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.

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.

 

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.

 

To All the Boys I have Loved Before by Jenny Han

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This is a book that I have read some time ago, around a month or so ago. The cover is so cute and there’s this Korean girl in it so of course, being the everything Korean fan, it piqued my interest. I have been seeing it displayed in bookstores for months already before I decided to pick it up and read.

The basic premise of To All the Boys (the title is too long so from this point on, I’ll just shorten it to To All the Boys) is about the 16-yr old main character”s (Lara Jean) kept love letters suddenly mailed to each one of her previous crushes of whom the letters were addressed to. I would definitely be mortified if this happens to me. Who would want their deepest, made-for-self thoughts be out there in the open?

When I read the synopsis of the book, I didn’t know the name of the guy main character. And I am the type of person who wants to know their main character’s from the start so I won’t root for a character, only to find out later on that it’s the second lead and be heartbroken because of it. So, I did not know who I should root for when I started reading this book. I rooted for Peter Kravinsky only because he was the first guy that was introduced and Lara Jean’s first letter recipient. But glad that I did.

To All the boys is a light, fun read that will make you reminisce about your high school crushes and how you dealt with being in love and in a relationship for the first time (not that I have experience in that dept but I love my high school fantasies). More than the romance element, it also shows the dynamics of a single father with three teenage daughters and most especially, the relationship between sisters.

The book reminded me that first love is not usually the last love but sometimes, it works. It reminded me of the silly first days and experience – first crush, first heartbreak, first (in my case, just a fantasy) relationship, first time being far apart from someone you dearly loved, first fight with your bestfriend/sister, first major embarrasment, etc. To All the Boys is definitely enjoyable to read even if sometimes I don’t get why Lara Jean and Peter act the way they do. Sometimes, I just wanna bang their heads together and stick them together like glue so they can see that they are made for each other. But of course, the book shows how relationship and falling in love is never easy. Love never is.

To All the Boys I have Loved Before series with P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever Lara Jean (which I’ll post about later on) is definitely recommended for those wanting to be reminded of how loving someone for the first time and experiencing all new things with him feel. It’s a great read.

 

P.S. I just learned that this will become a movie. Hoping that it will justify the book!

The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon is, by far, one of the novels that took me a bit of a time to read. (It took me around a cumulative of 5 days in total, I read and finished Tangled in between). Not that it was not interesting or captivating enough. But somehow when I started reading it, I was not into the mood of reading such contrasting pairing (which made me love the book in the end though). It took its time to grow on me but when I was hooked. Boy, oh boy, I was wrecked.

The book is about two opposite and contrasting characters and an unusual pairing. One in which you won’t read much in the young adult scene. This pairing is what made me not to be much interested in the book at first but which also made me love the book to pieces in the end. It tackles and incorporates a lot of societal issues such as undocumented immigrants, racism, dream vs reality, to name a few. It has so much depth and shows how, in one way or the other, we are all connected in the end.

The Sun is also a Star tells the story of Natasha Kingsley and Daniel Jae Ho Bae and how destiny or fate brings them together in one faithful day. Do you believe in love at first sight? In meant-to-be’s and destiny? In coincidences and fate? I do. Yep, I am a certified hopeless romantic and this book solidifies it even more. Natasha and Daniel couldn’t be even more different from each other. Natasha is a science geek, a logical person. Daniel is the poetic, emotions rule kind of guy. Natasha doesn’t believe in true love and destiny. Daniel is all about fate and meant-to-be’s. Natasha is African American. Daniel is Korean American. It might just be Natasha’s last day in the US. Daniel’s just about to start a new chapter in his life.

****SPOILER****

The story goes that one fateful day when Natasha tried to stop her family’s impending deportation that night and Daniel’s on to his Yale interview, theirs stars collided and it seems like all the universe conspire for them to meet. Okay, not really, Daniel had to do a bit of action, but, nonetheless, their world intersect in a record store after Natasha confronted her ex and his girlfriend who she caught shoplifting. Daniel took the courage and invited Natasha to spend the day with him of which her answer is a blatant no. Daniel, though, being the emotional and fate-kind of guy persisted until Natasha and him spends time with each other a little bit just more each passing minute. Natasha’s wall eventually breaks down and she admits that she is now falling in love with Daniel less than 24 hours after meeting him (which might have been aided by Daniel’s questionnaire). And oh you know, when things finally seem to start going into their rightful place, suddenly there’s a BOOM that will bomb your hope of happy ever after. But maybe, in the end, if you’re meant to be, love will find a way.

There’s a lot of lessons to learn from this book as it touches on a lot of concepts.

