his teacher, Mrs. Baker who concocts different ways to torture Holling (being a Presbyterian) every Wednesdays during which he is left alone with his tormentor in the classroom while rest of the students went to church.

“But it turned out that Mrs. Baker’s strategy didn’t work after all! She had wanted to bore me to death, even though she said that she didn’t- which was all part of the strategy. But the Merchant of Venice was okay.”

Her “evil plots” however make Holling a Shakespeare fan, enabling him to recite random lines from the plays including curse lines (lol) and even ending up in a holiday play of the Tempest as Ariel the fairy.

“That’s the Teacher Gene at work, giving its bearer an extra sense. It’s a little frightening. Maybe that’s how people decide to become teachers. They have that extra sense, and once they have it, and know they have it, they don’t have any choice except to become a teacher.”

And as it turned out, the nemesis he painted Mrs. Baker to be isn’t really the villain in the story. There’s also a subtle message of the evils of war and how it’s always the innocent suffering its evil effects. There’s Mai Thi, the lone Vietnamese student in school amassing all the ugly things said about “Vietcongs” and all that. There are the wives of the American soldiers in the characters of Mrs. Baker and Mrs Bigio and that scene where Mrs. Bigio said sorry to Mai Thi made me cry a little. Okay, a lot. What a lovely little story. 

Review: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

4.5 out of 5 stars

This is such a beautiful, very meaningful read and I’m kind of hating myself a little that it took me so long to pick this book up. Now I finally understand why Ask the Passengers won so many literary awards because it deserves all of it and more for this book has practically everything in it. It’s a contemporary YA but it reads more like a general fiction and I do not find it impossible that one day, this may well become a literary classic as well.

Astrid, our main character is smack–dab in the middle of the literal and metaphysical unknown. Call it teenage life crisis but I call it a quest for self discovery. She’s 17 and all she has are questions and even more questions. Questions about their pretentious small town, about the philosophies of life particularly those of the fundamental ones posed by classic Greek philosophers as Zeno and Socrates, about her dysfunctional family, about her best friends (Justin and Kristina) pretending to be in love with each other when in truth they’re both in love with the members of the same sex, and about her own sexuality because she might be in love with a girl but she couldn’t know for sure.

It’s amazing, the concepts and themes this simple plot is able to pull off with that genius use of life snippets from the different random people on a plane as every day, Astrid lies down her picnic table to watch as each plane goes by, sending her love to the passengers in it.

“It feels good to love a thing and not expect anything back.”

Written in the main character’s perspective, this is one of the most genuine, all-encompassing YA novels I have read laced with wit, charm, sarcasm, and humor, and a sprinkling of magical-realism and yes, I guess this now makes me automatically an A.S. King fan. Special thanks to Neil for recommending me this book. I’ve only read one other book by the author but I might agree with him as early as now that this too is my favorite.

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

5 out of 5 stars

A genuinely great YA read. I don’t even have the right words to describe how this short novel affected me. It’s a relevant read and when I say relevant, I really mean it. It addresses issues that are happening at the moment. Issues about racism and equality, about cops shooting unarmed black citizens that unfortunately is becoming a more common occurrence now despite the pandemic.

In the midst of all these, what’s a young black teenage guy, Justyce, is supposed to do in a society where he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere…

“Knowing there are people who don’t want me to succeed is depressing. Especially coming from two directions.”

…where even though he is an upstanding citizen, he is still victimized by hate, a teenager with all the right questions about the world and yet with no definitive answer from anybody, not even from Martin Luther, his idol.

“How different would things have gone had I not been a black guy?”

“Hard being a black man, ain’t it?”

“What do I do when my very identity is being mocked by people who refuse to admit there’s a problem?”

“Why are black people so angry all the time? But how else am I supposed to feel?”
“There’s no escaping the BMC.” “The BMC?”

Gaaah! I could quote the entire book. Such a short but great and powerful read that doesn’t necessarily have all the answers but at least asks the right questions and stirs further proper awareness of these necessary issues among readers. It’s a millenial/zentennial standpoint which makes it even more affecting and relatable. Need I say more? Just read it.

“You can’t change how other people think and act, but you’re in full control of you. When it comes down to it, the only question that matters is this. If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?”