Book Review

There’s Conflict in Your Heart

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I found it hard to decide how many stars I should give this book because I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. It’s written by Stephanie Perkins, and since I really liked the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, I’m a little biased xD.

Like other readers, I was really surprised that the genre of Perkins’ new book is so different from her fluffy, feel-good books. It was one of the reasons why I was so excited to read it. I’m not really fond of horror novels; in fact, this was the first time that I’ve read one.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a rookie when it comes to horror/thriller novels, but the horrifying scenes from this book really got to me. The gory scenes were very hard for me to read. As an avid reader, I’m so used to imagining the stuff I read as vividly as possible, so when I read those parts, it was horrifying. I wanted to skip those scenes, but I’m also used to not missing any details from a story, so I just had to read them (I never knew that these habits could possibly backfire!).

I was mildly thrilled that the book made me nervous every moment when I knew that a character was going to die, and I wanted to yell, “THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!” But obviously, they couldn’t hear me. My heart was beating fast every time the victims noticed weird things around their house – an open drawer, a missing object… tell-tale signs that the killer was toying with them. Those scenes always kept me at the edge of my seat.

I think that the killer was revealed too early for my taste. I was expecting more suspense – that both the characters of the book and the readers would become more suspicious; that when the killer would be revealed, it would be really shocking because you didn’t see it coming…and you couldn’t help but exclaim, “IT CAN’T BE!” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Also, the genre of the book might be different from the previous books of the author, but underlying all the horrifying scenes and the suspense, was a swoon-worthy romantic story that Stephanie Perkins’ readers are familiar with…or at least, that was what I was expecting. Unfortunately, there are times when expectations will lead to disappointment, which was the case for this book. I couldn’t help but find the romance a little bit cheesy and out of place. It was quite infuriating that Makani and Ollie couldn’t seem to control their sexual desire for each other when a serial killer was at large! I also didn’t find any swoon-worthy scenes, which I was kinda looking for, because…it’s Stephanie Perkins!

And then there was the last part of the book, which was a big WHAT THE HECK! It was really stupid. Like, why would they do that, when they knew that it was so dangerous. We all love those fantasy books where YA peeps were the ones who save the day, but in a horror/thriller contemporary book, it’s a big NO! The best thing to do is to just leave it to the police.

Okay, so this review has more negative comments than positive ones, so it’s obvious that I didn’t love the book, but there’s still a part of me that really enjoyed reading it. And as I’ve said before, it’s a Stephanie Perkins’ book, so I’m a little biased, and it feels like a betrayal to say it outright that I didn’t like the book (I know, I can be weirdly loyal sometimes xD).

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Book Review

Broken but Just Fine

The Love Letters of Abelard and LilyThe Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, HMH Teen, for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Love is about being broken beyond repair in the eyes of the world and finding someone who thinks you’re just fine.

I’m glad that I’ve found another meaningful contemporary novel that deals with mental health. I honestly didn’t have high expectations when I requested this book from the publisher, so I was delightfully surprised by its enlightening and philosophical content. If you’re looking for an Own Voices novel that is worth your time (and money), go ahead and pick this up on December.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is the story of two “broken” teenagers. Abelard has Asperger syndrome, while Lily has ADHD (like the author). They’ve known each other since childhood, but they only become real friends when they are both detained for “innocently” destroying school property. Since Abelard finds it extremely difficult to talk face-to-face, he and Lily start a connection through texting. They have both love The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse, and they cleverly exchange passages to express their thoughts and emotions.

Unsurprisingly, this book had a character-driven story. Lily was the sole narrator, and her inner musings ranged from dark, to cynical, to downright hilarious. She was a very interesting character because she was caught in a quandary every day in school; even though she had ADHD, her peers and teachers seemed to be oblivious to her special needs and treated her like she was like an ordinary teenager. It was sad and ironic that Lily, one of the brightest students, was mistaken for a truant. I totally understood why Lily hated going to school since it was practically her own version of hell.

One of the lessons that I gleaned from this book is that sensitivity and consideration should never be out of fashion, especially towards people with mental conditions. We shouldn’t look down on them or treat them with condescension in the academe because they can actually have the capacity to be better or smarter than other “normal” students. For example, Abelard was indeed a social hermit because of Asperger’s, but his love for mathematics and science enabled him to participate in regional robotics competitions. Of course, this happened in a work of fiction. Nevertheless, I think that it can happen in real life.

