August 26, 2015

Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been GoneSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

Since You’ve Been Gone is the book that will perfectly complete your pleasure in reading YA contemporary. I read a lot of contemporary books in my life. There were those books that swept me off my feet, there were books that got me raised my eyebrows in, and there were books that left me with no feeling other than a fun time spent reading. I’ve read two books from Morgan Matson and both of them belong to the first category.
Just like in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Ms. Matson uses a light tone to voice out the story through the narrator in this book. With a simple yet astonishingly adventurous plot, she brings up a fun read to enjoy thoroughly every single page of it.

Since You’ve Been Gone tells a story about Emily Hughes, a high-school girl who lacks a little too much in social-life department. She’s the kind of girl who always stays on the back of a group of people, nodding at what they say, and prefer to stay invisible than being a spotlight. It’s not that she’s a pariah or someone with a lot of haters. Emily is just shy and born socially-awkward when actually she’s a fun girl to hang out with once you know her well. Befriending Sloane seems to be the best fit since she’s all everything Emily isn’t: easygoing, practically the center of attention everywhere, and daring. Sloane is the girl everyone wants to be friend with and that’s a good thing too for Emily as Sloane has become the bridge that connecting Emily to the others, to the outside world. With Sloane, Emily never has to worry about being the first to start up conversation with others. With Sloane, Emily could easily join in the talk and even make up funny jokes which she strangely couldn’t do when she’s on her own. And with Sloane, that’s when everything feels more reachable for Emily. Sloane makes her ‘sees’ that. Sloane makes her believes that. It’s like Sloane is the sun that makes Emily’s beautiful unlit world shining bright.

So when Sloane goes AWOL one day in the beginning of summer, everything seems to fall apart above and around Emily. Moreover after she and Sloane has gone day and night planning the best holiday in their lives. It feels exactly like a nightmare: unbelievably real and scary as hell. Sloane has literally just disappeared. No words. Not even just simply goodbye. It’s not until two weeks later that a letter comes to Emily with a white envelope, a very familiar handwriting on it. Unlike what Emily expects the letter is about (where Sloane was at the moment or at least why she left out of sudden without saying anything), Sloane sent Emily a checklist in which half of them are the things that Emily would never think of doing, even in her wildest dream.

The checklist brings back the memories from the good ‘ol days when Sloane would make Emily a to-do list and challenge her to do them for fun. Emily used to just laugh at the list instead of finishing them off. But it’s a whole different case this time. The list is the only thing that still makes Sloane hasn’t completely gone and forgotten about her. To cross each thing off the list might be the only way to find her. So here begins Emily’s unexpected summer where the list takes her to a very un-Emily world. The things on the list might be such a burden for her―her being an unsociable person and all―but it also the very thing that brings Emily to learn more about herself and experience the beautiful of friendship from unexpected people in the summer that goes unexpectedly fascinating. In the end, the list doesn’t just give Emily the answer to her question all summer but also the answer to the question she’s been asking all her life.

The use of a to-do list to develop the plot is really an interesting and unique idea. If we take the to-do list out of the story, we could see that the plot is actually pretty simple. And instead of letting Emily finishes the things on the list ordinarily, Ms. Matson puts several twists making it even more fascinating. She perfectly fits ‘the list’ as one of the main element of the story and turns an ordinary story of a sad summer into an escapade of a shy girl takes place in the summer. We could ‘see’ how Emily sounds so lost and lonely with no one to spend a summer with in the beginning. Then as she decides to break her shell and step out to the world where social life has been going every day, she finds out that actually friends, companies, and even love is just somewhere near, around her if she’s just brave enough to look for them.

The past memories slipped within each chapter give a background story of Emily’s friendship with Sloane which started out with an accidental encounter of both of them then just flowed as Sloane’s charming demeanor entwined perfectly with Emily’s quiet trait. Even though Sloane is absent on majority of the book, we get a clear depiction of her personality and I pretty like her. Meanwhile, Emily is a character that I could easily relate with as we share a lot of similar traits. I feel kind of sad for her with the way she reacts to Sloane’s disappearance. The way she makes it seem like the world is falling apart without Sloane in it just shows how low Emily’s self-confidence is. While their friendship is a beautiful bond, it’s not entirely perfect because of the unbalance Emily’s issue has created. I love that Ms. Matson uses the absent of a best friend as the very thing that makes someone realizes how a perfect friendship should have been and at the same time helps them see more of their worth.

While the friendship ‘feel’ is really strong, the romance doesn’t get covered as much but still adds a plus point to the story. I love how the romance is built between Emily and Frank Porter, the boy with whom Emily crosses majority things off of the list with. It goes slowly, carefully; it’s moving inch by inch as we are brought along in a sweet friendship-making of the characters to a stronger level of chemistry between boys and girls.

I laughed a lot while reading this book because of some funny scenes and the awkwardness of Emily itself that becomes more embarrassing time to time. But it also made me a little teary-eyed somewhere near the ending which is truly appreciated because I’m all about a rollercoaster-kind-of-feel while reading rather than staying at one constant feel throughout the book.

About the ending, I never knew I would like this kind of ending that Morgan Matson seemed so drawn in using it. It’s the one she uses Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour as well. It’s indicating a happy end but the ending scene is presented in a subtle manner. She doesn’t necessarily put a wrap on every single twist but instead she chooses to focus on one thing and let the readers judge the ends of the rest.

Since You’ve Been Gone is not be the book that you could easily finished in one sitting for its length that goes on forever than other contemporary books (or at least, it is in my case). But if you’re looking for a light read that’s not just enjoyable but adventurous and have good lessons implied too, then this book is for you. With a delightful writing style, Since You’ve Been Gone delivers a pleasant story of a girl’s discovery of her self-worth, hidden urge to take a risk, and true meaning of friendship during a period of summer when most of the big things of teenagers’ life happenor so I’ve heard.
“I know things might not work.

And I know it’s scary, but the things that are worth it are. It feels right.”
“What is that like?”
“Like a well-ordered universe.”
(Chapter XVII; Since You’ve Been Gone)
Well, just go give this book a try!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

August 21, 2015

Book Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic DetourAmy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

“But what if we hadn’t taken the detour?”
(Roger Sullivan; Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour)
Oh dude, now I feel like I have to be on a road trip soon!
And I’m not even an outdoor kind of girl.

