November 21, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

The Trouble with DestinyThe Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Random House Children’s through Netgalley*

Genre: YA (Contemporary)
Pub. Date: December 8th, 2015

Get a copy here!

Told in a simple plot and steady pace, The Trouble with Destiny offers a relatable story of high school era where love, friendship, self-discovery, and all its drama took place. It was spring break and a dedicated sixteen years old drum major, Liza, was on a mission. After overhearing the worst news of the year (budget-cutting haunting the band!), Liza worked her brains out to find a way-out. Came a golden answer to her prayer in a form of newsletter email: a spring break cruise with performing arts competition for a $25.000 grand prize. Liza set her eyes on the prize like a hawk as she hauled the whole HH Style Marchers away to Destiny―the said ship that would probably take them to the land of (financially) bright future. But sometimes even the well-planned mission could go all wrong in a blink of an eye. And Liza’s went worryingly distracted she eyed ex-best friend slash enemy, innocently-annoying quarterback, and old crush hottie crawling along with the crowd to board the ship. It only took, um, a few hours of total one week for Liza’s mission to start shifting into a whole series of mishaps involving some band dramas, bad judgment, false interpretation, and re-emerged old rivalry. And to top it off, Destiny’s breakdown that came along with fear glazed with silent guilt. Liza had to get hear mind back to the game fast. But when the pressure of the competition combined with the chaos of her so-called love life became too much for her, Liza had to admit that sometimes the last step to reach victory is to take a step back and let your hard-work charms its way to destiny.
“Take your glory, Liza,” she says matter-of-factly. “I know you were there all along. You just needed to take a step back to prove it.”
(Chapter XXIII)
Hilarious Heroine
I love the simplicity and the lightness of the story filled with humor and amusing remarks here and there. Liza was one interesting character. She was a natural in hilarious department. It only took me two chapters to fall in love/feel embarrassed with her clumsiness around cute boy and just her clumsiness in general (God, I couldn’t even mention the list of her clumsiness since it was just too embarrassing to be published here… //.\\).
Unintentionally, Liza possessed a big urge to control thing under her command. As a drum major, that ‘thing’ meant her band. Even though Liza came out more like a high-strung commander than a high school drum major, deep down she did it all to keep the band together―to keep the family together. Liza loved the band as much as she loved herself… but a girl could only take so much. The vague existence of her teacher only added another factor that leads her eagerness-to-win into frustration and repetitive temper-explosion.
I like how the heroine is realistically imperfect as it only highlights the core of the story more: how a girl grows up as she learns some important things in her life. Liza’s self-realization makes a good lesson for young readers to learn from.

Romance: The Unexpected
Despite how predictable the romance twist presented here (where I seemed to know which scene I should swoon over), I just loved every scene of it. There are practically two potential heroes and one heroine in this book (which usually freaked me out ‘cause God knows how much I hate love-triangle), yet I enjoyed the progress of their relationship from time to time with all the chasing and pushing. I like that the romance implied such deep message: that you can expect love all you want and it’s okay but when the unexpected comes along, that’s the one that will thoroughly change your life.

Good Ending
Every issue is completely resolved in the end. Besides the self-realization and ‘appreciating’ the unexpected, Liza also learned to make peace with her past. How Liza and Demi’s, said ex-best friend, relationship played out eventually isn’t overdone and I like the touch of ‘realistic’ in it when they decided to take baby steps toward their future. I especially love the scene when Demi said the words I quoted above to Liza. It’s really heartwarming and that moment I know that they would no doubt be friends again.

Final Thought(s) 
In the end, The Trouble with Destiny is an enjoyable and fun read with a good amount of lessons about life. Though I personally enjoy the story, I think younger readers (below 18) could relate with this book more with the light issues and simple plot. Lauren’s engaging and addictive writing style makes this book even more attractive along with the cuteness of the cover. Readers who enjoy books of Jennifer E. Smith, Kasie West, and Jenny Han should definitely add this book for their next read.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

November 18, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Did I Mention I Love You (DIMILY #1) by Estelle Maskame

Did I Mention I Love You? (The DIMILY Trilogy, #1)Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: /5

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

Genre: YA (Contemporary)

Pub. Date: December 1st, 2015

Get a copy here!

