July 27, 2015

Book Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

I’ve been eyeing this book ever since it hasn’t even released yet. I was intrigued by its simple cover. Also the title seemed promising. The title Emmy & Oliver breathed out a story of two best friends turn lovers. I was right but apparently the whole story was not as simple as that. Apparently this book brought up a real issue through such great approach of telling.

Emmy wasn’t the one being kidnapped but what had happened to her best friend, Oliver, changed the whole community, including her own parents, into wary people with constant haunted feeling of losing their kids for years. Even after Oliver came back nearly ten years later, it didn’t simply put everything back to normal. Perspective changed, mindset changed, the fear remained the same. Oliver might came back healthy and fine but what the society couldn’t shake was the experience of missing one family member for such a long time without knowing his whereabout and his condition. It wasn’t something that could be forgotten or flip back to normal like a lamp switch on your night stand. This book shows that sometimes people doesn’t necessarily experience such tragic event to get a full effect of that very thing on their life.
And Ms. Benway portrayed the situation very well.
Each emotion was delivered on the right places. The interesting part was this book didn’t need to use heavy words or images to do it all. Instead she chose such a very comforting approach to lay everything bare for readers to understand and judge. I love that this book brought up heavy matters as its main topic but it’s all wrapped up neatly with casual and actually fun writing style through light tone of words. Considering the book’s topic, it should’ve been a depressing or sad read but I found myself laughing a lot through and through.

I really like Emmy’s character. She’s so awkward it’s so damn funny and embarrassing sometimes but at times she’s just so spontaneous, brave, and mature. How she deals with Oliver’s comeback which becomes other people’s latest topic of whispering session, she takes it as one moment that she embraces without hesitation like any other event in her life; her efforts to make Oliver as comfortable as possible facing various reaction of people at home and at school; all of them only makes Emmy such a loveable and awesome character in my eyes.
I love her relationship with her parents. She loves them as much as she wants to be off their radar most of the time. Ever since the boy next door was kidnapped, Emmy’s parents especially her mom has been watching over her like a hawk to its baby egg. Emmy has to live with strict rules like, a). Curfew is real tight; b). Phone calls are to be made every time she’s off to places that isn’t school or her best friends’ houses ―doesn’t mean she’s free to go everywhere without asking permission first, because― c). No unnecessary other activities that considered non-academic related. Emmy loves her parents so much and she isn’t the kind of kid who loves to get on a fight with their folks over early curfew and such. Emmy’s a good girl alright, but being under their constant scrutiny 24/7 isn’t exactly what she imagines it takes to be a good girl. After all, she’s a teenager who’s always in need of doing a lot of things to discover themselves. And again, Emmy’s version of ‘discovering herself’ isn’t something involving illegal deeds. She just wants to surf and that very thing obviously would be a big blow for her mom.
So, she lies.
She lies so she can surf everyday like what her passion really is. She lies so her parents wouldn’t forbid her to get anywhere near the beach with beautiful big waves. The author successfully portrayed this teenagers’ common behavior of lying to her parents in order to keep them from worrying too much. This is a real issue in real life. Strict parents tend to shape ‘liar’ side on their kids. Good thing in this case, the kid only lies so she can do something of her hobbies that actually later becomes a ticket to her future plan. But what’s ironic in our society is most of the time kids lying to do stupid things that will bring them to a destructive path. This book delivers that message precisely for people to see that there’s always much better way to deal with our anxiety, way that doesn’t involve ruining relationship between both parties on the frame. This is great because not many books actually bring up this kind of issue.

What I love the most is how the kids ―the ones who become victims of the adult’ irresponsible act― deal with their issue by trying to find a steady ground to stand, together, where trust and honesty are not just camouflaged things. Emmy and Oliver’s relationship is so beautiful. And I’m not even talking about the romance that built up between them here. I’m referring to their friendship that even though there is a big gap of ten years on the span of time they got to know each other, it doesn’t faze them to pick up just where things were cut off last time. They could easily reconnect and together figured out the life ‘after’. I’m so damn amazed by them and their amazing friendship.
Emmy & Oliver is that kind of book that will leave a mark in your heart because of its deep moral lesson implied inside. Ms. Benway writes each moment beautifully and flawlessly. There is this one scene of ‘kidnapping’ game Emmy and her friends played when they were kids that analogize the real issue innocently yet giving a strong impression about kids whose perspectives were completely changed after the tragedy. That ‘The Wave’ in the end is, oh God, it’s so darn beautiful I feel like crying while re-reading it over and over again… The emotion is all over the place, really.
Now I think I need to get my hands on Ms. Benway’s other books (I have AKA on my to-read list on GR). I think I just got captivated by her writing!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

Book Review: Love Always, Damian (Love Always #2) by D. Nichole King

Love Always, Damian (Love Always, #2)

Get a copy here!

After Ms. King innocently ripped my heart out on Love Always, Kate, she finally stitched it back neatly on Love Always, Damian.