I swear Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour had pulled me into one of the most awesome experience I got from just reading a book. It’s been a while since I found book like this. I read so many books with great plot, amazing characters, and even beautiful writing style. But I could just count with my fingers how many books that not only such an enjoyable read but also includes a well thought out and detailed setting that delivers such a clear delineation of what the characters experience as if I am actually there, seeing everything with my very own eyes. I only have read one book with road trip as the major part of the story so I know that it might be a feeble opinion of mine to say that this book is the best road trip-themed book ever existed out there but somehow I have a feeling that it is.
Well, if the book includes not simply the details of the trip but also highlighting each part that could make your fingers itched to pack your things up and just hit the road to follow them; if the book also accompany you with awesome mixes to enjoy while reading; if the book lets you to experience what the characters feel not just by words but also provides pictures of just everything from the trip across the states for you to see (and drool, in my case); and all those things don’t attract you then I don’t know what will.

Amy’s life was different after the accident that took his father away forever and practically sent the rest of the family apart as the after effect. With her mom’s already in Connecticut—their new home—and twin brother away in another states, Amy was left alone on their old house in California to finish her junior year. Now that final was over, her mom arranged a road trip for her from Raven Rock, California all the way to Stanwich, Connecticut. With a car—that she couldn’t bring herself to drive it. And a boy—who’s practically a stranger for her as she hadn’t seen him in years she totally forgot his face. It was imaginable just how Amy felt like hiding under her bed than doing as her mom had said. But of course it’s not something arguable for Amy, especially not with her mom. So she went along with it… except her and the boy, Roger, had another in mind for the trip that might be the only road trip they would ever do in their lives. And detour seemed to be the answer they’d been looking for.

The characters actually have such cliché personalities of young people—a little bit of everything: reckless, insecure, confused, and spontaneous—but even they become so interesting because their characterizations were done so well. Roger with his own issue and Amy with hers, during the detour they got to learn the things they never understood before, see life from different perspectives, and even come to terms with the burdened they’d been keeping inside them.

Amy thought all along that she's the one to blame about the accident that took her dad away forever. When, really, it wasn’t at all her fault. Having no one around to support her morally after the accident, doing something reckless to ease the pain which just ended up making her feel worse, and being left alone with no one to talk to only made her get drowned and drowned deeper into her own muddy dark thought involving self-blaming and some self-torturing by having a lasting train of what-ifs thinking. Being holed up in an empty house alone made Amy only got to judge life with her own narrow perspective that flawed with her insecure thoughts.
Being on a trip with some stranger for four days across the states was certainly the last thing she wanted to do after everything she'd been through. Who knows that in the end, Amy found out that this turned out to be the exact thing she needed at the moment. Going to places, meeting so many people, sharing stories with strangers, getting some wisdom from least expected sources, Amy learnt that maybe, just maybe, everything wasn’t as bad as she thought it was. That maybe she wasn’t the only one who hurt and in pain.

Roger’s issue is less complicated than Amy’s but it’s a side-story that as interesting as the rest. The message implied from Roger’s realization in the end is something that really valuable.
Roger was confused and felt as if he was standing in the edge of a cliff wondering whether he needed to jump or just stay hanging there by the root from nearby tree. Left by a girl without some clear explanation, Roger admitted that he just felt the need to find out why she left, though some stupid lump in the corner of his heart wishing that they maybe would be able to get back together again. That’s what, at first, led him to a trip across the country with a high-schooler who mysteriously hated driving and Elvis at the same level. Thinking that maybe he would be able to get to his ex for the answer she seemed never wanted to give; he agreed to hit the road with Amy to Connecticut. That’s when the journey began and Roger finally found the answer he'd been looking for… though it might not come from what he expected it would be.
Amy and Roger are two people going on a trip decided to take a detour for each different reason but ended up finding the same destiny.
‘The best discoveries always happened to the people who weren’t looking for them.’
(Roger Sullivan; Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour)
Morgan Matson didn’t just write this story; she experienced the story and told us about it from different perspective of a fictional character through a book. So you can imagine how real it comes out, what with the trip journal filled with pictures of places, foods, even motel receipts from different states along with fun facts and mixes of songs they listen to during the trip. I just LOVE all these details too much! People, I think this book just earned me another amazing author to keep an eye on *eagle eyes*

Ms. Matson writes beautifully. Though it was more on serious tone than light and funny, it didn’t stop me from having an aww moment of Roger and Amy. Things between them were really sweet but not too cheesy. It was enough to paint a stupid grin on your face but not enough to make you want to clench-unclench your tingling palms in disbelief. And those people they met along the way… Man, is it even possible to fall in love with characters that only make appearance in a few small scenes? Of course it is; when Ms. Matson decided to let them deliver some valuable bits of wisdom for our main characters to think about. Wasn’t this idea just oh-so-genius?

Amy is a girl whose personality might belong to us. I could easily relate with her for some parts. Like how I'm a very awkward person on the first meet and how I tend to push people away who's overly attentive to me. The only thing I found annoying about her was that she loved to compare herself with this expectation version of herself, Amy! ; someone she always thought she would be if put in different circumstances. She's that insecure that I feel bad for her.

Roger meanwhile is the boy who could perfectly pass as boyfriend with flying colors. Hell, I would even be more than thrilled just to have him as a friend. He's the kind of person that could hang out with anyone and be so at ease at it. And with his taste of music, I don't doubt that he and I could ‘click’ on our first meet (if my awkwardness doesn’t get in the way… but Roger would send it away if it does).
‘I understood in a flash why, on the Greyhound sign, Arrivals and Departures were right next to each other. Because sometimes, […], they can mean exactly the same thing.’
(Amy Curry; Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour)
The ending isn't exactly how I imagined it would be. In fact, I actually didn’t even think about it while reading. Amy and Roger's detour had me totally engrossed I didn’t even care what would happen beyond the last destination. Ms. Matson wraps the book with an open ending where the readers could continue where it ends however they like. And surely I have my own version of epilogue which involved some fluffy scene and happy ending (you know, me being a romantic, HEA-freak, and all).

