Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz // A Heartfelt, Almost-True Story

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 0 comments
Something in Between, by Melissa de la Cruz
Publication: October 4, 2016, by Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.
And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.
For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

My Thoughts:

Melissa de la Cruz is one of my favourite authors, and I feel like I've read almost everything she has written. They all seem to be cute, fun contemporary romances that you can just pack with you on a trip to the beach. However, Something in Between was the most real out of them all. It also seems to be the most unpopular, as I have not heard much about it (except for the promotion Harlequin Teen did at BEA in 2016). This is a huge (as in MANY pages) read that took me a few days to get through due to the slow pacing, but it was fabulous. I was able to feel every dash of de la Cruz's passion and personal story in the writing, and in Jasmine's character.

This was just an entertaining story that was different than the rest, and it was so applicable to the kinds of political topics we are looking at today: immigration. And even better, it was applicable to people my age - we teens who live in a country where we have full citizenship are so lucky and fortunate. This book is just so smart, so meaningful, that I would like to recommend this to everyone. I love Jasmine as a character, her ambition, the writing, the unique concept of this.

I tore through the book - that is the best way to describe my experience. Once I began reading it, I was unable to put it down and I was just so obsessed with the romance, WITH EVERYTHING. de la Cruz makes it seem, to readers, that we are able to achieve anything we want to. Jasmine was able to be a National Scholar, to have a romance with a guy she fell in love with at first sight, to be happy and to be always beside her family. 

So, to get on the incline and look at what this is really about... it all begins with illegal immigration. Jasmine has huge dreams - she wants to go to Stanford University, and is on the path towards being valedictorian and a National Scholar. Life is basically going the way she wants it to, until her parents reveal that their family is undocumented and that they have a chance of being deported back to the Philippines, where she was born. It's her worst nightmare; she has no chance of getting the scholarships she dreams of to head to university. And to add to this, she begins to fall head first into a romance with Royce, a congressman's son who basically is on the opposite end of where Jasmine stands.

This story was just special, one-of-a-kind. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it certainly was enjoyable and I'd like to promote it more. I really can't get this story out of my mind! GO FALL IN LOVE WITH ROYCE RIGHT NOW.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is your favourite Melissa de la Cruz book?

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena // Whoa. This Was Mind-Warping.

Saturday, 2 September 2017 0 comments
A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena
Publication: August 15, 2017, by Doubleday Canada
Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
Pages: 306
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.
There's a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.
The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.
Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions.
Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet. 

My Thoughts:

After devouring Shari Lapena's The Couple Next Door and falling in love with this genre of mystery/thrillers, or, more specifically, psychological thrillers, I decided that I was in love with Lapena's writing. Little did I know that she would be releasing a new gorgeous read this summer until I received it from the publisher. A Stranger in the House wasn't as good as Lapena's debut novel, however, it was extremely suspenseful and lovely. Once I began reading it, I was hooked and unable to stop sitting in the world of Tom and Karen. There were so many things I enjoyed concerning the premise of this story, and I seriously recommend this to those who love mind-warping endings and the possible hint of a sequel (which I know will not occur... but it did sure sound like it).

This should just be a movie already. Directors, producers, and film productions, PLEASE GET YOUR HANDS ON THE RIGHTS OF THIS FILM BECAUSE THE WORLD WILL BE OBSESSED. Really obsessed. Obsessed to the point that this will become more popular and well-known that Gillian Flynn's books. I feel like the world is really addicted to suspense stories, and there's only a few that could be better than this book. This book relies on its storyline and premise that involves mystery and secrets left behind in the past. You really don't know what's happening until you reach the middle part of the book. Once you're there, there's no looking back. You become obsessed to the point that you will not stop reading until it's over.

SO. This story revolves around the lives of a married couple: Tom and Karen. They live in upstate New York, and they're happy with their "perfect" lives. However, one day, Tom comes home from his job to find Karen gone, the lights on, the door unlocked, and a dinner that was beginning to be prepared. He panics, and he discovers that his wife was in a rough part of the city, and was caught in a car accident. She has amnesia, not remembering how or why she ended up in that situation. And then, more details begin to pop up, and BAM evidence points towards her having something to do with a crime exactly in that part of town. 