There are times when I so hate myself for reading a few reviews before I read the book. This time is one of them. I made a huge stupid mistake by doing so that I ended up getting spoiled by bit and pieces of the plot. Thankfully it didn’t quite ruin my emotion for the whole book (though the twist became not that surprising).

‘Because it’s easier to be broken and feel nothing than allow the guilt and hurt to overtake me.’

(Chapter 14; Love Always, Damian)

I have this love/hate relationship with Damian. After Kate, Damian seemed to get it together but apparently he’s not that strong to move on with his life. Four years had passed yet Damian still got on such dull go-with-the-flow kind of life. Memories of Kate still became his personal torture day by day. He dealt it by stay drunk most of the time and not to forget his meaningless intercourse with countless women. It’s sad and disappointing at the same time. This behavior of his reminded me on Gus from Gus. I read that book not long before I started this Love Always series so I couldn’t help comparing both characters. Damian and Gus lost their beloved ones to cancer and it’s obvious that both of them had it so hard.

‘Becoming attached to someone isn’t worth the pain you suffer when they’re gone.’

(Chapter 23; Love Always, Damian)
It’s the thing when you love someone too much, you will most probably lost yourself too when you lost them one day. Just like Damian, Gus went straight to self-destructive path. Gus’ was way darker than Damian’s even though later Gus’ recovery was considered fast than Damian’s. Damian was still going back and forth to his ‘way to numb the pain’ when another blow hit his face again and again. When I hoped he would stop, he did it again. It’s not until around 80% when he finally stopped the immature move.
With all that, it should’ve been easy for me to dislike Damian. But the fact is I fell in love with him throughout the book, too. It’s as if I fell in love with flawed Damian because during that time Damian didn’t entirely lose himself to his bad side. There was one person that anchored him to the steady ground under his feet. It was such poignant moments seeing him working so hard to do things better ever since that person appeared on his doorstep. It felt so good, really, seeing Damian grew his good side and became more and more responsible time to time.
If Gus was saved by a new love, Damian was saved by a new life.
I really didn’t expect that kind of twist to appear in this second book (I think I’d be much more surprised if I didn’t read those reviews before starting this book!). I didn’t remember how many times I cried, how much tears I shed while reading. I just remembered I had to hide my face lest people around me noticed my swollen eyes. The twist was over the top! After I finished Love Always, Kate I actually had no idea how things would turn into on the sequel. I sincerely wished for Damian to get his own happiness eventually but again, I didn’t know what kind happiness would fit him best. Ms. King answered it for me through a non-cliché plot in this book. How she chose those people to be Damian’s turning point of letting Kate go was beyond my imagination but turned out it perfectly suited them. The person that I kind of disliked in the past turned out not as bad as I had thought. In fact, the characterization in this book changed all my perspective upon characters on book one. Isn’t it amazing when reading the sequel makes you love book one even more? That’s what I feel exactly about Love Always, Damian.
In the end, Damian finally understood what Kate actually meant about him granting her five wishes. The last wish became the hardest one but Kate believed that Damian could do it. And he did, he did it with help from amazing people around him. Damian finally realized what letting someone go really meant…

“Letting someone go doesn’t mean you forget them. It means you love them from here and move on with your life like they would have wanted.”

(Chapter 25; Love Always, Damian)
I had little expectation for this series when I first started it. Ms. King was a new author for me back then, and with catchy and cute title like Love Always, Kate, I could only imagine that that book would be another cute teenager –kind of cliché- romance story. It feels amazing when you don’t expect anything from something then it gives you such astonishment, it feels like getting a diamond ring inside your cereal box.
I recommend this series for everyone who’s in searching for great emotional reads about losing someone and finding a new hope. Kate and Damian would take you to journeys of finding a real meaning of life through this awe-inspiring series!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

July 20, 2015

Book Review: Love Always, Kate (Love Always #1) by D. Nichole King

Love Always, Kate (Love Always, #1)
Rating:  (4.5)/5

Get a copy here!