Another great thing about this book was that unlike some of its peers in the YA market, it didn’t depict love as the cure-all for mental illness. Abelard and Lily were head over heels for each other. They made each other happy and secure, but they still had to struggle with their respective mental conditions. In the end, one of them sought the help of science in order to have a shot at “normalcy.”

I nearly forgot to mention how impressed I was by the author’s creativity. It was amazing how she managed to integrate specific, evocative quotes from The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse into Lily and Abelard’s conversations, which were always smooth and coherent. Logically, the quotes weren’t just chosen at random. Otherwise, the book would have been so disorganized and confusing. xD

This book was generally enjoyable and insightful, but there was one thing that I really disliked: Lily and Abelard acted like jerks toward their parents. It was good that family dynamics were included or explored. Lily’s mom in particular was a prominent figure in the novel as she tried her best to meet Lily’s needs. However, I was annoyed that Lily often treated her mother with disrespect. She even had the audacity to say the f word, for crying out loud! Abelard wasn’t as bad as Lily, but his behavior around his parents could be described as…cold. I had already encountered the same problem in Eliza and Her Monsters, another mental health novel I recently finished. With that in mind, I really dislike it when such books seem to use mental illness as a convenient excuse for characters to be so rude or ungrateful.

All things considered, The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily was fun to read. It didn’t please me entirely, but I would recommend it because of it’s enlightening content. Thus, I am excited to read more books by Laura Creedle. 🙂

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Book Review

In Love with the Gorgeous Blue

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you so much, Penguin Random House, for sending me a finished copy of this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review.

ASDFGHJKL! I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

I know that we should judge books by their content, but look at that gorgeous cover! I can stare at it for hours and admire how pretty it is. There were times when I just needed to stop reading for moment to take a look at the cover. I know, I was a little obsessed xD.

As for the story itself, it was wonderful! Jennifer Niven’s blurb pretty much summed up how lovely the book was. She blurbed, “One of the loveliest, most exquisitely beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. (How beautiful? I highlighted and circled and underlined like mad.) I didn’t just read the pages, I lived in them.” That was so accurate! If you could see the state of my book right now, it’s full of colorful tabs and there are a lot of words written on the margins. There were just so many lines that I really liked.

Okay, so here is are seven reasons why I loved this book so much:

First, I loved this book because it was so bookish. By just looking at the cover, I could tell that books would be a huge part of the story. Henry and his family ran a secondhand bookshop, and I thought that it was one of the best places that I could find in a book. I just wanted to get inside the book and visit that bookshop. The concept of the Letter Library was super cool, too! Basically, it was a section of the bookshop where the books were not for sale, and customers could write on the pages, underline their favorite lines, and leave letters for other people to read. It was a brilliant idea, and it made me want to own a bookshop someday and also have a Letter Library. Haha.

Second, I loved this book because of Henry’s love for secondhand books. According to him, Secondhand books are full of mysteries. I agreed with his sentiment, and reading this book made me appreciate secondhand books more than before. I don’t often buy secondhand books because I hardly find one that I would like to read, but still, I really like visiting secondhand bookshops because the books have stories apart from the stories they contain within the pages. You can’t help but wonder, “How did this book find its way here?”, or “Who was the previous owner of this book?”, and the mystery might be forever unanswered, but you wonder anyway. I was quite sure that Henry and the others also thought of that, which is why I loved this book so much. It made me feel like I was personally involved in the story.

Third, I loved this book because of the letters in between the chapters. They were so cute! Again, it made me want to go inside the book and also leave some letters in the Letter Library for my friends and random people to find.

Fourth, I loved this book because of Cal. He was not physically present in the story, but he somehow shaped most of it. I was really sad that he died because he was really cool! I loved that he was a science nerd. Those theories about time? Super cool! I also loved that he and Rachel treasured the ocean, and it sucked so much that it was the reason for his death.

Fifth, I loved this book because of the characters. Rachel, Henry, George, and Cal were people that I would really like to befriend. I just wish that I could teleport inside the book and say “Hi” to them.

Sixth, I loved this book because of the book recommendations. They talked about lots of books, and now I have a few books to add to my ever-growing TBR pile. Haha.

Finally, I loved this book because it was quite emotional. The last parts of the book made me a little bit teary-eyed. Those what-could-have-been’s…they made me so sad T^T

Overall, I believe that there are still a LOT of reasons why I loved this book so much, and you, yes, YOU just have to read this book to know them! I highly recommend this book to all booknerds out there!

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Book Review

A Moment of Blue Reflection

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Henry, if the love of your life is kissing a moron, it’s probably time to reassess whether or not she’s the love of your life.

