Speakeasy, Speak Love by McKelle George

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The title pulled me in, the cover made me interested in it even more.

My first thought was that it will be a novel touching on poems, you know because of the word speak, haha. I thought wrong though. I was not familiar with the word “speakeasy” and never bothered to read the summary of the book before actually reading it, so I was actually looking for something that is in relation to poetry til maybe around half of the book when I decided to research what speakeasy mean. haha.

According to Merriam-Webster, speakeasy (n) is a place where alcoholic drinks were sold illegally in the U.S. during the 1920s.

Not knowing what speakeasy means plus not reading the summary and no prologue nor date indicated made me confused altogether. I thought I was reading a contemporary novel all along when, in fact, it was set in the 1920s. hahaha. This is probably the main reason why I did not enjoy reading the book much. I was confused on the setting of what I was reading half the time.

The way it was written, you’ll never know it’s set in the 1920s unless you are familiar with the word speakeasy, you have read the summary before reading, and except for that one time in the book that a date in the early 1900s was given.

I did like the characters though, when I understood the setting, I appreciated the characters and how they are presented more. It kinda reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, maybe in the sense that the characters are so stubborn in admitting that they have fallen in love. Beatrice and Benedick, Hero and Prince. What I like about the book is the diversity of characters. Benedick’s your dreamer rich white guy. Beatrice is your opinionated, smart, fallen, white girl. Hero is your pampered, curvy, poor, white girl. Prince is your poor Italian guy working hard to survive. Maggie is a black girl whose voice is the sweetest. John is an Italian mafia with a soft heart. And Claude, well Claude is your typical rich guy who likes trying something new but still would choose richness over anything else. The characters are not typical characters of the 1920s.

I actually did not understand the main focus of the story. Sure, it has something to do with speakeasy of the 1920s or maybe how the Italian mafia works in the US during that period. I did enjoy the bickering of Beatrice and Benedick and because of that I read the novel til the end.

Overall, I didn’t like nor hate the book. It’s just a book good to read if your passing time. It’s not the greatest but it’s an okay book, an interesting one, I guess, since it touched on the concepts of the 1920s that are not much depicted in books. One thing it thought me though, I still have a lot to learn in history.

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

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Hi! I’m back! 🙂

Without Merit is the latest book by Colleen Hoover which was just recently released. I was excited and had been waiting for this book ever since I got to binge read Colleen Hoover’s books a couple of months back since I really liked most of what I have read. However, maybe the excitement and build up was too much as I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is still good. I prolly just expected more. Plus it’s short. Without Merit is kinda like a deviation from the usual build up that is seen in Colleen Hoover’s previous books. Everything was laid out in the first few chapters of the story. Each character introduced.

Without Merit is about the crazy, weird Voss family who lives in a refurbished church which they call Dollar Voss. The story centers on Merit Voss who collects trophies she did not earn to relieve stress, and to keep up with all the secret of her family that she is keeping. And when her failed attempt to end it all, to leave everything WITHOUT MERIT, leaving a note with all the secrets, she now have to face the consequences of her action and try to keep the one boy that she loves.

The Voss family is one of the craziest, weirdest family I have read so far in my entire YA reading career. From the head of the house, his ex-wife, current wife, to the eldest child, twins (Honor and Merit), and the youngest, coupled with the current wife’s younger brother, and the unrelated boy who’s love interest of Merit, they all are weird and are full of secrets. The fact that they live in a refurbished church with the image of Jesus still in tact is weird enough. But knowing that the father, ex-wife, wife, and all the kids are living together makes it even weirder.

Without Merit is a short read, jam-packed with crazy characters, each with a lot of baggage to deal with. Like her other novels, Without Merit makes you ponder and think about the greater issue that is incorporated in the novel. The underlying themes this time is depression.