I dove into this book without any information beforehand about what this book would be about. It’s not the first time I did this, though, but this time this book surprised me because it went so far away with what I imagined. I picked up the kindle of this book on Amazon only because of the cover and the intriguing title. I just thought it’d be some YA contemporary romance ―which generally my favorite kind of genre with light sweet story and nice HEA. What I didn’t expect was to find a tear-jerking story of a girl in the mid of fighting her deadly illness who met a boy with emotional issue from big loss in the past. Two broken souls trying mend each other. One of them taught that life is worth fighting for even if it’s for such a selfish reason. The other taught that death is not the end of one’s connection with someone that gone away, definitely not the end of every chemistry built between them.
“I wanna see the sun rise with you every morning for the rest of my life.”
(Chapter XXVII; Love Always, Kate)
Kate Browdy, cancer survivor, had been diagnosed again with new round of cancer for the third time. After the same-old reaction from her and both parents, Kate was back to the same-old cycle with same-old routine: chemo and the whole treatments. This time she was way more prepared, though, she went out to buy a blank journal that would soon be filled with entries of her long long way going through this despicable journey of hers. Apparently, this time was also different. This time a boy appeared on her war zone, waving a flag. Not the white one, but the red one that ignited a fire within her soul. Or it seemed so.
‘Is it too much to hope that maybe, just maybe he could look past the cancer and see me?’ 
(Chapter II; Love Always, Kate)
Damian Lowell lost his mom and big brother to a tragic accident which left him broken and undone. His dad was on the same state that it’s kind of hard to present wholly, emotionally for him. Damian and his dad often got into arguments which lead to drunken Damian and frustrated Dr. Lowell. This circumstance left him to deal with his own way of grieving involving alcohol. He often got drunk and when things got too worse, he even did a lot of unpleasant thing that got him expelled twice for his irresponsible behaviors. He lived such a reckless life, until the day he stumbled into that door by fate. The door that led a way to a girl called Kate.
‘“I admire you. You’re strong.”
I was strong because cancer is resolute, and I didn’t want the beast to win.’
(Chapter III; Love Always, Kate)
On the first encounter, Kate felt like Damian had shown a light to her hopeless life. In return, Damian felt attracted to Kate for her spirit of fighting cancer and her calmness in facing such tragic and cruel fate. They hung out together and soon, with all their lacks and matches, they fell in love with each other. Slowly and deeply.
‘Pain, even though it hurt, made us stronger― if it didn’t destroy us first.’ 
(Chapter V; Love Always, Kate)
It was not a fairy tale story, the path that lay in front of Damian and Kate. It’s not simply a girl and a boy fall in love, together conquer every barrier with the power of their love, and live happily ever after. Kate’s cancer was getting worse day by day. And Damian’s emotional was sometimes still gone bad. But after all, the cliché about power of love might not a fiction to sugarcoat a romance story. It might happen to them.
‘Pain has a purpose, it makes us stronger. More compassionate. Able to love more deeply than we thought possible. If we let it, it makes us better people.’
(Chapter XXXII; Love Always, Kate)
Together, Kate and Damian healed each other. Kate showed Damian different way to deal with grief. Damian made Kate realized that for once in her life, she might not want to hesitate fighting for her life; that she wanted so badly to be a normal teenager with normal life.
‘There’s never enough time to see good-bye. Never enough time to say, “I love you.” Never enough time to let go. I could have been given a thousand years with Damian, and still not be able to do this.’
(Chapter XXV; Love Always, Kate)
When for the first time in their life, they thought they finally found a healing to their long wound. The lost feeling of Damian. The hopeless feeling of Kate. But fate chose this moment to give them one last important lesson of loving someone for real: you don’t always need a happy end to feel the best kind of love, because what’s best isn’t how it ends, it’s how you feel in the moment, how you feel for each other during the time you spend together. How you grow up together, change each other to better ways, and learn just what exactly being in love is: it’s a mixture of hectic and calmness, happiness and sadness, start and end, found and lost.
‘Being strong means allowing yourself to cry over the things you can’t change; laugh when things are funny; smile when you’re happy. It means understanding where your breaking point is, and yet, going further and still remaining whole. Strong people push themselves to the limits of pain and joy. They fall to their knees in agony, then they lift up their faces to find the beautiful morning rays shining down on them, and they rise to their feet. Being strong means never giving up, no matter how crushed you are, and finding happiness in the smallest parts of life.’
(Chapter XXXII; Love Always, Kate)
It was like a roller coaster ride with this book. I don’t remember how many times I cried nor do I remember on which chapter it happened exactly. I think I read it in one sitting and became a blubbering mess after I close the last page.
I read a lot of books before which main character diagnosed with cancer. The feeling is always different on each book. With a fast-paced plot, Love Always, Kate goes in YA genre with hero/heroine around 17 years old. I personally think that Ms. King succeeded in presenting the plot through 17 years old teenager’s eyes. Both main characters’ behaviors show exactly how teenagers would act like in real life. They don’t necessarily go all ‘old-soul’ in words just to strengthen the emotional of the story. I like it that Kate, being a 17 years old girl still think of things like crushing on a boy and worrying about her look as real problems aside her terminal illness. Kate is funny, so high-spirited, care so much for everyone around her, but what I love the most is her determination to make Damian a better person. I love how her parents deal with Kate. Unlike most fictional parents with cancer kids who sometimes choose to detach or even go all too protective which might come out annoying, Kate’s parents treat Kate very well. They’re protective but not too much; they fall apart but hold on strongly to each other for her. It’s always a relief to see parents who do their jobs perfectly.
In other side, I feel a little frustrated for Damian’s character. I understand where he comes from; I feel so so bad for him. But when he projects his frustration to the wrong person, it’s disappointing, really. I could partly blame Damian’s dad for his condition. He might be a good doctor but he’s not a good father apparently. But Damian also takes the blame for the rest of it. When Damian falls for Kate, it’s so good to see him changes. I feel like crying all day when seeing how far he wants to go for her. I feel so touched by his love for her. I just dislike it when his moment comes out.
The ending is heartbreaking. Somehow I know just how it would end but along the way I built up hopes… Ms. King wraps the story up in a way so the readers could accept it well. I love how she creates Kate’s character so good until the end. I think I cried harder on the last chapter…
I’m going to read the second book for I am so damn curious on how Damian’s life goes on. I read bit and pieces of reviews about the sequel and well… I kind of regret it, though, lol. Hopefully I could find something that would make me fall in love with Damian the way I fall in love with Kate.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