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is one engaging read you don't want to miss. Amy and Roger take us on a road trip where ‘to take a risk’ is the key point. Share some secrets with strangers, do something contrary to what you usually do, try something new, and ignore your limits; these are the things that everyone should do at least once in their life. This book delivers a journey of finding calmness in riot and riskiness of unknown places; where sometimes all we need is to take a step out of comfort zone and see our life from different angles to really figure it out. Because sometimes when driving through the main road doesn’t work, all we need to do is to take a little detour and keep going on.

What a lovely perfect read!
“Tomorrow will be better.”
“But what if it’s not?”
“Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right?
At some point tomorrow will be better.”

(Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour)

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

August 17, 2015

Book Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

What You Left BehindWhat You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

This is my first time reading a book from Jessica Verdi. But strangely I knew that I would love her writings. I don’t know; maybe because she always chose intriguing titles for her books. The Summer I wasn’t Me, My Life After Now, and What You Left Behind aren’t the titles you could easily overlook when browsing for good YA novel to read. Or at least that’s what I felt.

Told from male-lead character’s perspective, What You Left Behind starts with a scene of Ryden’s miserable situation where he often felt like crying harder than his baby, Hope, who went through her first teething phase. In less than a chapter, we get a clear picture of Ryden’s life. A single parent at 17 years old to a less than a year baby girl, Ryden had to find a way to balancing his life between being a father and being a teenager. Calling it complicated is understatement. His is frustrating, hopeless, depressing, restless, difficult in god-level and truly unimaginable for people his age. Added with mysterious factor where Hope seemed to dislike his father very much―she cried whenever Ryden held her, Ryden was sure that he must be the universe’ worst parent ever. He then came up with an idea that maybe it was because he was fatherless that he sucked so badly at being one. Maybe.

Ryden’s mom was the only person he could get sincere support from. Not helping that Meg’s parents seemed to forget their granddaughter’s existence, moreover his existence. Even his friends took a step back from their circle, leaving Ryden alone with an innocent infant in his arms. Slowly, his world was shrunk into a tiny section where the only people exist were him, Hope, and his mom; which the only places the path connect were his home and his work place. Well, it sounds like Ryden could keep everything in check with that situation. But now that school was back along with soccer practice, it seemed like it’s nearly impossible to add another factor to the equation. Suddenly everything was overlapping each other and his world was overloaded it might explode any time.

Without any much time left, Ryden had to make decision quickly ―not that he got a lot of good options on his plate. Hope was a priority, along with work and school respectively. And to leave soccer practice out of the equation was nearly impossible. So there he was, going at maximum level of pressure trying to manage every single thing under control.
It was during that hectic situation surrounding him like a thick scarf on his neck in the summer when Ryden met Joni. Joni represented the other part of the world where Ryden could be his old self, where he could be just Ryden Brooks, not Ryden Hope’s-father. Being around Joni made his life more bearable, even though he had to hide his true identity from her.

As things became harder for Ryden to handle, reading Meg’s old journal only added another thing that makes him spent, emotionally and physically. Ryden believed that there might be some secret or tips or whatever it was on her other journals that could make things easier for him to handle. Now with another thing on his to-do lists, Ryden’s life was so packed up there’s almost no time left to breathe. But it’s okay ‘cause he’s convinced everything was going to be worth-it in the end. Little did he know that with his tight-as-sock schedule, Ryden ended up forgetting the most important thing that he’s supposed to do in his life.

I know I’m supposed to feel sad or at least sympathized with Ryden. Yet I found myself laughing at him to the degree of slightly inappropriate. Ryden’s circumstance is full of misery. It could easily trigger hard feelings or even tears for the readers. I like that Ms. Verdi writes Ryden’s perspective in satire and witty manner. It makes the story less depressing somehow.

What most interesting is the characters themselves. The characters Ms. Verdi creates are all realistic. Instead of filling the story up with likeable characters, she prefers ones with complex characteristics; characters that show both good and bad sides personified. They are people with good heart but also possess selfish side as part of human traits. Ryden, Meg, Joni, Alan, even Ryden’s mom show that side to us in this story. It doesn’t exactly make them bad person, it makes them humans.

Among these characters, I think Ryden’s mom is the one I like the best. Not only supportive as a mom, she also makes great companion for Ryden as a ‘friend’. She never scrutinizes his every step. Instead, she let him learn what best for his life by choosing his own way while subtly leading him into the right path. Ryden himself isn’t exactly my type of favorite hero. For a boy with high academic score and knows very well what his dream truly is, Ryden’s pretty clueless when it comes to make a right decision for his and Hope’s life. He tends to choose the wrong tracks repeatedly, every single time, and it frustrates me to the point that it’s kind of hard to sympathize with him any longer. I felt like knocking some senses into his brain since it seems real hard for him to get it. Truthfully, the more I read about his frustration of trying to manage everything in his hands, the more I felt bored about it.

Meanwhile, Joni―whose romance with Ryden should have been one of the highlights of the book―doesn’t really attract my attention. It’s very unusual of me but for once I don’t really care about the romance in this book. It, for me, feels a little off as it doesn’t get a fair chance to be explored further. The book mostly focuses on Ryden’s decision-making in life and Joni’s story as his escape from hectic life easily being put aside. Joni’s character is too shallow to be a heroine and the chemistry between her and Ryden barely exists.

My favorite part of the book is whenever Hope made appearance on some scenes. People’s various reaction when interacting with this innocent baby is something poignant and tears-inducing. Ms. Verdi successfully portrayed the emotion each character feel, especially Ryden. The lasting frustration Ryden exposed to from juggling things between taking care of Hope, his social life, and soccer practice as the part of future plan to UCLA is being depicted vividly through every scene and word that I’m pretty sure many readers would appreciate. The ending is perfectly well done. I like that in the end Ryden finally realizes just how things should have been from the start. Though it took him longer than I expected him to be, at least he did.

What You Left Behind tells a story about how someone’s past would never dictate their future. Instead of torturing ourselves regretting how bad the past or worrying how uncertain the future, this book shows us that sometimes all we need is living in the moment and seeing life from different perspective. Ryden’s story makes us realize that no matter how difficult life is, it’s always easier to live it as a beautiful present instead of as some cruel punishment.

I contemplated between rating this book with five points, but the lack of depth in Joni’s characterization and Ryden’s incapable of making at least one right decision as a father held me from doing so. I’d just settle with 4 points for now. This is a good rating but it’s kind of sad though, as I expected to give more for this book at first...

