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.

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.

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!

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!