July 15, 2015

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)
Rating:  (3.8)/5

Get a copy here!
P.S. I Still Love You picked up where it left off on book 1. After all the drama Lara Jean experienced last year, it’s really a new year for her to face. Lara Jean wrote a letter to start the year but not another love letter for another boy she’d loved before. She wrote one for Peter. Peter Kavinsky who was on the list of five boys she’d loved, Peter Kavinsky who she got tangled with in fake relationship to save her from dilemma with Josh, Peter who she never thought she still had feeling for. She used to think that once she wrote a letter for a boy she’d loved, it meant she was finally over with her feelings. But apparently things were different with Peter because it’s not a letter to say goodbye to her feeling, it’s a letter to welcome the brand new feeling she felt for him.
This year everything was different. Her best friend slash neighbor, Josh slowly drifted away as his relationship with Margot had completely fallen apart. It’s a sad reality for Lara Jean while at the same time she had to deal with her own problems which seemed more and more like a really bad nightmare day to day. Another task for Lara Jean, she had to figure out her relationship with Peter, the boy who she loved too much ―for real this time, the boy who hurt her so much. For her, Peter was like this coin with two sides. He could flip to one side and back to the others quickly, which confused her most of the time. And when doubt and insecurity came crashing down on her, that’s when fate brought a distraction for her already tangled mind. A distraction that might not be that bad after all, a distraction that made Lara Jean learned that sometimes we need to be more realistic in life because yes, bad things would happen but if we constantly avoid meeting them then it’d be no life at all.
My first thought upon this book is that the ‘color’ of this book still somehow remains the same with its predecessor: a light read with short plot and some little twists. Generally, I enjoy this book even if sometimes I felt frustrated over some characters for the way they behave.
I like Song girls’s Dad! I love how he always tries hard to give the best for his girls. It’s just so sweet that he always takes his children to be more into their mom’s family, like when he insists of them wearing hanbok at New Year celebration. It’s so touching that he often reminisces good memories with his late wife in front of his children.
There are things that actually better from book 1 but there are also things that remain undeveloped from its former situation which quite frustrating I must say. Well, I’ll just put them into lists.

Things that actually better from To All the boys I’ve Loved Before:
• I have an issue with book 1 where it failed to show me the writing goal of the book. I couldn’t catch the message that the book wants to deliver through its story which ended up with me thinking of the book as pointless and just basically a light read for enjoyment only. P.S. I Still Love You is a light read, too, but it has an important message implied as its main concern which is how to live a real life where you don’t need to worry too much about everything. Even though the message is kind of subtle and is only highlighted in the end of the book, it’s a progress from nothingness in this important-message department of this series.
• I like Margot more in this book. She’s finally back to show just how big sister should treat her little sister. I like how she’s so quick in taking action to deal with Lara Jean’s real nightmare.
• Kitty is funnier and more manipulative, which is actually fun to read.
• New character is up: John Ambrose McClaren! He’s everything Peter isn’t. He is so gentle, way more mature than anyone among their friends circle, understanding, and caring. I was secretly hoping that Peter would be too messed-up that Lara Jean would finally end up with John Ambrose at some point…
Lara Jean’s attraction for John Ambrose is completely understandable. I don’t think she’s confusing for feeling something toward another boy while she says she loves Peter. Lara Jean is a teenager, after all. Teen girls are supposed to be confusing and feel attracted to a lot of boys, especially the good ones like John Ambrose. Good thing, Margot knows how to explain this phenomenon in a better way,

“Lara Jean, I think you half-fall in love with every person you meet. It’s part of your charm. You’re in love with love.”

(Margot; Chapter 50, P.S. I Still Love You)
• Lara Jean’s life is more directed. I like how she got herself into a lot of activities beside school and worrying too much of her relationship with Peter. I also like how she always tries to fill in the role of mother for Kitty. I love her efforts in baking Kitty homemade cake for school event and preparing as perfect as possible birthday party for Kitty.