—Rachel

As someone who devours literature on a daily basis, I always enjoy reading books that feature similarly bookish people. My reading experience becomes more meaningful and memorable whenever I am able to fully connect with characters, as fictional as they are.

Following this train of thought, Words in Deep Blue is a perfect summer read for us lovers of the written word. It follows two booknerds, Rachel and Henry, who live in this rabbit-and-kangaroo-infested place called Australia (not America, for a change). Rachel and Henry have been best friends since they were children, and Rachel eventually decides to confess her feelings by leaving a love letter in his favorite book. Unfortunately, certain circumstances prevent Henry from reading it and cause Rachel to move to another city. Years later, Rachel and Henry work together in his family’s bookshop, but everything between them has changed for the worse. You can probably guess what happens next.

Unsurprisingly, Words in Deep Blue was character-driven. Since I’ve already read tons of contemporary books, I could see the ending from a mile away. Plus, some of the chapters were uneventful although they shed much light on Rachel and Henry’s personalities. Although the plot was indeed predictable, I really enjoyed how this book tackled relevant themes such as grief, forgiveness, and true love. This wonderful aspect of the book more than compensated for its lack of spontaneity.

Among all of the characters, Rachel was the one who touched my heart. I was so sad for her loss, and I understood the numbness or emptiness she felt because of her brother’s death (this is not a spoiler). If I lost either of my brothers, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself besides moping and looking up. Honestly, familial loss in books never fails to tug at my heartstrings.

Reading Cal’s letters to his crush was both enjoyable and saddening. He was a devoted bookworm like the other characters, and he could have lived such a fruitful life if he hadn’t drowned in the stupid ocean (this only deepened my hatred for swimming). In other words, it was painful to think about the happy ending that he could’ve had. Wishful thinking can be so pleasurable, but it sucks when you realize that it’s futile. Cal’s death was already established from the very beginning. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but stubbornly wish for a shocking plot twist.

Henry was actually my least favorite character. I liked his fondness for poetry and other philosophical literature, but I wasn’t a fan of how he pined for a girl who obviously “loved” him only when it was convenient. I cringed every time he tried to convince Amy to come back to him because it made him look so pathetic, if not hopelessly blinded by puppy love. His redeeming qualities were his sensitivity and optimism. If it weren’t for him, Rachel would have spent a longer time in the cage of depression. Basically, Henry was the type of person who always had a shoulder to cry on.

The side characters in this book were surprisingly well-developed. I didn’t feel that they were just created to function as plot devices. For example, George and Martin had their own unique personalities, and the letters they sent to each other increased the depth and humor of the story. This made me appreciate the book more because it showed how the author was very intentional in her writing.

After all the paragraphs I’ve written in this review, the bottom line is that Words in Deep Blue is a worthy addition to your TBR shelf, especially if you love contemporary novels that are character-driven and emotionally heavy. It doesn’t have the most unique plot, but the book as a whole is something to reflect on.

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Author Interview

Q & A with K. Ancrum

Happy Thursday, booknerds! Today is kinda special because this post is my 10th author interview. I’m so happy because I continue to meet amiable and talented authors in the YA community. Today’s post features K. Ancrum, debut author of The Wicker King. I found this book to be so weird, but it was not in a bad way. If you want to know more about my thoughts on it, check out my reviewThe Wicker King comes out this fall (October 31), and I hope that you will enjoy reading it. 🙂

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  1. Mental health is a prevalent theme in YA books nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write a book about codependency?

“It’s an incredibly under-discussed phenomenon. When we think about toxic relationships, we nearly always categorize someone as the aggressor and someone else as the victim. With codependency, both parties contribute to the issue—acting as aggressor and victim simultaneously—both inflicting damage, whether intentional or accidental. With August and Jack, a primary aspect of the book is the neglect that both of them suffer and their attempt to resolve their emotional needs in each other. They spiral into codependency because they are both taking from one another in volumes that the other cannot satisfy without destroying himself. They take from one another because they are lacking the traditional sources for their needs, and they make poor decisions because there is no real authority around to guide them not to. It’s a sad and dangerous situation and its entirely too common to be as under-discussed as it is.”

  1. August and Jack are not necessarily likable characters. Were they intentionally crafted to be that way?

“Yes. They’re not designed to be liked. They’re more designed to be cared about or worried about. My goal was to make readers feel protective of them—regardless of their faults.
Also, upon finishing the book, I wanted readers to view them with a sort of wary caution and feel more reflective about their circumstances and the topic at hand, than have a ‘favorite’ between them. That unbalanced emotionally conflicted mood you felt after finishing the book was entirely intentional.”