‘We sneered at one another since the day I arrived, fighting to try to find each other’s weaknesses. Mine is my insecurity. Tyler’s is the truth. And beneath it all lies attraction.’ 
(Chapter XVIII)

For sixteen years old Eden, spending summer in LA could be/could not be something great. The great thing she could finally taste a tourist-like summer in the City of Angels; away from drama back in Portland. The not-so great thing that she had to put up eight weeks with her sorry father and the rest of her ‘step’ family members. What she didn’t predict was for her to gain three stepbrothers in which one of them was practically a walking trouble. Tyler Bruce made it clear that he hated life as much as he hated himself to be in it. The only things he took interest in were no other than being reckless―booze-weed-coke kind of reckless. And not to forgot, being angry all the time. Eden wanted so much to avoid Tyler at all costs but it’s impossible since a). they live in the same house; b). their rooms were just right next to each other’s; c). they hang-out in the same circle. Eden’s new-found ‘friends’ happened to be Tyler’s as well so they practically went to the same parties every time. Eden wasn’t exactly a party girl but if it meant getting the best out of the summer (which also meant away from awkwardness and irritating dad at home) she had no choice but to tag along.
That also meant watching Tyler destruct himself with zero concern from his so-called friends.
‘He’s pretending, just an actor playing a role. I need to know what happens backstage, after the show ends and the curtains come down. Who’s left?’ 

(Chapter XVIII)
When Eden discovered the darker side of Tyler, she determined to get him out of his madness. Especially when she knew that it was just a façade to hide the broken soul inside. But Tyler hated her and what an insecure girl could probably do to save a messed-up boy like him?
‘You’re not supposed to figure me out. No one is.’ 

(Chapter XXVII)
Trust. That’s what Eden wanted to get from Tyler: to get him to trust her.
But as Eden tried hard to break the wall around Tyler, while occasionally helping each other from their parent’s wrath and exchanging irritating banter, the nature of their relationship started to shift into a whole different level. The thing is when someone frustrated you so much; it meant they got a special place in your heart that it’s easier for the feeling to do a one-eighty. And Eden and Tyler, of all people, should be wary to the idea before it’s too late.
‘Because Tyler might have told me his secrets, but now he has a new one.’

(Chapter XXVII)
The first few chapters went awfully slow and filled with LOTS of partying, drinking, and even some of getting high scenes without any particular plot-progress. In fact, it’s like those scenes were playing on repeat throughout the book which bothered me since this book is supposed to be a YA. I understand the need of the author to portray just Tyler’s terrible habit but I think there’s another way to describe it. Including one or two scenes of it was okay and the narration could be prolonged with scenes that implied the bad situation rather than explicitly showing it.

The recklessness of almost every teenager in this book was another thing that made me feel uneasy. It’s like these kids didn’t have any other spectacular idea to spend summer than partying, drinking-to-oblivion, and getting on police’s bad side. Seriously, not every teenager that reckless and I wished this book showed it here which… didn’t. The only person who would eventually keep these kids in line was either their sober friends or the police which showed how this book lacked a lot of parental role. The parents only existed to get furious to the kids in the end of the day (or the morning after) and grounded them and didn’t exactly do anything to stop their unbelievable behavior. This is really unfortunate since not all of the characters were bad ones, like Eden’s friend Rachael and Dean.

Now, talking about irony… Eden had been going on and on with her assumption/speech about Tyler’s crisis was due to his inability to socialize in positive way. Yet, somewhere on second half of the book, Eden acted exactly like how she assumed Tyler was doing: to get herself in trouble so she won’t be discarded from the circle. Just when I think I might like the heroine for saving the hero, here she recklessly got herself drunk just because someone said she couldn’t.