Things that remains the same/even worse from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before:
• Characterization of Peter. Seriously, what’s the problem with this boy? He’s really hard to read. He acts so randomly and seems like don’t know what to do most of the time. I like it when he acts nice and sweet to Lara Jean, even more when he pulls out some heroic act at school for Lara Jean’s sake. In fact, at that point I really wished he could end up with Lara Jean in the end. But the more I read, the more I doubted his feeling for her. Peter seems like don’t know how to act around his ex-girlfriend slash Lara Jean’s ex-best friend, Genevieve. It’s really understandable that Lara Jean got so mad at him about Genevieve. I mean, which girl would be okay that her boyfriend always be at other girl ―NO, his EX-GIRLFRIEND’s beck and call like all the time? Like when things get too much for that EX-girlfriend, he would come in rescue for her no matter what and when, and basically abandoning other important things, including say, his NOW-girlfriend? It’s a major turn off for me, really. I know that it’s explained why Genevieve is behaving like that but no, it doesn’t justify anything. There are limits that you should follow in a relationship, and NOT being at your ex’s beck and call is one of them.
• The ending is so abrupt, rushed, and unprepared. The conclusion just comes out of nowhere. The scene in the end is actually where the important message lays down. It might be wrapped up in better way but unfortunately, it’s not. It’s really much worse than book one’s dear peter ending.

Now that I think about it, this book is a really light read with uneventfully simple plot. Just like book 1 was. Jenny Han wrote about such mundane things like going to high school, having problem at school, facing the double standard issue, family’s issue where kids trying to set up their single parent, and how relationship during high school is always the hardest because both the boy and the girl still learning how to put off their own egos to accept each other wholly while at the same time they still figuring things out about their own selves. This might sound boring this book brings a fresh air among contemporary YA that I’ve read where lately the themes are circling around characters with flawed past, death, or serious fatal illness. Not that I don’t enjoy those themes. I do but it’s nice to have a break from them once in a while.
I gave 3.5 stars to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Well, guess I’ll give more to this book: 3.8 stars. Because as much as I enjoy Jenny Han’s writing, I still couldn’t give 4 stars for this series. Maybe for Han’s another series? Guess I’ll give a try for Summer trilogy one of these days

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

July 12, 2015

Book Review: Gus (Bright Side #2) by Kim Holden

Gus (Bright Side, #2)

Get a copy here!

Judging from my blubbering-mess state and messed-up emotion few days ago, I didn’t think its sequel would outscore Bright Side's poignant story. Kim Holden proved me wrong with Gus.
Same pattern, though, during a few first chapters, I had to stop my urge to put this book down several times because honestly, that part of the book where Gus went through worst wrecked emotion, it's too dark to my liking. There were drugs, booze, and women involved and I couldn’t help feeling disappointed to Gus for taking that self-destroyed path. But then things slowly got better and better. And now, this book made its way to my favorite ever after book list.
For me, personally, it's always an inspiring and sacred moment to read or watch people's journey of going through five stages of grief and rebuild their life when everything that left is just remaining pieces of their heart and an unhealed scar. How they go through each phase, angry, denying, bargaining, depressed, and then when layers of all those pathetic moments covered their heart, they let them cease by accepting the bitter reality because losing someone doesn’t mean we have to stop living. Instead, losing them means we are now in mission to continue life where they left off. It would be a repeating cycle because once it's our turn to go; people who love us would be the one to continue life where we left off. Bright Side was the lighthouse for Gus's ship. She was the destination he always headed to. So when the destination was no longer in sight, his ship lost direction and just took off wherever the wind and waves dragged him to.
The majority of this book is focusing on Gus 'after' Bright Side. Even though this book is told in dual perspective, I could see that Gus' emotional recovery is the main thing that the author focuses into and I love that. I love that the author doesn’t do the 'new-love-would-heal-all-the-old-wound' kind of cliché. Instead, she takes a neat step of focusing on Gus' internal wreckage first before involving the 'L' word with new heroine, Scout, in another phase long long time later. Instead, Scout takes part in helping Gus under friendship label. Their connection isn’t just one-way, but two-way street where she and him help each other. It's so beautiful when finally we get to see Gus starting to heal and return to his old self, his kind-hearted and sincerely sweet self. He makes it so easy to fall in love with his character once he found his way back to the right track.
Gus's character is very well-developed. His 'down' moment might mar months of his life but not his heart. It's so good to see he has such loyal friends who always there to remind him his own true color. One comment about how reckless he lives his life is enough to boost his intention to change for better. Scout is the kind of girl who's been living under people's one-eye judgments of her physical scar, which led her to have an emotional scar as well for over 12 years. But Scout is a tough girl who hates people's pity. Her only weakness is her need for sincere love and understanding of her issue which she hasn’t found yet. Until a broken rock star in healing makes her understand that to make people see our worth, we have to see our worth first.
‘I guess sometimes all you need is a little inspiration. And sometimes inspiration is a smile from the right person at the right time.’