The characters are each given just enough time to know what’s their secret and the reason behind. The father’s reason for buying the church and living with his ex- and current wife. Utah, the oldest brother’s reason why he kissed Merit when they were younger which had been the start of the discord in their relationship. Honor, Merit’s identical twin sister, and why she only kinda goes for guys who are almost at the end of their lives. Luke, the current wife’s younger brother, and why he suddenly turn up into their doorsteps and why he had sex with Utah. Sagan, the love interest of Merit, and why he always drops everything when somebody calls him.

Maybe I expected for Merit’s story to be more fleshed out. Maybe I expected to understand why she was depressed, although she fails to recognize it. I know that being the talk of the town for having a crazy family can be overwhelming and having to bottle up a lot of things, especially heavy secrets, since young, can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, I could not relate to Merit and her struggle with all the secrets she keep. It’s like I want to scream at her “Why not just open up? Why not talk to someone?” But maybe this is where the problem with depression, from an outside perspective, the solution might be so easy but for someone experiencing it, easy things might be a luxury. It’s like I want to know more, understand more, but the book is already ending.

On the other side, the book shows how each one of us is struggling in one way or the other. We can never really judge the actions of another person unless we know the full story behind it. Even the most ridiculous action might have a sensible reason behind. So don’t judge things and don’t hold prejudice before knowing everything. And maybe, just maybe, open communication is just what we need to overcome our baggage. When all the Voss’ secrets were laid out in the open, it started the healing process. Readers will be able to make sense of the actions of the characters and Merit’s relationship with her unconventional family also got better. The reason? They were able to talk.

Still, Without Merit shows Colleen Hoover’s prowess in delivering a story that will tug at your heartstrings. The underlying theme might be heavier than her previous ones but it was told in a manner that’s enough for me to stop and think about but not really pierce deeper unlike the others. Nevertheless, it’s still a book to be recommended.

Breaking the Rules of Revenge by Samantha Bohrman

breaking rules.jpgThis is like Parent’s Trap gone wrong.

This is the book I read after Warcross, I was trying to find a light read after the awesome Warcross. I was okay with cliche at that point. I just want to feel swoony. But this might not be the best book for that.

Breaking the Rules of Revenge is your typical, teen read. Even though I’m okay with cliche, this is such a messy one for me. The plot is a typical one. Twin sisters – Blake – the popular one – and Mallory – the shadow wishing to be her sister. So when the opportunity came along to switch their roles one summer, she didn’t hesitate to do it. Mallory attended the summer camp punishment disguising as Blake. She met Ben, one of the hottest guys in school, who happens to hate Blake to the core. Ben decides to take advantage of the summer camp to get revenge on Blake. But the more he sees Blake (Mallory), the more he wants to stop his revenge. And you know the rest, enemies to lovers, and they live happily ever after. The end.

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This is the first book in a while that I finished for the sake of finishing. I’m not really against cliches but somehow the writing just didn’t appeal to me. There was some swoony moments but those weren’t able to keep me entertained for long.

I find the characterization of Mallory kinda irritating. If I ever meet her, I’ll scream straight to her face, “Girl, make up your mind!” She’s insecure that she’s not getting the attention of people, especially of boys, but she’s not really doing anything about it except pinning to be like her sister. There is a part in the book as well wherein Mallory was called as Mallory by her camp friends when they should not even know that Mallory exists!

Stereotype, ugh, I uber hate it. One thing I hate in most cliche books is the stereotyping going on. You need to be a girly girl, a cheerleader, to be noticed by boys. If you’re stuck in a band or is a nerd, you’ll never be noticed unless fate pull some strings. Stereotype thinking is clearly seen in this book.

There are some cute moments in the book between Mallory and Ben. However, in my mind, those were overshadowed by thinking, like how is she comfortable falling in love with Ben knowing she’s supposed to be Blake (the worry came later than I expected).

We crave for love. We crave for attention. But in the end, we won’t be happy unless we do something about it ourselves. We cannot always just be jealous of somebody else. Somebody will always, always, be better than us. But it is when you accept yourself, flaws and all, that you’ll start to shine. It’s definitely not easy but this is life.