With an intriguing title, beautiful cover, and promising blurb, I was so eager to find out what Did I Mention I Love You hides beneath the package. Forbidden (incestuous kind) love story wasn’t exactly my favorite topic but since I found a book that handled the issue very well (Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma|read review) I kind of intrigued to see whether this book did the same good job. And I personally think that the author brought out this topic with quite ‘acceptable’ background story―NOT that I say I accept the kind of behavior, it’s just that I get why it happened in this book. Tyler had spent the last four years trying to figure out the way to cope with his terrible childhood memories. Unfortunately for him, it landed him to the dark path where he chose to drown in pseudo-happiness of booze and drugs. Talking about it was difficult; especially when no one seemed really know how to get him to talk. It’s not that until Eden came to the picture that Tyler felt he finally got someone who sincerely wanted to figure him out. This is what I called with ‘acceptable’ background story.
the problem lies on the development of their romance which executed quite vaguely. The shifting of their feelings was unsmooth especially on Tyler side. One minute he would get so angry at Eden, then he would easily spilled his frustration out to her, and next one he would be so nosy about Eden’s personal life only to drag her to a stoner party eventually. I don’t know about you but Tyler’s on and off mood toward Eden could easily be interpreted with unstable emotion which blurred the actual purpose of indicating his actual feeling about her. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked their moments (the ones when they’re not fighting or Tyler getting drunk) when I could clearly see that despite everything, they’re just two people helplessly fell for someone wrong.

Meanwhile there were parts that I wished could be addressed more deeply. Eden’s relationship with her mom for one seemed like the healthiest kid-parent relationship in this book and I want to see more of this on the next book. I don’t even want to talk about her dad because he’s totally a bad news of a parent, for now, so I hope for some ‘fixing’ later on.
Despite everything, I enjoyed the author’s writing style as it made me easier to get through all those issues I mentioned above. I started to enjoy this book more, though, on the second half of the book which was when the story actually took its pace.

I might have a lot of issues with this book, yet Did I Mention I Love You and the rest of the series seemed to promise me a poignant romance with a good writing style, which for a romance-sucker like me would be hard to ignore. I just love the idea that someone messed-up could be saved eventually when they find the right person who truly care for them. Did I Mention I Love You gave me that but since their romance was far more complicated than good-girl-saving-bad-boy cliché, I need a really good closure to wrap it up. Book one didn’t exactly give me that so I wished there would be a better answer on the next two books.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

November 16, 2015

Book Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

The Anatomical Shape of a HeartThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Rating: /5

Genre: Young Adult (Contemporary)
Pub. Date: November 3rd 2015

Get a copy here!

Having a plot that basically similar to most YA books nowadays: gorgeous flawed boy falls for a geek girl, it could've been easy to overlook The Anatomical Shape of a Heart. BUT before you do that, it's better to let me elaborate why I did finish this book anyway and even gave a quite high rating for it in the end.

Seventeen years going on eighteen, Beatrix Adams was a quirky unpopular girl with unique passion in art. She set her eyes on anatomy drawing, wishing to be a professional artist in medical field one day. So Bex―as her family called her―determined to make a first step toward that dream this summer by taking up a challenge of an art contest which could be a big advantage for her future college, both as achievement and financial support with the money prize. Being her focus self, Bex made sure that nothing could get in the way as she tried hard finding every possible help to make things work. That’s including going behind her mom’s back to draw dissected cadaver as her art object. One of her sneaky nights led her to meet Jackson Vincent, a good-looking boy all clad in black. Bex was instantly drawn to his playfulness, charmingly-different reaction to her confession, and mysterious vibe radiating from Jack’s wholeness. And by the time Jack’s stop had to cut short their brief encounter that night, Bex had already discovered one of his many secrets. Bex knew that Jack was more than just a random boy riding a night bus yet she couldn’t restrain from being pulled into his ‘black hole’. What should have been a summer of missions turned into a quest of happiness, acceptance, recognition, and love for both Bex and Jack. And for the first time in their life, the summer wouldn’t be an easy one.