  1. How did your knowledge in literary theory/criticism influence your writing process? (i.e. Did it make it more unique or meticulous?)

“I—as you’ve probably guessed— greatly enjoy queer theory. When I first drafted the manuscript, the relationship between August and Jack was even more subtle because I enjoyed the ambiguity of the situation (as well as its comparison to old queer coded text, in a way that echoes the fairy tale feel of the story). The only hints of interest originally came from secondary characters who verbally assert their observations that August has feelings for Jack to his face—a fact that he’s not ready to recognize until the end of the book. However, as the manuscript grew and matured, I began to value representation over artistic subtlety.   I originally wrote it as a meticulous, queer-coded ode to older braver stories (Like Marie de France’s Bisclavret). But refined it into something that would resonate much stronger with my intended audience. Not everyone has sat through Uni level Arthurian literature and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to respect and value that.”

  1. With whom do you identify the most, August or Jack? Do you love them equally?

“This is so hard.Well. I care about August a lot, but by god, my heart beats for Jack. The manuscript is written from August’s perspective of course—but he’s an unreliable narrator. If you have time to re-read the book from Jack’s perspective (or take a gander at the e-novella which is written in Jack’s perspective which is to be sold separately) the amount of love and sheer terror that he hides behind his teeth, even while he’s shouting demands, is stunning. Even as he twists himself into something terrible to suit August’s terrible needs, you can see him shivering in fear. There is not a second in this book where Jack is not looking at August and begging to be loved.  There is a feral-ness to that kind of hope that absolutely makes my veins sing.”

  1. What message do you want to impart to your research, particularly in regards to mental health, abusive relationships, and sexuality?

“The themes that I wanted to cover are: The negative effects of parental neglect, the devastation as a result of ignoring offered help when you need it, the importance of mental healthcare being appropriately suited to the needs of the patient, the wretchedness of our policing system when dealing with mental health fallout, and how students can slip through the cracks when their school cares more about their grades and classroom behavior than their overall wellbeing.

“As for sexuality, I feel a tenderness towards the ‘Questioning’ stage many people go through when navigating their identity. Jack is just a bi kid being bi. August, on the other hand, takes ages to correctly identify attraction: trying to fit that square block into round holes of ‘responsibility’ ‘duty’ ‘allegiance’ and ‘ownership’, before settling into a wordless yearning Meanwhile, he denies other people’s subtle suggestions the whole way. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and that’s okay. I also wanted the resolution of the feelings they had for each other to be the one good thing they got out of their wretched journey. I’m a sucker for happy endings.”

  1. Between August and Jack, whom would you pick to be your boyfriend/best friend/husband?

“August would be a fun boyfriend. Jack would be steadfast in a way that would make him a good husband. However, I think that separately they are both lacking and in order to have good balance they need to be together. Which, consequently, is exactly what happens: In my next book THE WEIGHT OF STARS (which is set in the same small town, 25 years in the future, about a different group of seniors attending the same school) the Main character’s best friend is Rina, August and Jack’s child. So you’ll get to see a taste of what healthy Polyamory looks like, as well as meeting August and Jack as adults.”

     7. What are the perfect songs to listen to while reading The Wicker King?

IM A HUGE NERD AND MADE A SOUNDTRACK AGES BEFORE THE ARCs WENT OUT SO HERE YOU GO.

You can also find the CD playlists that each of the characters have in the book HERE


 

About the author:

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K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago Illinois. She attended Dominican University to study Fashion Merchandizing, but was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. Currently, she lives in Andersonville and writes books at work when no one is looking.

Visit K. Ancrum’s website

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Book Review

There Is No Such Thing as Wrong Grammar

Love Is Both Wave and ParticleLove Is Both Wave and Particle by Paul Cody

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Light was something like human love. How could it be so smooth, so lovely and flowing and warm, the apex of human existence at times, and at other times so gritty, the cause of heartbreak and misery and misunderstanding and even murder?

Even though I was bothered by the author’s fondness for wrong grammar, I cannot deny that this book was so worth my time. It was heartwarming, raw, and so insightful. I particularly loved its unfiltered exploration and discussion of mental health. This inspiring story will stay with me for a long time.

Love Is Both Wave and Particle is basically the life story of two troubled teenagers, Sam and Levon. Both of them attend a private school for people with special needs, and they are asked by one of their teachers to write a biography, aka the story of their lives. Sam and Levon are expected to work on this project together as means of catharsis and self-discovery. Soon, everyone is suddenly intrigued by the gradual changes in Sam and Levon, and one question begs to be answered: is love somehow responsible?

