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.

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.

 

P.S. I Still Love you by Jenny Han

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P.S. I Still Love You is the second book in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han. I loved the first so I was looking forward reading the second. I have read this a while back as well.

I love Peter Kavinsky and his fake relationship with Lara Jean but for some sort of reason, I was looking forward to reading Lara Jean and John Ambrose McClaren ( I really love the guys’ names on this series!).

P.S. I Still Love You continues the story of Peter and Lara Jean and of how they turn their reel to real. Josh, who was one of the major third party in the first book in their fake relationship, is more or less non-existent in the book except for the occasional mentions. The story continued with the fight that previously ended To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Peter and Lara Jean kissed and make up and now decided to become a real couple. While they were in a ski trip, somebody took a video and spread it online making it seem that the two of them were having sex in a hot tub, instead of just kissing. Earning bad reputation for Lara Jean. (Oh, the sexism of the world. The guy’s a god, the girl is a slut). Of course, Peter is to her rescue which kinda had the rumors die down a bit. Then here comes John Ambrose McClaren reuniting with her from the next town. He tells her that he just received and read the letter because they moved houses. Then they become pen pals sans John knowing that Lara Jean is already taken.

Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship started having trouble at the reunion party Lara Jean hosted in the treehouse in their backyard where her and her childhood friends decided to dig out their buried time capsule. Peter came with Genevieve (Peter’s ex girlfriend and former BFF of Lara Jean) when he perfectly knows it will piss and make Lara Jean jealous. When Lara Jean confronted Peter, all he says is that he can’t help it. Genevieve is having a problem and that he needs to be there for her. The group of childhood friends played Assassins where the last one standing will be granted any one wish and in which Lara Jean became the winner.

During the time that Peter and Lara Jean is not talking much,Lara Jean and John became closer. But alas, nothing still happened because LAra Jean realizes that the one she loves and still loves is Peter Kavinsky (after she learns what Genevieve’s problem and secret is). They got back together the night before the treehouse is to be cut down and everything is good again.

This series is all about young love – silly mistakes you make, the not being honest with each other part, being jealous, and all those other young love recipe. Lara Jean who is learning the ropes of love and relationship and doing things that might not seem to be appropriate. She enjoys the attention that the boys are giving her because it’s not that often that somebody gives her any. When she is exchanging letters with John, i really hated her while she is with Peter, I really hated her character. She never once in the letter mentioned that she is now with Peter giving hope to John who is clearly falling in love with her and hiding things with Peter about the exchange. Then, she has the nerve to be jealous about Peter meeting with Genevieve in such often and kinda suspicious time and ways.

I truly believe that honesty and trust are the pillars of good relationship. If you cannot be honest with each other, then your relationship is doomed to fail. We saw in the book how not being honest almost cost Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship to the point of no return. Young love can be a bit messy. People with blame immaturity with age but still, at a young age, we should know better.

I still enjoyed the book over all even with al the cringing and “Why are you like that?” shouts at some of the characters’ actions. haha. And I guess, others enjoyed it too.

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

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How Hard Can Love Be? This is a question I often ask and I often answer. Love is hard, and always almost something will doom your relationship to fail. (Not that I have first hand experience. This is all based on my friends’, cousins’ everyone else’s stories). It is rare to find that true and lasting love in this day and age. This is why I was able to relate to Amber, the main character of the book.

How Hard Can Love Be is the second book in the The Normal series of Holly Bourne. It focuses on Amber, the tall, ginger, and insecure 17-yr old girl who crossed the ocean and traveled to America to spend the summer with her mom while agreeing to be one of the counselors in her stepfather’s summer camp. She anticipated that it will be a good summer, if not the best, since she will be spending six whole weeks with her mother whom she haven’t seen for two whole years. But life happens, their relationship grew worse. Kyle, one of the camp councilors and the All-American Golden boy, who as Amber described is the epitome of American guys she know of – Prom King, star athlete, scholar, oozes sex appeal is one of the only two good things she was glad about the camp. The other one being Whinnie, one of the girl camp counselors who she was able to be friends with. She tried to resist her attraction to Kyle at first. She’s insecure so she doesn’t believe that a gorgeous boy like Kyle will be interested in her, even if there are all those mixed signals (much like what i will feel if ever somebody tells me they like me). With the advice of Evie and Lottie though, she let go of her insecurity and worries for the future. She followed her heart and lived in the moment. (Isn’t it nice to just live in the moment, never caring about the consequences of your action and what the future brings?) And their whirlwind romance started only to be stopped by her mother. Her mother went hysterical when she discovered that she and Kyle are together. Kyle was fired from the camp and they decided to runaway. Her mother caught up with them in Vegas where they were able to come to peace. And she and Kyle then continued their journey.

How Hard can Love Be revolves around identity, finding yourself, being comfortable in who you are, and, of course, relationships.

I loved this book more than Am I Normal. One is because I have felt the connection to Amber. Two, because I also have never fallen in love yet (Yes, in my twenty-something existence, I still have yet to experience first love). Three, because it makes me feel that I will be able to find love still. Maybe not now, not in my country, but surely I will.

I can relate to Amber but I have mixed feeling on her character description and actions. Yes, she’s describe as insecure with her physical appearance thus is socially inept. But her character’s actions show otherwise. She’s not afraid to be herself. I actually don’t see her insecurities affect her social relationship much because she was able to make friends easily. She was able to take courage and take the first step in talking to the other camp counselors the first night she arrived. The only time that her insecurity really shows is when she is in denial about Kyle’s possible attraction to her (which she also overcome). 

Kyle’s character on the other hand, is sort of like a doll. A person without his own will. It shows that, sometimes, we do the things we do just because they are expected of us and because we don’t know what else are we supposed to do. Identity. This is one of Kyle’s character representations. We struggle to find who we are, what we are supposed to do, while in the time we don’t know who we are yet, we act so stereotypically and do things which might seem nothing at the moment but might have a greater effect in our lives later on. In Kyle’s case, he kissed Megan, the kinda slutty girl camp counselor. He did it because it was like it was expected of him to kiss a sexy babe. However, this one kiss, later on, is one of the major obstacle in Kyle getting together with Amber. Good thing, it was overcome in the end.

Amber’s mother also serves a major role in the story. She is an a recovering alcoholic. But as any other addiction, it is a long, windy journey. This is the greatest reason for her wrecked relationnship with Amber, the summer Amber thought would be the greatest. They reconciled but it already left a mark in Amber’s heart. This is also one of the greatest contributors to Amber’s insecurity to love.

Everything is going good, then suddenly I was met with the ending. I was literally trying to flip still the pages trying to see if there’s any hidden chapter, epilogue, or just something that will satisfy me. I found none. And I was heartbroken. This has also been my problem with Am I Normal. I am like That’s it? Really? Oh well, I just have to deal with it since I can’t do anything else.

How hard can love be? The answer? Love is definitely hard especially if you do not know who you are or if you’re not comfortable in your own skin. There will be a lot of hardships coz life is such a freaking *****. But, as long as you have true friends to count on, a partner to rely on, and you are not afraid to be yourself, love can be manageable.

 

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!