One, believe in fate and destiny and meant-to-be’s. Nicola Yoon certainly ignited the fire for hopeless romantics. If you’re for each other, love will find a way. Even with all their differences and the time and distance that separated them apart for more than 10 yrs after that ONE AND ONLY day they spent and fell in love with each other, they still found each other in the same plane and who knows what happen afterwards.

Two, love can definitely change everything. It was for his love of acting that Natasha’s father – Samuel Kingsley – decided to move to US and stay as an undocumented immigrant. It was the love of Natasha’s mother for her father that she decided to follow him to US from Jamaica, becoming undocumented, and settling for the poor lifestyle for years. It was love that changed Natasha’s last shot for staying in the US when Atty. Fitzgerald missed the court appointment essential to reverse the immediate deportation of Natasha and her family just to be with his newly admitted love of his life, his Paralegal. And it was love that got Daniel to spend the day with Natasha, even with all the logical reasons he should not to, which changed his life forever.

Three, racism is still here. As much as we would like to admit that times have changed. Still, racism is still undeniably here as evidenced by Daniel’s and Natasha’s families” reaction to them dating. Need not to elaborate more.

Four, everything is connected and combined with butterfly effect can affect the future. We are all connected. What we do, how we interact with other people, strangers, or friends, our decisions, is related to something else, and the smallest of our steps, of our thoughtless actions, can ignite a bigger impact in the future.

Five, the unending debate of passion and dream versus logic and practicality.  This is certainly one of the themes of the novel as well. Samuel Kingsley’s acting dream vs the poor reality of his family, Daniel’s parents’ American dream which is not really a dream as it consists of attending a top college, being a doctor, and having a good life afterwards vs Daniel’s passion of poetry. Natasha’s practical future job – data analyst – vs her unknown passion or dream as she doesn’t believe in those anymore. We all want to have a work that is something we love, something we are passionate about. Success will come, we say. However, as we grow up and reality takes a toll in our lives, it is hard to live life the way we want it to. There’s so much responsibilities that most of the time leaves us to do what is practical, what is logical, even if it’s something we don’t like. The Sun is also a Star, though, is giving hope to the dreamers. If they have just the right attitude and enough determination, the difficulty of choosing your dream over logic will definitely pay out in the end.

The Sun is also a Star is a wonderful book, creatively written. The characters intertwine and even the side stories in between (which at first I think are not necessary) gives even more depth to the main characters that you’ll realize in the end. Aside from being not your usual, the characters are strong and you can see why they are the way are. Although i feel that towards the end, after Natasha and her family moved back to Jamaica, everything was rushed and was just laid out there straight-up, I still love the book over all and would recommend for everyone to read it.

One thing I still don’t get though is why it was titled The Sun is also a Star, maybe i missed that section, I read it in the chapters but maybe I just needed to re-read it again.

I haven’t read Everything, Everything yet, also by Nicola Yoon, but after this, you know i soon will. 🙂

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

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When I first read the tile, it’s the popular Thai movie “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” that immediately popped into my mid. Oh, I so love that movie! Reading the plot which involves korean dramas and lots of it solidified my intention to read the book. So I did.

I am a certified korean-anything addict (you can also include japan-anything in the list). I am addicted to anything korean or japan. Dramas, music, culture, food, etc. Thus coming across a novel which does not only portray a Korean character but also revolves around the Korean drama scene in a way hooked me up!

The novel is actually not what I expected. It revolves around Desi Lee, a Korean American girl whose life is ruled by RULES, by precision, by steps. Everything can be achieved if it’s taken into perspective as an experiment. Identify the problem. Create steps and rules. Problem solved. That’s why falling in love, which she was the only thing she was never good at, also must have some rules to follow to achieve success, right? This is where K-drama comes in. After a random and unexpected day where she got to sit with her father in their living room binging K-drama and binging some more on her own after, she analyzed everything she has seen so far. Then came up with “THE K-DRAMA STEPS TO TRUE LOVE to win her current object of interest – Luca Drakos.

There were 24 rules in total. Some I agree with, some I don’t. But over all, it was pretty hilarious. K-drama fans can totally relate. There were a lot of K-drama references scattered across the novel. It brings back the feeling when you were watching those kdramas which makes it nostalgic. Desi Lee is a calculating character but will drive you crazy buy how ridiculous some of her plans are just to follow the steps.

In the end, Maureen leaves us the lesson that true love cannot be controlled. It is not achieved through meticulous steps and definitely not through crazy ideas. True love is built by interaction, by communication, by trust.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a funny and feel good read. Best for KDrama lovers!