Best YA Couple
Bex and Jack are unique and easy-to-love characters. Jenn Bennet builds the characters in rich details and complexities making it seem alive. For a YA book, their characters excellently put most characters their age to shame. Both Bex and Jack are so in control with their own self and have a clear vision toward their dream of the future. It’s rare to find this in most YA lately. And what rarer is how these characters are so mature in their relationship. Both could be aggressive and laid-back in addressing any situation. There are times when Bex would be the ‘explosive’ one, and that’s when Jack would put his hand on her shoulder and says the right thing to calm her down. I love the dynamic of their relationship so much. There’s no need of repetitive drama. There would be times when things get rough, but Bex and Jack knows better not to prolong the drama and just let the other finishes unleashing their frustration before sitting down and talk about it together. Bex and Jack promise us the possibility of building strong and meaningful relationship from such young age with the right persons.

Bex used to be all about running mission in sharp focus before Jack. She couldn’t accept distractions. The ones she allows would simply float in her minds and no way has she let it out. It’s utterly ridiculous and somehow embarrassing to read her mind that’s filled up with her out-of-character thoughts, especially those about Jack. Everything changes since that first encounter on a night bus when Jack teaches her that it’s okay to go out of her comfort zone and take a risk because ‘feeling alive is always worth the risk’. And take a risk, she does. With Jack, with her dad, with her mom, with her project and future. I appreciate how Bex handles every issue in her life. She might not pick the right decision all the time, but she takes a risk, she discovers the truth and learns to accept it.

Jack himself is a Buddhist which he wisely tries to immerse in his way of seeing life: to ‘do no harm’―which he amends to ‘make as minimum harm as possible’. I am touched by what his seventeen years-old self decides to do to bring happiness on his loved ones. His clearly not the best decision―it’s rather illegal, I might add―, yet the implied message here is so deep and somehow understandable. His playfulness camouflages the sadness and pain he actually has within. But Bex ‘brings out the best in him’ that every time they’re together Jack’s fun personality could make an appearance as he could momentarily forget that he has a lot of secrets to keep.

What makes The Anatomical Shape of a Heart even more stand-out is how sex-positive this book is. There’s an interesting conversation between several girls where some of them judge others by her sex life but it’s balanced out with the rest of them who disagree about it. The ‘it takes two to tango’ reply cleverly points out that both girls and boys share equal parts in taking responsibility of what they do; and not that girls always on the blame. Another thing is I like how Bex and Jack practically conduct sex-positive trait. Instead of going ‘straight to the point’, Jack is eager to talk about it first with Bex.
“If we can’t talk about it, how can we do it?”
They end up sharing their history, not to judge them but to find out each other’s preference. They try to understand their own needs and what it means for them and their relationship. The author successfully handles this issue very well. And this thing Jack said in the end makes me all melting inside… :3
“If it’s not good, tell me. Don’t just get angry and resent me. I’d rather us not do anything and keep what we have now than screw things up between us. Okay?”
My Issue(s)
Other than everything above, I love the dynamic of Bex’s family and how Bex’s relationship with her mom is handled. What bothers me is how it goes between Bex and her dad. The chemistry of their relationship is practically non-existent and it annoys me how her dad acts on their first meet after years of his absences. I just wish that this part is presented much earlier on the book because from what I see it’s kind of rushed how it ends up at last. The ending is alright, yet I wish it would be less vague how Bex’ relationship with his dad plays out in the future.

Most importantly, Jack and Bex’s passion of art is the highlight of the story. Their love for art is so obvious and plays a big role on their character developments, too. I love how the author uses art to lead the plot as well. It made the whole story to have one focus to thread each element, creating a neat and tight connection within the story.