Overall, this book has potential but has room for improvement. I suggest reading this if you really have nothing to read at all.

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F is the debut novel of Maggie Ann Martin. And for a debut novel, I honestly enjoyed it.

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We all want the perfect life. We all want a reality that seemed to be conjured from our imagination. We all want to please everyone around us. We make plans and we try so, so, so, very hard to stay on path and achieve THE PLAN. But then life happens and it will throw us off balance. This is basically the premise of The Big F. Thus, each one of us will be able to relate to this book. Throw in some romance and isn’t that just perfect? ^^

Story. Danielle is set to go to Ohio State University. That’s where she was groomed to be but an F in her AP English class turned her life upside down. Ohio State retracted her admission and her planned life suddenly is now lost. Then comes in the snap decision to enroll in the Denton Community College (DCC) and try to pass her English class there so she can be in Ohio State by spring. But then here comes Luke, her old neighbor and childhood ultimate crush. Then there’s also Porter! Oh, how complicated life can be?

Characters. I could relate to Danielle so much. Like to the Nth level. On second thought not that high, but high enough. There’s so much expectation from Danielle’s character. Her parent’s expectation. Her expectation on herself. Expectation from her relatives, from people around her. there’s this “perfect”appearance, the “perfect”image that she must continue to show, and this is what’s suffocating. What I love about Danielle is her bright personality and her attitude of not giving up, of just pushing forward, even if at first she is at lost how to face the problem that she failed to get into Ohio. I love her character, however, I have a big question mark in my head about her. She was presented as someone who strives hard to have straight As. But reading thru the novel, I could not really grasp that idea. She was described as having a C in one of her subjects. She doesn’t give off aura that she’s the studious type. So if I were not informed onset that this big F is really, really, a big thing for her, I might not have gotten her. Maybe what I’m missing on the novel is more of a background story of her high school days. A little bit of a throwback here and there might have done the trick.

I love her close relationship with her younger brother. They annoy each other but always have each other’s backs. Reading their interactions is one of the things I enjoy most from this book.

Her relationship with mother is also a beautiful thing. For me, it captures the beauty of having a mother. Her mother’s high expectations of her reflect every mother’s expectation on her children. Failure to achieve this  expectation often results to argument and distance. But I love how they were able to get through the big F. In the end, every mother just wants their kids to be happy and enjoy life.

The snarky remark and feud between Danielle and her cousin also hits the spot. Every family and relatives’ past time when having a gathering always seems to be gossiping who’s doing better and who’s having the upper hand. Sucks.

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And now comes the love triangle. Luke, the first love, and Porter, the One. I’m really a sucker for romance, and maybe for the forbidden ones. Haha. First love never dies but it is seldom that the first one will also be your last love. So I was right in betting on Porter. I love, love, love Porter!!!! I love his character. It’s in between cool and hot with just the right amount of mystery and queerness.

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I can definitely relate to this book, to Danielle. Like since I was a kid, I was expected to do well in school, graduate with Latin honors in college, have a nice job, be promoted, be rich, etc. But it suffocated me and it still is. I was able to fulfill up to the Latin honors but right now all I feel is that I’m dumb and not really ready for the real world (even though I’ve been in the workforce for almost 4 years already. This made me appreciate the book more.

The Big F reminds us that it’s okay not to perfect, that life does not end with one big mishap, even if it seems like it’s the end of the world already. You just need to have the right attitude. You need to accept your failure. You need to accept that you’ve failed. You need to accept reality. It’s hard, I know, who says it’s easy? But this is the starting point. And who knows? Maybe the road that will open up will lead you to where you truly belong? WE ARE MORE THAN OUR FAILURES.