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

August 16, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein

Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of GraffitiGhostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: April 16th, 2015

Get a copy here!

This is the book that I doubt I would enjoy because of the childlike title yet something I would pick up anyway because of the unique title. After I read the brief description available on Netgalley, I became more curious as I couldn’t make out where the title clicked with the story. Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti sounds exactly like a fantasy book for me. While I wasn’t right about it, I wasn’t totally wrong either. That is the title of a fantasy book; the one that exists inside this contemporary book.

The next thing that picked up my interest ―after the cover― was the perspective being used in this book. Now that I think about it, I’ve never read a book where the story is told solely from the male lead’s perspective. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t sound good or came out unnatural as the author is female but she actually did a really good job ‘voicing’ teenage boy to deliver the plot.

The story began with a scene where Duke was brought to principal’s office after his attempt to spread out his creativity all the way to principal’s car (yes, he’s the graffiti boy on the title). Duke’s not a bad student, really. He did it as a challenge to join some exclusive club called Alphas which two of his best friends were already in. Duke’s ended up grounded and had a new side role at school as janitor, both for a month. While being in this messed up situation that Duke met Cora, the Goth girl slash principal’s daughter. It’s not that he never met her before. He did know her; they just never really talked to each other until this time. Guess detention kind of opened up his world to more than just the basketball team, popular cheerleaders, and the Alphas.

I have to admit that the first few chapters of this book are sort of plain and uneventful. Maybe it’s the short-length scenes, or the unsmooth transitions between each scene, or the fact that at first the scenes seemed too focused on mundane things of Duke’s life rather than picking up the plot forward. Duke went on with his janitor assignments, occasionally ran into Cora, little banter happened, him trying to brush his weird feeling for the Goth girl by dating another girl, negotiating with his parents to let him go out, and hanging out with friends who encouraged him to keep his spirit joining the Alphas.

It went on like that even though I did highlight some funny scenes throughout the book. It felt so long when I realized I was still on the first quarter of the book that the first twist finally came. I couldn’t remember on which chapter exactly that I began to fully enjoy the story. Maybe it was after the first twist came up or much later when Duke finally met someone who changed so much of his life. Meeting an eight years old Jaime, gave Duke’s more useful thing to do other than worrying about school boy’s cliché things: popularity at school, basketball, girls, or joining some secret club. Discovering the little boy’s big secret, Duke felt something shift inside him, something where he felt more thankful for the life he had, for the complete family he got, something that pushed him to do the right thing in his life.

Duke’s character represents everything a good teenage boy is like. He thinks and acts as naturally as most boys his age but I do love that he’s such a loving kid to his family. I love Duke’s relationship with his parents and his grandma. Actually Duke’s family is really something; it looks like so much fun to hang out with them and everything they do is really comical. I lost count on how many times I laughed whenever their scenes were up. Even scene as worrying as Duke’s sudden appendix attack was so darn funny for me.

And then there’s Cora who isn’t as lucky as Duke’s in family department. With incomplete parents and little brother who already had to face a big battle with cancer at eight, Cora had her own issue that shaped her into a girl with cold demeanor and thick make-up. After several encounters with Cora, Duke felt so taken aback with his weird feeling for the girl who’s so different than his usual type. Perhaps it’s the cold-shoulders that Cora kept throwing at him, or her charcoal-like make-upped eyes, but Duke felt the urge to unravel whatever she hid behind the mask. I like that it’s not exactly an insta-love happening between them. They resented each other from the start yet in the end they shared equal affection for the same person. Jaime who was no other than Cora’s little brother started to build a tight bond with Duke when he decided to write him a story, trying to give him adventure he probably would never get. Their relationship seemed casual at first but slowly it tightened and soon they realized that they never wanted to be separated from each other. Duke never knew that Jaime would be more than just his writing-buddy and he never knew that Jaime would be the very person that brought him and Cora closer than ever. The three of them formed a unique group as they went on a mission to cross each point from Jaime’s bucket list.

As much as I love the romance in this book, I love Duke’s relationship with Jaime more. I guess it’s after Duke started to hang out more with Jaime that I started to really enjoy the story ―including the one Duke and Jaime wrote together.

That’s when this book started to give me so much ‘feels’.

I shed my first tear on 80% mark. And that’s also the beginning of every tear I shed again and again all the way to the last page. When I first read the book I know exactly just how it would end up eventually. But I guess Ms. Wildenstein tried to relay this to us from the start, that no matter how it ends, it’s the story that matters the most. See the words etched on the cover?
Some endings are inevitable, but so are the stories.
She tried to remind us again through Jaime’s words:
“Just because you know the ending doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.”
I could so relate to this. Growing up I always hold on the process-based thinking system. I am taught not to worry so much about the result as what much more important is the process. The ending was one painful experience for each character yet no one wanted to change a thing if it meant replacing the togetherness, unforgettable moments, and the tight bond had been formed between them. There was this red thread between the story of this book and the one written by the characters. It’s really beautiful and poignant.

Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti is the book about finding unexpected love and losing unexpected friend in unexpected time and place. Duke’s character teaches us that you don’t need to be the most popular kid at school or be in some fancy exclusive club to be able to do amazing thing and give people happiness. This book might feel ordinary for me at first but it felt so good to discover what a ride it took me to the last page. It’s just so many feeling all blended into one. And what an ending to wrap them up with… :)

I strongly recommend this book for everyone who wants to experience what I said above. Ms. Wildenstein chose two cliché themes of YA novel ―terminal illness and story-writing― and put them together into an astonishing story that many people would find it hard to put it down. What a stellar debut novel!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Your Voice is All I Hear by Leah Scheier

Your Voice Is All I HearYour Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2015

Get a copy here!

Your Voice is All I Hear is that kind of book that successfully catches my attention at the first sight. Its ear-catching title and intriguing cover do it for me. With title like Your Voice is All I Hear, I have no doubt that many people would get curious the first time they land their eyes on this book. I personally think that the cover is beautiful but at the same time it’s kind of sad. I don’t know, it’s just my first impression about this book before I read the description. Then I read the blurb… and this book broke my heart a little with it. I then realized that this book would definitely make me cry like a hungry baby.