It took me some time to appreciate this book. Since my current profession requires me to be a grammar Nazi, the intentional errors throughout the novel made me flinch occasionally. The dialogues were hard to detect because the author didn’t use quotation marks. Furthermore, the narrative was written in a very conversational style that was characterized by multiple comma splices and sentence fragments. I understood the intention behind such errors. Still, I couldn’t just ignore them even if I prayed. xD

I also had some trouble with the multiple POVs. People who knew Sam and Levon secretly contributed to the biography. Hence, there were many characters to analyze, as well as names to memorize. Honestly, I can’t remember all of them even now. Tee-hee. Looking at the bright side, I did appreciate that the author gave me the opportunity to get to know many of the side characters, whom I initially perceived as insignificant. Also, I genuinely loved that Sam’s and Levon’s parents were able to share their own stories since parents/adults are usually ignorant bystanders in YA.

Setting aside the technical/Formalist problems I had with this book, I am happy to tell you that it made an impact on me. Unlike other contemporary books nowadays, this one was unique and memorable. It dealt with serious topics like depression, self-harm, and sexuality in such a way that was straightforward but not overwhelming. Scientific facts about various things were also given, making the book both enlightening and credible. If you’re a nerd like me, this book will tickle your brain and make you smile.

For me, the most significant message of this book is that mental illness can be a product of nature or nurture. In other words, it can be triggered by your genes or environment (i.e. upbringing). In retrospect, Sam’s and Levon’s personal struggles depicted that mental illness can be a product of both. Of course, other factors may come into play. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the discourse of mental health is very relevant nowadays, and we should take it seriously.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed Love Is Both Wave and Particle, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a very meaningful book to read. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, just pretend that there’s no such thing as wrong grammar. 😉

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Book Review

The Messed Up King

The Wicker KingThe Wicker King by K. Ancrum

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

codependency
noun co·de·pen·den·cy \ˌkō-di-ˈpen-dən(t)-sē\
: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin); broadly : dependence on the needs of or control by another

August and Jack were such messed up characters. I didn’t expect this novel to be so weird. Still, I must say that it was very intriguing. It’s been a long time since I finished a book in three sittings. Overall, three words can be used to perfectly describe The Wicker King: queer, dark, and spellbinding.

Queer

When I picked up this novel, I immediately noticed its strange features. The titles of each chapter were seemingly random, the pages gradually became darker as the story progressed, and morose character portraits appeared every now and then. Thankfully, my fondness for literary theory/criticism enabled me to understand and appreciate the beauty of such organized chaos. For example, I realized that the gradual darkening of the pages was a clever metaphor for the characters’ journey into insanity. I don’t want to spoil anyone further, so I highly suggest that you Google “Modernism” or “stream of consciousness” before you start reading.

As an afterthought, The Wicker King is also queer in that one could question the sexuality of the protagonists. August and Jack’s relationship was predominantly platonic, but I could tell that there was something more between them. Whatever they had definitely blurred the distinction between bromance and actual romance.

Dark

Gleaning upon the definition of codependency supplied above, The Wicker King was a shocking exploration of one of the most controversial topics in YA/NA literature: abusive relationships. I was initially very supportive of August and Jack’s bromance, so I was utterly surprised when things took a dark turn.

Because of a nearly tragic event in their childhood, August firmly believed that he belonged to Jack. August was a “soldier,” and Jack was his “king”. In other words, August was willing to do everything that Jack commanded. Jack, who suffered from vivid hallucinations, obviously had to be hospitalized. However, little did I know that August also had mental issues to deal with. I was rendered speechless by the crazy, unhealthy, and illegal things they did just to fulfill a what-the-heck prophecy.

Spellbinding

Even though this book clearly wasn’t written to evoke positive emotions, it was hard to put down. If I didn’t have to go to work, I could’ve finished it in a few hours. I loved how most of the chapters consisted of only one page because it made the plot incredibly fast-paced. Plus, I was constantly intrigued by the mental health aspect of the book. Until now, the nerdy side of me wants to learn more about codependency. I would like to thank the author for giving me an enlightening reading experience.

The Verdict

I enjoyed The Wicker King because it’s the most unique book I’ve read this year. Still, I can’t confidently say that I loved everything about it. I cared for August and Jack, but their story probably deserves a different ending. (That is always up for debate.) 😉

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