The book also reminds us that the truth sets us free. When her failure came out in the open, it was chaos at first but through that chaos, she was able to survive. This also applies to her relationship with Luke. Girls, it is never advisable to enter a relationship when you’re drunk, okay?  Never! Even if the guy is your ultimate childhood crush! Getting out of a relationship is pretty trick, especially, if both families are already involved. But in the end, it’s the two person in the relationship that must make a choice. And if you’re not happy anymore and your heart is leaning to another, why stay?

Danielle found her passion in the end along with being honest with herself and with the people involve who she really loves. And so can we.

The Big F is a light read but can make you feel various emotions and can connect with you with so many levels. It’s about acceptance, moving forward, family, love. It is not perfect but it still can mean so much more.

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel by Mira Tudor

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One thing, it’s a very complex book for me. I find it hard to digest but at the same time I do find some parts enjoyable. Just like what art is to me.

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel is certainly not a beach read. It is not something that you can pick up and read to pass time by. When Mira first approached me and asked if I could review her book, I was honestly shocked and happy at the same time. I have never professionally reviewed a book (not that this is a professional one) and certainly not one approached to review a published work so I wanted to be honest in my review as this is what I can offer.

I have a thing for art and poetry. I like poetry but I love novels. I have an inclination to art even though I don’t understand it most of the time. That’s why when I read the synopsis of the book, it intrigued me.

First impressions. Let’s talk about first impressions. I think, honestly, that if I was not approached, I might not have discovered this book And even if I saw it in passing, I might not have picked it up. When I read the title, my first impression was like “Who puts novel in a novel title these days?” When I read the synopsis (even though I was curious), it took me a long time to accept the character names (told you I have a thing for character names). Henrietta, Pamfil…. These are definitely not names that you’ll encounter in most contemporary novels. It took me a while to get used to the names but I got over it and continued with the novel.

Characters. Reading the novel, I find it hard to focus on who is or are really the main character’s. There’s a lot of characters in the novel. You thought you’ve been introduced to them all already then suddenly another character comes along then another one. This made it harder for me to grasp everything at first. The POVs often change but more than Henriette and Ela, I think the book really revolves with Pamfil. I don’t know who’re the poets, the artists, the lovers anymore.

Pamfil, for some sort of reason, is a girl/woman magnet and is such a frivolous guy. Like every girl/woman described in the book seemed to fall for him in one way or another. Henriette, Ela, Anca, Marie… Like this Pamfil guy is really a charmer isn’t he? For all these girls, no matter what the age gap and relationship status is, they seem to just for fall for him in an instant. But my main question is, why does Pamfil act this way? Does he really fall in love easily? Is it just lust? Was there anything in his past that made him this way? With all the flashbacks in the story, I was never able to find the reason why.

Themes. Speaking of relationship status, that’s the thing, I also find hard reading in the book. It involves cheating and a lot of it. And in this book, the women are the one having the affair. And all but with one guy, Pamfil. Henriette cheated with Pamfil for years, Anca with Pamfil one summer when she’s clearly with Marcel. Ela fell in love with him while she’s with George and Pamfil is secretly with Henriette who’s having an affair. Can this group of friend’s relationship web get even more complicated? But maybe this is reality and maybe I was uncomfortable, in the sense that, at the back of my mid, I know that this is possible and that this is happening. Just because I don’t have first hand experience at it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Sequence. This is not a linear story. Every so often it will go back to the past. It will bring up new characters. Changing back and forth confused me. There were dates given but I could not keep track of them unless I’ve written them down or go back again.

Ending. When I reached the end, I was like, “That’s it?” Even with all the confusion, I have developed a ship between Pamfil and Henriette. That’s why I would have love to see if the frivolous Pamfil will emerge again when he meets Henriette years after their affair. But nada, there was nothing more. It’s the end.

But more than all this, I appreciate that the book introduced me to a wider concept of the art. It is informative in this regard. I like how various art pieces, artists, creators, poets, poems were included in the novel. It introduced me to places I never thought I’ll encounter much in a novel (since mostly I just read US novels).