Mental illness has always been my most favorite topic of contemporary novel. It’s just that whenever I meet, read, or watch about people with mental illness I always feel a pang in my heart that telling me I should be more grateful with my life. Unlike any other illness like, say, cancer, mental illness not only flaws people who suffer it emotionally, but also socially. It somehow becomes a label that put those who suffer it to the different side of the road. I witness myself how there are still people out there who tend to have negative judgments toward people with mental illness. If they are put in position to choose whether they prefer to befriend people with cancer or people with mental illness, they would be quick to choose the first one. It’s like as if having a mental illness means they are monsters who will attack just anyone around them; as if they deserve to be ignored of and worst, to be scared of. And the family, as if they deserve to get one sided glance everywhere they go. Reading about them somehow gives way to more insight about the subject for me which exactly what I sought after. I like getting a chance to understand what the very person actually feels, what it feels like for the family… everything about it. I read about schizophrenia before in a story but never as its main topic. So I liked it so much that Your Voice is All I Hear brings up about it A to Z.

I braced myself for the worst, as the prologue brought me to a mysterious and almost-worrying situation where the lead female character had come to a decision of doing something big and most probably hurting. This chapter was kind of reminding me just how depressing this book would be later more.
But it surprised me that I actually really enjoyed the first few chapters of this book a lot. I laughed several times and had to repeatedly check my face expression for any inappropriate grins as the author went on and on with light tone of April, the female lead character. April sounded so silly sometimes that I couldn’t help liking her more and more as pages flipped by.

April is the typical unpopular girl who only has one friend in high school and a bad luck in which that only friend moved to another school making her officially unpopular and alone. She’s also ‘invisible’ which enough to explain just how tragic her high school experience is like. And her socially-awkward attitude just doesn’t help at all to somehow uncover her invisibility a bit. But April is never one for pessimistic. She tries a lot of thing to make things better and easier for her life. And that includes looking up the new students on social media just to make out the probability of her befriending them because it’s just no hope to make friends with her current classmates who know so much already about her amazingly awkward self. So these three ‘victims’ are her last hope to have at least a friend for the rest of school years.

Then we are introduced to Jonah, the male lead character, which makes me feel ten different shades of feeling throughout the book. Jonah as one of the new students turns out to be the most decent candidate to be April’s next best friend. In fact, he turns out to be more. April likes him from the first meet which is really not helping her in acting ‘normal’ in front of him. I laugh a lot reading their every moment that always painted by April’s comical action. The ‘blue drool’ scene totally cracked me up that I forget for a moment that this book is supposed to be depressing and sad. Jonah is all about charming boy. He is so sweet and charming to April which saying a lot that apparently April is not the only one with a crush inside her heart. It doesn’t take long until they begin dating and one sweet moment after another come barreling in to pages of chapters.

And then…

And then everything slowly begins to shift around 30% mark. Twist after twist coming to the frame and things change. Except that April and Jonah’s feeling remains untouched and even stronger. Jonah’s symptoms of Schizophrenia are getting worse day by day. When people around Jonah start to loosen their hold on him, it was only April who stands still holding both his hands tight on hers. I am half amazed and half frustrated on April’s unwavering determination to stay by Jonah’s side. It is one thing when someone you love so bad falls apart, but when they fall apart dragging you down with them it’s really such a complicated circumstance. I am amazed how fifteen years old April bravely facing the situation she is in; how her first reaction to the situation is to tighten her hold on Jonah than to run away. Yet I am frustrated that she starts to speak and act based on feeling than logic that she pushes people away, too. It’s almost feel like her love has shifted to obsession. Almost.

What this book is trying to tell us is that sometimes to save someone we love; we don’t always have to be on their sides. It’s understandable that April wants to stay loyal to Jonah but condition like Jonah’s requires more than just closed people’s support to heal. It’s so sad when April reaches her limit that she realizes just how many pages of her own life has been skipped when she dives into Jonah’s. Her frustration, her crushed feeling, it’s all portrayed very well through April’s ‘voice’ that I could actually feel them. I could feel the ache April feels about Jonah.

What I love the most is the details of Schizophrenia in this book. The character Jonah the author creates successfully delivers the emotion of a schizophrenic for readers to ‘see’. Ms. Scheier vividly describes its symptoms, how it affects not only to people who suffers it but also to people around them, all the way to the best kind of help a schizophrenic needed. And when Ms. Scheier shows us what it feels like to be a schizophrenic through April’s school project, I broke down to tears as I let my heart ached for Jonah and everyone who went through the same situation as his. I have never meet people with schizophrenia before but this book gives such a clear depiction about them that it gives me so much better understanding about this illness and how to treat people who suffer it.

The ending is undeniably sad yet something that I myself would definitely opt for this book if I was the author. Though honestly I wish there is another way to wrap up the story, I think it suits the topic of this book very well. I like to think that there’s a continuation of the story because I sense hope in April’s words in the closing scene.

Your Voice is All I Hear is a book that would make you feel a lot of feels from happy, sad, angry, frustration, hopeful, and breakdown. It would tell you a story about how at fifteen you could be everything not many people could. It would teach you important lessons on how to be socially fair to everyone with no exception. With engaging writing style, this book is recommended to those who want to read a book that could entertain and educate at the same time.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Has to be Love by Jolene Perry

Has to Be Love
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Skyspace through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2015

Get a copy here!

When I first saw this book, I thought of Has to be Love as a cute teen’s romance book which funny as well. Well, modified letters with those animated doodles kind of implying that impression to me. When it’s not really true, it turns out not wrong either. This book is funny on certain scene and sweet romance does exist somewhere on the story but the entirety of the book is complicated and frustrating at some points.

The lead female character is Clara Wesley, the girl with scars on her face as the evidence of her survival from bear attack that had not only half-wrecked her life but also made her mother gone forever. Clara was barely able to move on with her life as the ghosts from her past keep slipping into her every step. No matter how many times and how many people telling her to see past the scars, it’s not something you could easily overlook when you had to see it every day in the mirror, you had to deal with people wincing every time they talk to you, had to deal with glances and stares that though some are innocent yet still there’s a trace of judgment behind them. But God is fair because not only Clara still got a father who loves and supports her wholly, but also she’s got a boyfriend who loves her unconditionally, sincerely, and deeply.