(Monday, December 4; Gus)
I love them together so much. Their romance was built up step by step steadily. I love a romance where when you fall in love with someone, at the same time you help and support each other to be better. Ms. Holden gives me that through Gus and Scout. Two people with flawed past but together they build a perfect future.
I love that this book has a lot of lovable characters, both main and side characters.
I wish there are more people like Bright Side, Gus, and his mom in real world.
I wish a lot of people who's been drowning in dark waters would take the same path Clare and Sugar have taken in the end.
I wish there are a lot of people who's saved by touches of love like Scout and Keller's dad.
I wish there are a lot of loyal friends in the world like Franco, Jamie, Robbie, Clayton, Shelly and Duncan.
I wish there are a lot of lovers out there like Keller. (*kiss kiss*)
Then I bet every day on earth would definitely be all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.

There are a lot of surprising twists near the end of the book. A lot of things that never mentioned before come to the surface and unravel themselves one by one. I love it so much when this book teaches us that perfect things, whatever they are, are not perfect because everyone says so. There's not even a standard of perfection exists in this world. Perfect things are perfect because with them we feel enough, we feel happy, we feel content, and we don’t compare them with others'. Perfect things are perfect because we say so.
Really, this book teaches me a lot of great lessons of life. A lot of wise thoughts and opinions that I could use to base my act and decision on in real life case one day.
I'm really glad I put up with the heavy part in the beginning because it's really worth it in the end. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who's in search of good quality contemporary book. Because this book isn’t just good… it's EPIC!
And I've fallen in love with epic ;)
‘I’ve come to the full realization that my happiness, my life, falls squarely on my shoulders. No one’s gonna do it for me. I’m the one who makes it or breaks it.’
(Saturday, October 20; Gus)
Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

Book Review: Bright Side (Bright Side #1) by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)

Get a copy here!

I made a mental note to fill my July’s reading list with as many book as possible from my TBR list. The list volume is getting bigger and I admit I’m a little worried that it’ll pile up and up and never stop and I’ll end up missing a lot of good books from the list.
I chose Bright Side because its sequel kept appearing on my screen while I browsed something new to read on Amazon for weeks. The cover is so unique. It’s been a while since the last time I see a book cover that contains only with one singular color. It’s so neat, simple, and hides a lot of meaning behind its plainness. The cover itself already made me so eager to read the story inside.
And what a book I had chose there…
Bright Side has everything from bad to good quality a book could have. It’s boring, slow, and hard to get into in the beginning. And it’s mind-blowing, smile-inducing, heartbreaking, and tear-jerking right from the middle all the way to the end. I might a little hate this book at first but Bright Side performed such awesome theft operation through its plot that in the end I didn’t even realize my heart was already successfully stolen.

Kate Sedgwick had it hard for years. Absentee parents, physically and emotionally, in her family caused Kate to take control of her and her sister life from such early age. Kate herself was still on the phase when girls her age was in need of lots of care and affection and she already had to take care of her sister who had Down Syndrome. Not to mention bad treatment they received from their mentally-disturbed mother. Money ran out fast like rain water sliding off the rooftop in their home. With bills keep piling up, teenager Kate officially had another task on the plate: to work. But none of the above kept her from smiling from day to day. It was as if nothing could break her spirit, turn off her light, stop her pace, or wipe the good side inside her heart. It was like Kate Sedgwick was born to live all of her life positively. That’s the reason Gus Hawthorne, her best friend, called her Bright Side.

God knows Kate needed something to balance her miserable life. Gus and his mom were that ‘something’ for her. After finding out how miserable Kate and her sister’s condition, Gus’ mom literally tucked them into her wings and took care of them as if her own children. Kate couldn’t be more thankful for their thoughtful help. But being Bright Side, she still did a lot of things on her own. Even when they decided to move out, Kate and her sister chose to rent an old garage to sleep under than being nuisances for Hawthorne family. Kate gave up her full ride music scholarship at Grant for the sake of her sister. But fate pushed her into a whole different circumstance where she ended up in Grant eventually under scholarship but not for music. For the first time in her life, Kate would live far away from Gus and his mom. For the first time in her life, it would be just Kate against the world. 

Juggling with school and work was how Kate lived her life in Grant, Minnesota. Life was still the same hard kind here in the new town but Grant had introduced her to a lot of people with different characters and backgrounds. People who soon became her new family, people with their own issue, people who was saved from the edge of the cliff they’ve been standing at all their life until Kate came and pulled them back.
Among them was someone who reminded her that Kate might have lived all her life independently but it’s okay to need someone to take care of her one day. Someone who reminded her that her name might be Bright Side but it’s okay to come undone for once because it’s when that someone lent her their shoulder to lean on and cry to.
Keller Banks might be that someone for Kate.
And it might be true as long as they were willing to reveal all secrets that standing between them like some unbreakable brick wall.

“… You give me courage I never knew I had.”

“I didn’t do anything. I was there all along, you just had to find it.” 