I also like that it holds more than the superficial things. Like it is trying to teach you about being an artist, a poet, a lover, and how complicated love and relationship can be. I like that it gives you perspective on how one person can affect and influence so many. I like the growth as well of Ela and Henriette. Of how, in their own pacing and time, cope with the changes.

The novel speaks like how I see art. It’s complicated in it’s own way, sometimes people don’t understand or could not appreciate it. It takes connection, deeper understanding, focus, experience, to see and appreciate what lies underneath.

I think that Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel would speak more to the adult. To the ones who have or had experienced a fair share of relationship experience, to the deep thinkers.

Over all, I was not able to be hundred percent in tune with the novel but I enjoyed my time reading. Thank you for the opportunity.

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

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Tokyo. Online Game. Hacking. COUNT ME IN.

I just came across this book when I was searching for a good book to read after a two-week hiatus from the literary world. I was craving for something that will tune reality out for a bit. And my, oh my, did Warcross did the trick. Magnificently, even.

Let me tell you first that I don’t like reading fiction set in a non-realistic world (except for Harry Potter, of course!). I read, most of the time, to get a temporary break from reality. Ironically, i don’t like reading things if it’s not set in the real world. Like I probably just want to have an alternate reality, something that will distract me from mine but will let me still make me believe that things are possible to come true. Even though I don’t like reading them, I love watching them (The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent series, etc.). Another thing prolly why i don’t read that much dystopian fiction is because i prefer seeing them, watching the movements, action in its glory, rather than them being described in words. But this might change pretty soon.

I am not a gamer but I do have basic understanding about online and computer games, especially MMORPG games since my brother and a couple of my friends are engaged in these. I can only go so far as Super Mario and Crazy Kart (don’t laugh at me). But Warcross makes me want to tap into it!

Warcross is the first book I’ve read by Marie Lu. And I immediately was like, “Am I living under a rock? Where have I been all this time? Why didn’t I know or heard of her?” It is the first book in the Warcross series. Just my luck that the the first book I encountered is just published this year. Huhu. I need to wait for a year or more to read the next one. Oh the agony!

So much for the side comments, Warcross is about Emika Chen, a bounty hunter, who’s life changed in an instant after hacking into the live opening game of the Warcross Championships to take her chance in making some fast cash. Warcross is a popular virtual reality game that uses NeuroLink lenses to activate. Teams battle in a virtual reality world, designed to view and feel like the real thing, to get the artifact of the opposing team to win. However, her identity got exposed and she became an overnight sensation. And instead of punishing her or turning her to the police force, the young elusive billionaire and the brain behind WarcrossHideo Tanaka – offered her a job she can’t refuse instead. Not with a $10,000,000 bounty price. She is to hack into the Warcross game and take down Zero, the hacker that got into Warcross‘ system and Hideo’s biggest threat.

I love love love the setting! It’s kinda reality but at the same time it’s not. It’s like this world can really happen in the near future. Like everything in it is possible. We have come a long way from the dotcom boom. Online gaming, especially MMORPG games, are increasing in popularity among kids and teens and young adults that e-sports is an internationally recognized sport event already. Also, it’s set in Tokyo! My ultimate goal destination.

I especially love the technology that was illustrated in the book. Warcross is a world with no language barriers as everything will be translated for you real time. How cool is that? But at the same time, I also think that this kind of world is dangerous. NeuroLink is another awesome gadget which is not impossible to be created in the near future with all the crazy technologies being produced right now. This book portrays how technology can consume the worlds in the very near future and how one man can control the world. Literally speaking. And how dreadful that can be if placed in the wrong hands.

Let’s go to the characters. Obviously, there are past traumas which serve as the driving force of the characters – Emika and Hideo. The two main characters are well-described in the story. I just don’t get why Hideo will create and dedicate the whole Warcross and NeuroLink to Sasuke. Maybe we’ll more of his reasons in the next two books. Also, since he is a billionaire and a genius inventor at that, I am finding it hard to believe that he doesn’t know the whereabouts of his missing brother, Sasuke. Like if you’re doing all the things you do for someone missing, isn’t it on top of your priority to find that missing person first since you now have the capacity and means to do so? The other characters are just mentioned in passing. I wanna see more kinda background with Tremaine and Roshan though. Hope to see a bit more of their story in the next books.