Elias was the dream boy every girl wished to have. He’s kind, sweet, charming, undeniably lovely, and at the age 17, he could put any grown up men to shame with his gentlemanly demeanor. Elias was full of responsibility and careful with his every move. Elias was the safe haven Clara could always run to, except Clara didn’t want to be ‘safe’ if it meant missing out all the challenges that calling to her; all the challenges and risky life out there that also meant living up a dream that she had for a very long time already.

Entered Rhodes, the guy from the part of the world where challenges and dreams were available for Clara on the same plate. While Elias represents a safe option with peace and easy life in a small town of Knik, Alaska; Rhodes represents a challenging option with longing dreams and possibly more intriguing future at an Ivy League school in the big city of New York. Clara didn’t know what to choose as her heart was torn between staying on Elias’ safe cocoon and jumping over the cliff following Rhodes.

Clara’s character is quite frustrating for me. I do understand her wanting to chase after her dream to leave for Columbia University. I could understand why Clara probably would choose her dream in NY over settling down with Elias in Alaska. I really do. In fact, I’m not judging her for wanting to step out of her comfort zone. After all if we stay too long in our comfort zone, it would make it not comforting later on.

What I couldn’t relate is that Clara feels the need to second-guessing what has given to her, everything because of her scar. I totally understand that it must not be easy to overlook her scar, I said this before. But what ‘having a scar’ had to do with second-guessing her boyfriend-for-years’ sincere intention? More like there’s a ‘distraction’ coming between them at a perfectly wrong timing.

Has to be Love tries to show us that sometimes to be able to find the right path we have to go through the wrong ones. And it doesn’t necessarily make us a sinner, it makes us a learner. Clara might be the one to blame for the hurts of people who got involved in her ‘decision-making’ process. But it taught her that sometimes what she thinks is good for her isn’t always good for her. I love it that in the end everything finally falls to its places. I could see Clara learns her lessons as she comes to term with her flaws, apologizes for her mistakes, and accepts the consequences of her every action. I might dislike her for her wrong steps, but she manages to save me from hating her as she shows us that somehow inside, she’s still the girl with faith, belief, and pride stronger than most girls her age. I like this side of her and I’m glad she doesn’t entirely forget that about her.

Though the pace is quite slow in the beginning, I like how the plot gives me the alternating feelings from frustrated, understanding, resenting, to accepting of the characters. Clara’s character perfectly pictures what being a teenager feels like along with the flaws, mistakes, and imperfect decisions. Elias’s proves that even at younger age there’s nothing impossible to feel as unconditional love. While Rhodes’ represents that sometimes other people’s perfect life isn’t always perfect for us. I love it that the side characters play roles as important as the main characters making the chemistry between the characters much stronger and the story becomes somehow complete.

Even though this book isn’t exactly my best favorite, I enjoy the realistic feels this book gives. Especially the most important message that this book tries to relay to its readers, that your scars, visible or not, don’t exactly define who you are, unless you let them be.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

August 3, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

Two Across
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Netgalley*

Pub. Date: August 4th, 2015

Get a copy here!

Reading the blurb of this book, I was intrigued by the uncommon choice of main characters of the book. And to think that this book is written by male author, it actually makes me think that something about this book might differ itself from other NA books.

I read a lot of NA these past two years and Two Across comes out nothing alike every NA I’ve read before. In fact, I think it’s more like literary fiction ―even if it’s not actually a genre. Two Across covers wide timeline of the whole story. Its main focus is how both main characters with complex characteristics going through some ups and downs in their life together where they learn and discover their true self in the process that at some point changes their perspectives and gives way to a self-introspection in the end. Also, how this book is written is unlike most NA books. To put this book under NA category I think might give away slightly different depiction of the book to the readers.

Two Across is a fiction set in 1960. This is something that the blurb fails to mention about this book. I expected this book would be a contemporary read (what with being shelved as NA) so I was surprised to find out it wasn’t. But I like it! As a historical-fiction enjoyer, I found this time set intriguing and suits the whole plot.

Vera Baxter’s first encounter with Stanley Owens was during National Spelling Bee in NYC on 1960. The two of them competed one on one and ended up winning together in tie. It’s kind of comical how it went on between them. Stanley who at first did not really up to win the competition, felt challenged when he saw the last competitor was the anxious yet eager girl with calm façade; he wanted to win. As words spelled by, Vera began to grow evil mind for the handsome boy who seemed never to fail to spell the given words. Oh boy, it cracked me up when Vera did imagine a car with Stanley on it sailing through a guardrail. That’s when I decided that I like her character. What an interesting-minded girl!

The opening scene of spelling contest is one great way to pull the readers in. The tension and childish mind-battle between two characters make the readers sure that this book would be a one-sitting material alright. I think so, too, and I finished this book in less than a day (which for slow reader like me is actually a big deal).
From there, Vera and Stanley began to meet annually as visiting alumni. They went for a DC trip once and both of them built a good though long distance friendship as Vera’s always on the road following her mom while Stanley’s always in the Hawthorne hotel where his mom seemed permanently fixed there. Until a year after their city trip as the day they would meet again for the third time since the spelling competition, Vera realized that she might develop some special feeling for Stanley. Then the day came and Stanley welcomed her with his usual smile. Unless, this time their annual visit finally became a turning point of their simple relationship into the most complicated relationship ever existed.

For some story, it might always start and end with love. But Vera and Stanley’s story starts and ends with crossword puzzle. Crossword puzzle is the reason Stanley comes up with big reckless idea of fake a marriage with Vera, which Vera agrees to come along and ends up hurting at over and over. But crossword puzzle is also the reason they reunite and reconnect the missing pieces together after such long long years of hide-and-seek. I love this part a lot! It’s really unique, it’s touching, eerily beautiful, and poignant to have such random thing to connect with someone with whom our hearts tied to.