(Sunday, November 6; Bright Side)
At first, everything went so slow and uneventful. I kept waiting where this story would take me but even until I finished the first half of the book, I still didn’t get what I wanted. I had to hold back my urge to put this book down again and again because honestly, I was really really bored.
But then on the second half of the book, the author seemingly started to roll her sleeves up and began writing her ‘actual’ story. The book started to pick up its pace and damn, she threw out twist after twist for us to deal with. Some was predictable some wasn’t and those that unpredictable shocked the hell out of me. Hands down, but I really didn’t see that coming at all. I’m impressed that Ms. Holden bravely opted for presenting this kind of twist that unquestionably would break a lot of hearts and probably gained her a lot of haters (Kidding. But I considered being one for a sec). But she had purpose for all this. Well, come to think of it, Ms. Holden actually put signs in some beginning scenes about what the readers would face later.
Every character in this book was developed very well. Kate was the most unique character of heroine I ever read about. She was, Good God, so positive about life and with everything thrown into her path. But not like most good persons who tended to appear weak and such, she was a total badass. A really good badass. She knew exactly when to get all soft and when to kick someone’s ass. She knew which people deserved her good side and which ones deserved her bad side. Not that she had any bad side. Her light personality, her broad-minded and mature perspective in seeing people and the way they act; she’s really awesome. Truthfully, I was a little skeptical of her too-good personality at first, moreover when I read scenes when she actually didn’t mind with people treating her badly. Not because she’s a weak but because she believed everyone had a reason to be who they are now and to never judge them simply by their doing. But the further I read, the more I realized how amazing this girl. With circumstances she was in, she still managed to appreciate life with all her heart and even help people with all her might. There was this thing she said that makes me adore her more,

‘Don’t judge each other. We all have our own shit. Keep your eyes on yours and your nose out of everyone else’s unless you’re invited in. And when you get the invitation, help, don’t judge.’ 

(Sunday, January 22; Bright Side)
I think it’d be such real advice for a lot of people, including me. Not that I’m like that all the time, but sometimes we did that without we even realized it. And learning from Kate, she’s really a great person who never judge people whatever they do.
Keller, even though his introduction was short, all of his scenes were enough to make me head over heels for him. His life was no fairytale either, but unlike Kate who stayed positive every damn time, Keller thought it was okay to give in and just went along with his own misery. Having his life mapped out neatly, Keller willingly buried deep his dream just for the sake of keeping people around him in happiness. He’d been living his life for years like that until one day someone walked through the door of the café he worked at with some noisy doorbell in the background and for once in his life, he wanted a different path to take.
Love between Kate and Keller was instant. It bloomed on the first sight. It was quick and actually kind of comical how they could go all poetic in their mind thinking of each other the moment they met for the first time. Then, everything slowly grew deeper and I couldn’t help falling in love with their love.
I became a crying mess right from December 15 all the way to the last chapter: January 27. Seeing Kate’s braveness and Keller’s strong faith for them, I felt like witnessing a true real love story. My heart ached for them and I wished I could do something to make things better for them but in the end I was once again reminded that a sweet true love story isn’t necessary to have a happy ending. I was reminded to see the bright side of a tragedy.
Bright Side is the book you would enjoy for breaking your heart and making you accept that just fine. Because sometimes it takes the hurtful way to learn something important. This book broke my heart into pieces but it also taught me to put it back together and glued them tightly with ‘acceptance paste’.
Well, I’m glad I didn’t put this book too long on my TBR list ;)

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

July 6, 2015

New Release: Kyland (A Sign of Love series) Audiobook by Mia Sheridan (+ Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook here!)

July is finally here and I have the latest update from my favorite author of all time, Mia Sheridan!
Mia Sheridan is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of A Sign of Love series including Leo, Leo's Chance, Stinger, Becoming Calder, Finding Eden, Archer's Voice, and the latest book of the series, Kyland! Each book in this series topped the list of my best favorite ever after romance book of all time. 

Kyland was released on January, 24th this year. I loved this book so much and as always Mia didn't disappoint with her ability to write amazing romance book! And.... the big news is, the audiobook version of Kyland will be released very soon this July, 7! 

Make sure you pre-order and mark your calendar to listen to the audiobook on release day. If you haven't read this book, here some things to convince you to pick this book up for your next reading list!

Author: Mia Sheridan
Publication Date: January 24th 2015 (Audiobook July 7th 2015)
Genre: Contemporary romance (New Adult)
Series: Standalone (belong to A Sign of Love series, inspired by sign Taurus) 
Age recommendation: 18+ (Due to strong language and sexual content)

Synopsis (Goodreads):
Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk. 
Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.
Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They're both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?
Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

My Review (Snippet):
"Kyland’s story is not just simply another new adult read to enjoy. It’s not just simply romance. It’s realistic romance. Slice of life. Lessons of life. The story contains everything we see in our real life. How poverty made people depressed. How rural people had stronger connection by heart than those who’s living in big city. How passion and strong good-will would make one’s future life completely different. How true love should have worked between two people. How misery, just how worst it was, would never overpower us forever. I would likely recommend this book to people on motivational group. This book talked a lot more than those speeches that sometimes people find boring. And this one effectively kicked right to my heart. Mia did an awesome job there building the characters, plotting the scenes, putting life lessons, hiding mind-blowing secrets under layers, making us cry…"
Read my full review of Kyland (including my personalize long synopsis) here!
And now, to add more curiosity on your plate, I have a teaser clip from the audiobook for you to listen (click the title Kyland to listen)!