Final Thoughts
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart brings a cliché theme of young romance into a unique story thrown in tons of positive messages. It’s not just about how two people fall in love but how two people walk together, side by side, facing complexity of circumstances, communicating, understanding, caring, taking care of each other. With a smooth and engaging writing, this book would make an enjoyable positive read with lovable characters.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

November 13, 2015

Book Review: The Summer Remains (The Summer Remains #1) by Seth King

The Summer RemainsThe Summer Remains by Seth King
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

My kindle copy told me that typical time it took to read this book is 6 hours and 42 minutes for 335 pages. In fact, it took me 10 HOURS in a span of 5 DAYS to read this book that feels like having 123284034092478132 PAGES in my eyes. And I was thoroughly ‘tortured’ the entire time.
‘Life was going to destroy me anyway, be it in three months or sixty years―why not let love help finish the job, too?’
(Chapter II)
The Summer Remains tells a story of Summer Martin Johnsons, a 24-year old girl-woman who’s fighting a battle against rare illness of Esophagus Intresia, which literally means she had no complete structure of throat and had to feed herself with liquid-y food through a plastered tube on her abdomen. It had been a long, bumpy, and windy road all her life but she was not a weak girl and she refused to be defined by her illness. Living with a brother and single parent wasn’t an easy deed either. Due to her rare circumstance, her mom constantly obsessed on her brother’s non-existent illness while juggling her role between a single parent who should stay 24/7 taking care of her kids and as a going-older woman who’s been missing out so much of life to find her own happiness. Summer realized that it’s more and less was all because of her so she tried her best to be strong, to babysit her brother while overlooking her mom’s sneaky escapade to some dates she didn’t even want to know about, to live her life just the way it treated her: cynical but boringly safe. When the doctor told Summer there would be a surgery that would be a turning point for her life, whether in a good or bad way, she jumped into the chance with no hesitation. And then when people asked whether she has any just-in-case wish before the surgery was performed in three months, she uttered her deepest desire to fall in love in her possibly last summer.
‘Because, I, Summer Johnson, Purveyor of Pragmatism, Lover of Logic, Ultimate Believer in the Rational, and Person Who Was Maybe Going to Die Soon, wanted to drown in someone.’ 
(Chapter I)
Cooper Nichols hadn’t had it easy with his life. Eleven years old boy was left alone by her father with a mom who’s diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Cooper was haunted by the bad memory that he dreaded he would eventually became just like his father and left her mom getting worse alone. But Cooper never did, or at least he tried his best not to. Growing up, Cooper had been battling with the monsters of his self-doubt, insecurity, and fear of having severe breakdown any moment. He felt like he’d been standing on the edge of a cliff all his life, waiting for some storm to knock him down for good. Until Summer. The girl with a broken throat and scarred face was a living-proof that unfairness of life had nothing in human’s passion to keep going. Summer’s existence made him realize that someone out there was trapped in a far worse condition than him but still, they lifted their chins up and exchanged judgments to anyone who came across their path. Summer had a very round opinion about life and when Cooper first ‘found’ her he knew that this summer would be the moment his whole life changing.
‘After all, there were only a few moments in a human’s life that came along and changed everything, […]. Mine was at six in the evening, the twenty-fifth of March, humid breeze, golden sunset. The moment I’d met Summer.’ 
(Chapter XXII)
The story is truly heartbreaking yet powerfully moving. I’ve read a lot of books with terminal illness as its main topic but somehow this one felt so much different for me. Unlike those other books that ‘demand’ the readers to focus mainly on the illness, Seth King slipped the Intresia just as another layer of Summer’s character instead of as the center point to which the whole story revolved.
The Summer Remains is simply a story of a girl and a boy both with messed up and seemingly hopeless life sharing one summer together, comparing perspectives, discovering life, battling the limits, exchanging friendship, and finding self-worth under condescending judgment and uncertainty of the future.