Vera and Stanley are both smart people ―genius, even― yet their lives aren’t as easy as most people would think of them. This book shows that even smart people struggle in life. Unlike not-smart people who know better that not much people want to accept them in a job or a community, but smart people sometimes even have a trouble to accept their self before stepping out to the outside world. Stanley’s having a hard time to accept the fact that he’s academically gifted and might build a really bright career by going through an excellent education system. He wanted something else, something much simpler like being a crossword puzzle creator, though in his case he would definitely be a master of it with ease. I feel so much feeling for both characters. I root for Vera in everything she did to save herself from falling harder. I also sympathize with Stanley for everything he did to save himself from being ‘trapped’ forever. What Stanley did is obviously bad, worst even, but at some parts I guess I could understand his reason. It’s just that his oblivious about Vera’s feeling is damn frustrating. Even after he realized his true feeling, he chose to hold back from saying the truth. But I guess I understand why he chose to do so as well. As for Vera, I never even dislike her for a bit. She might be the one who’s always leaving, but she’s also trying to be the one who want to reconnect the old pieces. I guess that’s what love do to you, not to make you a fool, but to make you a good forgiver. Well, at least that’s how I see it positive way.

Each character in this book is unique in their own way. The characterizations for each of them are done very well. Vera and Stanley are such complex characters whose every action lead the story all the way to the end. I love how thing ends up eventually. Every lies is admitted, every mistakes is forgiven, and every lost is found again. Some people might not like how things end for Vera and Stanley but I’m satisfied enough with them. Really satisfied, even, because I personally think it’s beautiful.

Two Across is beautifully written. Even though I had to go again and again highlighting each rare word to find its definition, I think it’s worth it. This book was a little off at chapter 6 where I felt it’s hard to relate with the circumstance happening to Vera and Stanley but it picks its charm back up on next chapter. The pace is a little slow and there are repetitive scenes at some point but I enjoyed it thoroughly. For a debut novel, this book creates a really good start to introduce the author’s writing style to the readers. Some people might see this book differently than what I write here on my review but all in all, I love it!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

Book Review: Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

Between Us and the Moon
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

To be able to write this crappy review, I had to read this book twice. After the first time, I really had no idea what to say about it. It’s partly because I kept putting it down (wrong timing) and partly because I had a hard time building chemistry with this book. Usually, I am quick to enjoy contemporary books. So, it kind of confused me that I didn’t enjoy this on the first read. That’s why I went out with the second attempt of reading it yesterday.

Sarah was happy enough with how her life goes on. In fact, she loved how her life goes on. Until the very person she enjoyed to share her love of stars, comets, and telescope with pointed out just how ‘boring’ her way of life was. Well, that’s not the exact word but when someone said that ‘you watch the world’ instead of saying something like, say, ‘you are the world’, what more could you expect for them to actually mean about it? 

That’s why this summer Sarah decided things would be different. Should be different, actually. Sarah began to realize that maybe the way she spent the past 16 years of her life was really boring. How she always seemed to bury her face on telescope and computer, how she always seemed dull beside her blindingly gorgeous sister, and not to forget how limited her circle of people that she could call as ‘friends’ ―it’s just two persons, her included. She wondered if maybe there’s something wrong with her, then she should fix it this summer. Being a science-geek, there’s only one way to do it right: to conduct an experiment!

‘Why can’t I use what I know about science and Scarlett to change my life?’

(Chapter VI, Between Us and the Moon)

The title was ‘Scarlett Experiment’. The idea was to behave like her sister, Scarlett, who never has a problem in being a spotlight everywhere she goes, and wear clothes like hers, too for the entire summer. If she did it well, then she might get a little taste of being an easy-to-love girl. Turned out the experiment was more than just success. Not only Sarah got a lot of heads turning to her direction, she also got full attention from Andrew, the hottest guy she’d ever known in her life. Andrew seemed to like her a lot, well, part of her. Because even though he looked like enjoying a company of the ungraceful, science-centric girl, it’s still Scarlett’s wear and Scarlett’s copy-habit that drew him in on the first place. Also, Sarah might tell a lie or two to get Andrew right where she wanted to. 

When everything finally shifted to a better place, then the rest should be all smooth, right?

Except Sarah forgot that when she lied for yesterday, she tended to have to lie for today, for tomorrow, and even she might have to lie for the rest of her life. What she had with Andrew wasn’t really all based on lies, but even a little lie could damage the whole bond because it meant distrust between both parties. What began with small innocent try to find a way to get one’s self ‘accepted’, ended up potentially jeopardize the one person she cared the most. Sarah then realized that ‘Scarlett Experiment’ was not the way for her to get accepted by others; it’s the way for her to accept her own self.

Between Us and the Moon deals with common teen’s issue of discovering one’s self through some journey filled with myriad of emotional moments and ended up with realization and introspection. Sarah is a smart girl who uses telescope and tracks comet like she’s been doing them all her life. But when it comes to socializing, she’s not that bright. Her adopting her sister’s head-to-toe appearance and daily habits is quite understandable as she’s been living in the shadow of Scarlett for years, invisible and forgotten. Personally, I like to think that there’s another thing that set her off, too. Her frustration of wanting to ‘change’ is also a pent-up frustration of different treatment her parents give to her. Being a good girl, it’s Sarah that often gets less attention because their parents are too busy dealing with Scarlett’s bad behavior. There’s a scene that makes me feel bad for her because when most kids want their parents to ignore them, here Sarah wants them so badly to notice her doing something bad for the first time in her life.

‘I don’t want to look at Mom because I don’t want to see her not looking at me.’

(Chapter XIV, Between Us and the Moon)
The thing with parents is sometimes they think giving more attention for the troubled kids and giving less for the good ones are good things to do when actually both types need equal amount of attention and affection.
Sarah’s character portrayed the situation of a lot of teenagers who deals with the same issue in real life very well. Pretending to be someone she’s not, Sarah thinks it’s a good way to be what she wants: a girl who’s loved by everyone. But life gives her a lesson that nothing good will come from telling lies ―whatever innocent reason behind it. I like that this book presents fitting consequence for such behavior. Sarah received the result of her lies, and the experience taught her a lot to think about. I like how she dealt with it in the end. I see that Sarah has grown more mature throughout the story.
I like Andrew because unlike what Sarah thinks, I know that it’s not her (borrowed) sexy wear that hooked him up at first. Things are bad enough for him in the past and meeting Sarah makes him understand clearly the meaning of ‘stop blaming yourself and move on’. So when he found out that she lied to him, it’s only fair for him to go act like that.
Ms. Maizel creates each character in this book with balanced amount of good and bad side on them. I like that some characters that so unlikeable in the beginning, turns out to be the one who gives the best advice. The theme, the plot, and the characteristic of main characters are actually quite cliché, also the twists are predictable enough but I found myself rooting for the lessons implied in this book.
The epilogue wrapped up the story very well. It’s not really an HEA but it’s not a bad ending either. Actually it’s the part that made me want to give this book a solid 4 points.
Well, guess now I’m glad I decided to re-read this book so I could share with you this full-of-lessons read :)
Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

Book Review: Alienated (Alienated #1) by Melissa Landers

Alienated (Alienated, #1)
Rating:  /5

Get a copy here!