*please note that I was contacted by Audible.com via email to receive an access to this clip of Kyland audiobook for publication purpose only*

Written by: Mia Sheridan
Narrated by: Stephen Dexter, Erin Mallon
Length: 9 hrs and 19 mins
Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date: 07-07-15
Price: $24.95
Publisher: Audible Studios

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

July 5, 2015

Book Review: When You're Back (Rosemary Beach #12) by Abbi Glines

When You're Back (Rosemary Beach, #12)

Get a copy here!

ABBI GLINES IS BACK with the sequel of Mase and Reese story!
I was so dang excited to get my hands on this book. I loved this couple and Abbi made the wait difficult by leaving a snippet of name in the end of the book When I’m Gone. I decided to put this book on my top list of July’s reads to make a great start for this month… only to be any more curious for the next book!
When Reese finally agreed to move in with Mase, it meant they were up to new challenge coming in their future way. It took a long way for Reese to finally agree to move to the ranch and left Rosemary Beach behind. Now that they’re together, they would do anything so nothing got in their way again. And hard they tried, but there were moments when everything became too much making Mase and Reese realized that sometimes in a relationship, it wasn’t just about fighting threats coming from the outside, but those coming from the inside might be the most destructive threat if not dealt wisely.
Like before, Reese’s character hooked me in. I liked her in When I’m Gone and I liked her more in When You’re Back. I know I said once that insecure girl isn’t really attractive anymore that a lot of authors tended to use the personality on their heroine lately. But Abbi Glines is a master of creating insecure heroine and turning them into fighters. She made insecure girls bearable and even made my heart ache reading them. Reese was a girl whose miserable past had shaped her into this insecure-uncertain girl with trust issue. Something happened during her childhood ruined her perspective to see her future where they’d be highly possible bright path for her. It’s really good to see her trying to work her way out of the dark clouds this time. While in previous book, she was this confused girl searching for something/someone to hold on to, finally met Mase, and surprised us with her brave act in the end, this time it was about Reese figuring things out in her relationship with Mase. It was about her seeing the worth within herself that deserved every ounce of Mase’s sincere love.
As for Mase, I had mixed feeling for him. I really liked him in When I’m Gone but in this book, he kind of failed to remind me why I loved him in the first place on the first several chapters. I know how he loved Reese fiercely but he’s just too much of a good guy to reject people’s appearance in his life, even the bad ones. This indulgent side of him reminded me of Rush Finlay somehow. Rush loved Blaire just as fierce, but when Nan came around and pulled on some crazy acts, he often used to rush to get to Nan and left Blaire behind when Blaire actually needed him the most. Rush didn’t mean bad, he just sometimes didn’t know how to handle being a good boyfriend and a good family. Mase was like that in this book. I disliked him a bit for that considering Reese had too much on her plate to deal with things like fighting for Mase’s attention when she so deserved it without asking.
I expected this book would totally focus on Mase and Reese working out their relationship together. But Abbi slipped on story of the others in there, too. It was fine though, since Kiro/Emily’s story was heartbreaking yet so good. But I wish more of Mase and Reese. It’s like Mase’s side story took bigger portion than Mase and Reese’s itself. With appearance of new characters, somehow, this book felt like a stepping stone for another story of them coming up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so excited for another book on Rosemary Beach series but again I say I wish to read more of Mase and Reese.
I liked some of the side characters, though. Major, for example was so much fun. I really really wish to read a story of him one day! And, oh! Mase’s mother was the best! I liked that she always knew what to do to help her son get in the right side of the road. It’s kind of cute though to see it this way, that Mase, the hot-gorgeous-sexy-fearless cowboy Mase seemed like always get in his momma’s rescue when things went too wrong ;)
The ending had a bit of ‘cliffhanger’ feel. Well, not between the couple though because Mase and Reese got their happy ends here (yay!). It’s something related to them and the last page had me sensing a whole new plot coming and would probably alter Mase and Reese’s story in the future. Also, there were a lot of parts that left a bit hanging but I’m pretty much sure, being Abbi, she’d probably come out with a lot of new story built from these ‘unfinished’ parts. And that’s why I said I became more and more excited of what would come in the future of the Rosemary Beach series!
Next book would be about Captain, Blaire’s brother, who’s Mase’s frenemy here. I kind of disliked his role in this book but eventually… I got it! I was surprised, really, knowing his secret. Well, I wish to get to know more about him on his own book and hopefully he got something that would make me love him like I love the other heroes on this series!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.