This was action-packed for the beginning part (maybe first 70 pages?) and then it just downgraded, and eventually picked itself up again. It had a teeter-totter pace, if you know what I mean. Through the middle part, I just felt my reading pace slow down as I began to get uninterested with the whole detective work and whatnot. But when it picked itself up again, OH MY. I couldn't stop. We also need to talk about THAT ENDING. I was in complete shock with how Lapena created EVEN MORE POSSIBLE SUSPENSE BY THE END OF THIS. Although the story's "solution to the mystery" was kind of predictable, I really enjoyed it.


A Stranger in the House was mind-warping, messed up, and *insert other adjectives to describe a crazy story that you couldn't get out of your mind.* I am a huge fan of Shari Lapena's writing and I will never stop picking up her stories. Please throw more of them at me!

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some books similar to this?

The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton // A Middle-Grade Coming of Age Story

Thursday, 31 August 2017 0 comments
The Infinity Year of Avalon James, by Dana Middleton
Publication: October 11, 2016, by Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret--one that they aren't allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that comes once when you need it most. It's your Infinity Year and the possibilities are endless.
The past year hasn't been great with her family being torn apart and bullying at school, so Avalon is depending on her magical ability to appear soon and help. With the clock ticking and her eleventh birthday approaching, which would be the end of her powers, Avalon's hopes are running high. Will she and Atticus get the powers they so desperately want and need?
Dana Middleton's debut novel is a wonderfully enchanting story of the possibility of magic and the even more magical bond between two best friends.

My Thoughts:

I love reading books about kids growing up, mostly because I always get a flashback to when I was deciding what kind of person I wanted to be. Dana Middleton's The Infinity Year of Avalon James always looked so promising from the moment I saw its cover and read the summary, and I knew that I would enjoy it. Let's say that I certainly did adore it. This was a special story about a girl who realized that everyone's life has some kind of magic. It was cute, memorable, and something that I recommend to all middle-grade readers. This isn't your typical coming-of-age story, but a gorgeous tale that I cannot get out of my head.

BEFORE ANYTHING - let's talk about Atticus and Avalon's relationship. I am the biggest supporter of boy and girl best friend relationships because in society, they seem to be frowned upon as people immediately expect a romance to bloom. I just don't get it. Atticus and Avalon were adorable and even though so many obstacles came in the way of their relationship, practically tearing them apart, they still were still good. As in good, they still respected each other. And I loved that their friendship wasn't competitive, as they both were so excited for the powers involved with the Infinity Year.

Middleton's writing is adorable. I love the way she formatted the story and how it was completely fast-paced. I finished in a matter of hours, especially because it's only 224 pages, and it doesn't require heavy thoughts, just happiness and a good mood. This book just equaled HAPPINESS. Can they please make a Disney Channel Original Movie out of it to teach kids some cute lessons? 

The Infinity Year of Avalon James is a great story that I definitely recommend. Go grab it and enjoy, because many books aren't like this one.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some middle grade coming-of-age stories?

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen // Disappointing Sarah Dessen Read

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 0 comments
Once and For All, by Sarah Dessen
Publication: June 6, 2017, by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

My Thoughts:

Once and For All made me expect that I would finally, FINALLY rate a Sarah Dessen book five stars once and for all. (Well - I did a few times in the past, but her recent books have been boring.) I liked this one, don't get me wrong, however, it was kind of boring and meaningless, if you know what I mean. I didn't feel much of a reaction once it was over, nothing tugged me to go back and read all of her past stories. It was between a hit and a miss. I can see why many people would fall in love with this kind of story — it does have to kind of do with weddings and love, after all, but I find it too cheesy and unbelievable for my liking. If only falling in love could be THIS easy. 

I only find myself liking contemporary novels when I can actually imagine it happening in real life. This was unimaginable. Sure, Dessen's writing is quite detailed and provides a nice image in my mind, however, I felt that everything occurred too quickly. From Ambrose and Louna's relationship, to Louna getting over all of the grief she endured, it seemed... crazy. I did enjoy how unique the story was, though, in terms of Louna being the daughter of wedding planners, and the fact that fate "puts her in the situation" of falling in love with a client's brother. This is definitely a book for the pre-Nicholas Sparks readers. It's cheesiness galore. 

"Weddings were like truth serum, or so my mom always said. Whatever your personality, it would come out in spades" (122).

It all doesn't require much explaining, in terms of the plot. This is about a girl, who seems so ordinary, and a boy, who is wild and a total player, and how they're put together, initially hating each other. If this book had another base to it, more depth to it, perhaps I would have adored it. It was okay, in all honesty. I loved Louna's kick-butt character, and how much she just wanted to revive from her dark days, and how she wanted to fall in love again. I kept feeling this beautiful, youthful vibe from her, which, in reality, is what I was supposed to feel, as this is a YA novel after all. 