And I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I have this feeling that the story should be seen as complex, but while reading Warcross, everything sounds simple. There are plot twists in the story, scenes you didn’t expect coming. It even teaches you that even when you feel you’re given this great opportunity and is able to get inside the personal space of a person, you’ll realize in the end, you’re just a pawn in the big scheme of things. Just like how Emika discovered that Hideo is, technically, just using her for his plan.

The question lingering in Emika’s head in the end is also my question which I’m hoping to be fulfilled and elaborated in the following books. Who should you support? The sincere guy who can create a world without violence in exchange for your freedom and privacy, or the guy trying to stop it but using illegal and violent means?

Over all, I love the book! It introduced me to dystopian books and I think I’ll ready the previously written ones now. Hoping the sequel books be published soon! And i hope to see this series hit the theaters!

 

P.S. One thing I wonder though is in Goodread’s summary, Warcross’ obsession started ten years ago for the players, but if Hideo released it when he was thirteen and he just turned 21. Were is the two missing years? Is it just a mistake or will the future books span for two years. We’ll see.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

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I was supposed to create and post this entry to end September but I wasn’t able to. So let’s start October instead with the final book to the trilogy series of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. (I haven’t read a new book in a week so forgive me if i’ll write this review from memory like the other two).

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is a surprise book by Jenny Han. To All The Boys was supposed to have ended with book two, but this book is definitely such a welcome surprise.

Always and Forever focuses on Lara Jean’s senior year in high school and all the decisions and fears that come with it. She’s still together with Peter and everything is going well but the looming college application and the future are starting to take their toll. Peter is already accepted at the University of Virginia (UVA) in a lacrosse scholarship but despite their hope, Lara Jean was not able to get in. All their future plans, the couple time that they look forward to, their already planned schedule – gone. Isn’t that awful? I could definitely relate to the feeling because I so know it all too well. They say don’t count the eggs before they hatch but I never learn my lesson. I always look forward to things, always claiming that things will go according to the plan, always planning what the possible things and activities in line after the plan, then I will hear the result from the interview or from the exam I was banking my future on, and, you know it, I didn’t pass. Suddenly, life sucks. Even though there is always that doubt that things will not go well, I can’t help but be disappointed in the end.

Thus, I can feel Lara Jean’s sentiments – fear, doubt, worry in everything. What will happen to her and Peter? Will they be able to make it work? Was she not good enough, even with all the high grades she achieved and activities to show? It’s definitely hard to be a senior. But it’s harder being an adult.

Jenny Han successfully portrays the realities of college admissions and the feelings of a senior high that goes with it. It is hard. It is expensive. It is uncertain. Change is inevitable. Future is unknown.

Thankfully, Lara Jean, got accepted to the University of North Carolina, and after having the opportunity to tour the place, a spark of wanting to study in the UNC bloomed. Weighing her choices, she finally decided to study at UNC. That means, she came to accept the fact that she’ll be having a long-distance relationship with Peter, she’ll be far away from home, she’ll be far away from her comfort zone.

This also teaches us that just because we are in a relationship doesn’t mean that every decision we make must be decided by it. Sure, we must take the relationship into consideration but we are our own person first and foremost. We must make decisions for ourselves and not because it what the others wanted.

Always and Forever speaks about the inevitable changes that life throws at us, Lara Jean has hers when she failed to get into UVA and when his dad decided to re-marry. But the book also teaches us to embrace the changes just like how Lara Jean came to terms with all the happenings in her life. Coz if we don’t, we’re just choosing ourselves to suffer.

Always and Forever concludes To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. I had a great time knowing and growing with Lara Jean and Peter, I will definitely miss them.