Alienated has been on my TBR list for quite some times. The eye-catching cover was the first thing that draws me in. Also, sci-fi is my top second favorite genre after contemporary so this book easily caught my attention when I first saw it on GR. Too bad I just had time to read it now since I’ve been too engrossed in contemporary ones.

First of all, I like the basic concept of Alienated that ―compared to other sci-fi books I’ve read before― is quite fresh to me. Majority of sci-fi books I know often brings up alien as cruel invaders of Earth but Ms. Landers comes up with a different idea through her Alienated series. In this book, alien is represented as friendly extraterrestrial being that actually want to work together with humans through some sort of mutualism. This is such an interesting concept that for once we get to see aliens and humans building a friendly relationship instead of having a war in some invasive action. I couldn’t help being curious of what kind of mutualism both parties would create.

Aliens believed that there must be another living creature besides them in the whole galaxy. So they had been going on some journey to find them, not only in their galaxy, but also to another galaxy possible to reach. Earth was found 10 years later since their first journey and became the first planet with living creatures that have the same anatomy as them. So two years ago, L’eihrs ―the aliens who conduct the intergalactic search― finally make their first contact with humans.

Fast forward to present time, L’eihrs and humans have come so far to the level of both parties agree to do a student exchange program to learn more good possibilities before an alliance is made permanently. And this… is where the story begins.

Cara Sweeney is one of the three ‘luckiest’ students who are chosen to join the exchange program. It means she gets an excessive amount of scholarship which would be an amazing deal considering how her family’s financial issue has been really bad, but in returns she and her family have to be the host for one of L’eihrs’ students for eight months. It sounds pretty easy, until she realizes that her life is about to turn upside down in every way possible ever since Aelyx, the L’eihrs who gets to stay with her, takes a step to her small comfy house.

I thought this book would use first POV from one main character or better, alternating first POV from both main characters. But it’s not. And I think it’s a bit unfortunate because I couldn’t get to learn their emotions closely, being the third person in the story and with the abrupt perspective changes time to time. It somehow makes the chemistry between me and the book so thin and slowly fading away throughout the story. I don’t know but first POV always makes me feel understand every book much better because I could feel the emotion exactly as what the characters feel. Good thing Ms. Landers writes Alienated in a fun tone with amusing female main character, Cara. So even if I couldn’t really get the chemistry built up, I enjoyed reading it.

The opening chapter is quite engaging for me. It starts with Cara joining exchange program through one-sided decision of L’eihrs. She doesn’t even apply for one but there she sits at principal’s office, being told she is to be the host of some cold emotionless alien from galaxy thousand years light away. The situation is a bit comical and intriguing at the same time. Although, the use of some foreign L’eihrs terms like, sh’alear, l’ina, sh’ovah, sh’ad, asheem, and sh’ellam (yes, I dutifully highlighted them all while reading) make me a bit light headed at first. But don’t worry, because we get the explanation one by one along the way (even if sh’alear isn’t going to be explained clearly from the first time it is mentioned at 3% until around 90% where I yelled ‘DAMN, finally someone answers my question!’).

Aelyx is your typical cold, insensitive, gorgeous-as-hell alien. He loathes being a part of the exchange program but he has no choice other than obeying the command. Humans are repulsive and Aelyx believes that alliance between aliens and humans would be a great disadvantage for his people. That’s also why he agrees to stay on Earth because besides the given mission of learning more about humans and Earth, he and his two other partners in the program have another mission to conduct. That, until he meets his host which turns out is nothing like what he thinks human is all along. At first, Aelyx is amused on what Cara keeps doing to make his stay on Earth as comfortable as possible but the more he witnesses her determination, the more he feels something strange for the human girl. For an alien standard, Aelyx is quite naughty. He’s so quick to pick up humans’ behavior of having racy thoughts of opposite gender. He does it a lot to Cara. Guess every boy is the same, no matter what your kind.

Cara, smart, brave, determined, and funny is usually my favorite kind of female mc. Truthfully, I like her especially on how determined she is to do her job as a good host for Aelyx. She experiences such a cliché high-school tragedy (breaks up with her boyfriend of three years, loses her best friend of six years, and becomes the school’s pariah ―which happened in a whole new level because it involves an alien in the process) and how she deals with them, I like it.
But then…
Then she did something totally jaw-dropping which made me, well, drop my jaw. It happened during the first climax in the book and I was totally like… wow girl. Since then it’s difficult to see her in the same way because somehow that scene shows her true color towards her closed people. It’s too much, I think. I mean, Cara’s practically still a high-school student, and to think she’s capable to do such non-sense thing just for a sake of ‘love’? Well. I am speechless, really.

What’s so good is how the romance between Aelyx and Cara is built. I like that they go through a lot before realizing the attraction between them. I always feel weird of insta-love, especially for such ‘forbidden’ one. It’s good that their relationship starts as strangers turn program partners who help each other turn friends turn lovers. Their feelings grow up slowly through a plain togetherness. I love when they’re together where Aelyx becomes so caring and shows a lot of emotions for Cara. What makes it off is how at one point, their love changes Cara into such an irresponsible and rebellious seventeen years old girl. 

This book has other characters with various characteristics from hideous to lovely. Hideous like some of Cara’s friends and Aelyx’s. Lovely like Cara’s parents. I like it so much that her parents do their job as parents very well. It’s really sad that their kids don’t really show as much love as they do to them.

Even though there are things that I dislike about this book, I still am curious on how things would turn out in book two. The cliffhanger isn’t so bad but I just wish there will be more progress on the sequel and more pace on the plot. Alienated feels more like an introduction of the series. And I hope Invaded deals with the main issue of aliens-humans alliance continuation. Oh, and I hope to see more of L’eihrs’ planet because we only get a tiny glimpse of it here.
I guess I’ll settle with 3.5 points for book 1 but I’m hoping to give more for book two!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.