Now, Ambrose was cute too. He's the love interest, and I cannot even call that a spoiler because it was meant to be. We all can see it coming from the summary of the story. He's your typical, girl-crazy guy who I fell in love with a little. I just didn't appreciate the relationship of the two characters, as to me... they didn't quite fit. It felt forced, unlike the chemistry Dessen's other fictional relationships had.

Once and For All was a nice, summer read. It took me waaay too long to read it, when I think about it, but that's because I felt like I knew what would happen. And it did. Nothing "special" occurred, which I really would have appreciated. I will still be reading Dessen's future books as they are a nice break from mysteries and thrillers that I tend to turn to.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is your favourite Sarah Dessen book?

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley // Crowley's Writing is Just Not for Me!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 2 comments
Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley
Publication: June 6, 2017, by Alfred A. Knopf BFYR
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 273
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.
Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.
Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.
As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

My Thoughts:

Words in Deep Blue was supposed to be a literal masterpiece. I mean, I always expected it to be. I wanted it to be WAAAAAY better than Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, which was a literal TERRIBLE piece of literature. However, this fell somewhere in the middle of my expectations. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the best read of my life. I felt the poeticness in the writing, the fact that it was written about deep, dark topics like grief and heartbreak, but it lacked something. Crowley is a talented writer, however, I cannot understand the craze behind how her writing is so addicting yet beautiful. I recommend this for lovers of lyrical books, perhaps those written in prose. I really wish that IT COULD HAVE BEEN GOOD - because it looked so GOOD and the cover is gorgeous. 

This was a good story with a good storyline. I just wish that it turned out to be more action-packed, more contemporary. It felt like I was watching a black-and-white movie for a long time, with some burst of colour in between (during the moments that had a strong romance). This can definitely be classified as a contemporary-romance story, don't get me wrong, but I just felt that the author was trying to get too philosophical with the story sometimes, that it just got annoying and tiring. 

I read this a while ago, however, I felt that it was PRETTY MEMORABLE. This is a book in an Australian setting about a girl named Rachel, who moved away from her small town, leaving behind her crush and best friend, Henry Jones. Years later, Henry's girlfriend breaks up with him, and Rachel is back in town, with a new secret that she forbids herself to tell. And of course, with contemporary books' predictability, you can guess that a romance bloomed.

The romance was cute - I appreciated all of the giddy moments and cute stuff. This book had a cute vibe to it and it was definitely pleasing. It's just that I constantly found myself bored out of my mind. Maybe I needed a heart-racing thriller instead?

If you enjoyed Cath Crowley's other books and if you're willing to give a cute, deep romance a try, then go for this. But seriously - beware of the boredom that is involved! 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the last "deep" book you've read?

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han // A Gorgeous End to the Trilogy!

Monday, 21 August 2017 0 comments
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3), by Jenny Han
Publication: May 2, 2017, by Simon and Schuster BFYR
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 325
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

My Thoughts:

I’ve been dreading to write this review, mostly because I am physically unable to let go of it all. I cannot, cannot, CANNOT leave Lara Jean and all of her glory behind in my bookshelf for someone else to explore. I mean, YEAH, I’ll recommend this trilogy to my friends, explaining that I have almost given all of Jenny Han’s books a five star rating, but my emotions are currently all over the place, thanks to this gorgeous finale. Always and Forever, Lara Jean is a book that wasn’t supposed to exist, according to the lovely Ms. Han, but she kept feeling that something was missing, that we Lara Jean fans needed more closure. And I’m telling you, this provided lots of closure. *But not nearly enough for my poor, broken heart!*

“Peter is my cocoa in a cup, my red mittens, my Christmas morning feeling.”

THIS BOOK IS MY CHRISTMAS MORNING FEELING. I honestly do not remember the last time a book made me feel this way, made me obsess continuously to the point that I could identify myself as a freaked-out fangirl. This finale means so much to me because I could relate to it; I am currently approaching similar events that Lara Jean, in this story, was dealing with, like university applications and discovering what we would like to do with our lives. I grew up with this series, and so many things have occurred in my life in between the releases of all of the novels, and the ending was extra special because of that.

This finale is about Lara Jean basically trying to configure what is going to happen to her relationship with the amazing Peter. Everything seems perfect, and her life is progressing in the way she wants it to, but suddenly, so many surprises pop up in her life, and Han just writes about it all in the best way ever. I feel that she knows her character and protagonist, Lara Jean, so well, that this seems so valid… so true. Lara Jean begins to rethink about wear she belongs, how she and Peter will be able to be together amidst all of the drama that surrounds them.

And let’s just talk about how Lara Jean and her sisters’ relationships bloom here. As if they couldn’t progress and bloom even more, right? They all begin to understand each other as they are growing older, dealing with new situations, seeing that their father is moving on after their mother’s death. My heart just fluttered throughout the whole journey. I LOVE, NO ADORE, KITTY AND MARGOT.

“I’ve heard people say you meet your best friends in college, and they’re the ones you’ll know your whole life, but I’m certain that I’ll know Chris my whole life too. I’m a person who saves things. I’ll hold on forever.”

NOW — I guess you’ve figured out that I love Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship SINCE I fangirl too much about this series as a whole. I wasn’t too much of the BIGGEST fan of Peter’s in the past two novels, but because of his caring for Lara Jean and how MUCH their relationship has progressed in this novel, I am officially in love with him. PLEASE FIND PETER FOR ME. NOT ANY PETER, BUT THIS PETER. Thank you very much. *winks* But jokes aside, the two’s chemistry is unbelievable. I love how their relationship is not JUST about the physical aspects of falling in love, but about emotions and talking to each other like important individuals. Sometimes, books tend to get a little too much about sexuality instead of the real aspects of romance, and this was it.

BUY THIS WHOLE SERIES AND SIT ON A COMFY COUCH AND READ ALL OF THE BOOKS. You won’t regret it. Even if you’re the last person who would read a contemporary romance, DON’T HESITATE TO PICK THIS UP. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

What is your favourite book finale?

The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns // A Book That Redeemed Itself Midway!

Thursday, 3 August 2017 0 comments
The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen, by Catherine Lloyd Burns
Publication: August 22, 2017, by Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 176
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Cricket Cohen isn’t a liar, but she doesn’t always tell the exact truth. She loves thinking about geology and astronomy and performing tricky brain surgery on her stuffed animals. She also loves conspiring with Dodo, her feisty grandmother who lives in the apartment right next door. And one Manhattan weekend when she’s in hot water with her teacher and her controlling parents over a fanciful memoir essay, Cricket goes along with Dodo’s questionable decision to hit the bricks. Imagining all sorts of escapades, Cricket is happy to leave home behind. But on a crosstown adventure with an elderly woman who has her own habit of mixing truth and fantasy, some hard realities may start to get in the way of all the fun.

My Thoughts:

The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen was really enjoyable and a book that looked so promising. It was memorable, and although the beginning was slow (and a bit confusing), every aspect of it was fabulous... practically.

DODO (Cricket's grandmother) WAS LIFE. I loved her. She was a rich, flirty granny who was a diff. character than we see in most middle grade books. It's so nice to see family relationships build in this book, and I can only help but WISH and BEG that many middle-grade books that are coming out will be the same. Same as in similar relationships. Cricket, our main character, on the other hand, was a responsible kid who just made me smile. I loved how she was just so honest with her grandma. Of course, what made me mad were the white lies Cricket made, but that was intentional as the whole story revolved around these lies. It was a book that can teach all of us something valuable for life. I can imagine the impact it can have on kids. 

This was promising, however it was extremely boring in the beginning - it was slow, not getting anywhere, especially with the fact that she started going to surf camp which didn't really make sense. It seemed as if it was just filler, and too much for me to comprehend. There were characters introduced who were so random and it was too much. But after, the book redeemed itself. 

The story as a whole was just hilarious. I truly loved Dodo and Cricket together The adventures they got into were THE BEST. DYNAMIC DUO FOREVER. You cannot even imagine how much I appreciate their relationship. It brightened up my day! 

CRICKET AS A WHOLE: she has insecurities and she's so real. You can feel the desperation in her voice as she tried to be someone else - but Dodo helped her realize that her real self is better than her "memoir" self. Cricket had a better connection with her grandma than her own mother, and it kind of is sad, but happy at the same time. It's important for people to have connections with their extended family as well. 

Even though The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen wasn't amusing in the beginning, I still really enjoyed this humorous and lesson-teaching (of kindness towards your family) story.  

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the best relationship you have read about in a middle-grade book?