Summer’s character is quite unique for me. I admit that I had a feeling at first that I might dislike her for her cynical trait because it always bothered me when the main character who diagnosed with a rare/terminal illness tends to shaped into possessing high level of cynicism towards his/her surrounding that sometimes overdone, like getting mad for small things to their parents and such. Summer is one of those characters, yet I couldn’t bring myself to dislike or even hate her. It’s because Summer’s cynicism was directed to things that I could relate like, for example, how people nowadays loved to ‘abuse’ social media into some popularity contest of whose life’s happiest. And when she got frustrated to her mom, it’s understandable because as much as she loved her mother and wanted her to have a life outside their scarred little family, Summer still felt a huge need of a mother figure by her side. A mother who’d willingly embrace her role as a parent of a little boy and a disabled girl-woman… I loved Summer for her strong personality but somehow I loved her even more when she showed her weakness, like how her insecurity came creeping in sometimes. Her character seemed much realistic that way. And her honesty, well, I think Summer might be the most honest heroine I ever read. How she admitted that she didn’t have time to think about other people because of her own situation, how she admitted that sometimes what hurt more was not the pain caused by her ‘defect’ but the fact that the ‘defect’ didn’t give a strong impression to people like cancer or any other terminal-illnesses did, how she once admitted that she longed for attention so much she’s willing to let her ‘defect’ to help her gain sympathy. The scenes where Summer threw some little confessions like I mentioned above were just heartbreakingly honest.
‘If human were colors, Cooper was the most dazzling gold in the world and I was a million different shades of the same boring grey.’ 
(Chapter VI)
Meanwhile Cooper was a little difficult to connect with at first because of his insta-attraction toward Summer when we didn’t have enough background story of him. Summer’s wariness about Cooper’s too-good-to-be-true self came to my mind too. But along the way, Cooper started to show how interesting his way of thinking is. His clever opinions and analogies were my best favorite and that’s I guess that made me fall for him hard. Reading Cooper’s character brought some new perspective about life within me. His thorough opinions about several nowadays issues in our society were just over the top. Here is the part that I loved the most:
‘They called death the great equalizer, and it was―because in the rearview mirror, everyone was a hero.’ 
(Chapter XXVI)
(Dude, don’t you agree with that argument??)

One of Cooper’ issues was so relatable: trapped in the moment of uncertainty in your life when you’re not sure about what you’d do. But Cooper’s circumstance was much worse since he was also exposed to the pressures from his family’s situation.

Summer and Cooper’s romance was not the kind that makes you all gooey inside. Seth King didn’t give you that because he focused more to the congruity of both characters’ minds than putting down a lot of heart-melting scenes between them. But it did make their relationship seems even stronger because its fundamental wasn’t solely based on physical attraction but attractiveness of beautiful minds. The romance wasn’t presented in this book to give you a dreamlike story of a gorgeous flawed boy falls in love with a sick scarred girl, but it had a deeper meaning than that. Summer and Cooper’s love taught us that to fall in love isn’t to find someone perfect for your incomplete soul because even two flawed people could create the most perfect love in the world if given the chance.
“… . Everyone has issues. The key is finding someone whose issues mesh well with your issues.” 
(Chapter X)
And the way Cooper patiently never stopped reminding Summer of her self-worth was really sweet. Cooper loved her for who she is and he determined to make Summer sees that, to understand that just because people walk away from you doesn’t mean you’re less than them.
“But anyway, now you can see what I see. You were wrong, Summer: you do glow.” 
(Chapter X)
Despite all my favorite things about this book, there were things that bother me. First, I suspected that because the author is male, the romantic scene between them felt kind a little ‘off’. So did the expressed feeling of the characters, especially when the story was told from female character’s perspective during the first part of the book. But when it reached the second part where the perspective was shifted into Cooper’s, the tensions, feelings, every single emotion was suddenly all perfectly captured within the scenes. The second slash last one, the usage of certain insignificant words repetitively in the book really bothered me as a reader. I didn’t have any other minus points regarding this book though I admitted that both points I mentioned above were a little crucial since they’re part of story-delivery elements.

The ending was absolutely my favorite. Some people might disagree with me but I personally thought that it’s just how this story should end. An ending is where the writer resolves every twist and every unfulfilled wish of the characters. Seth King didn’t need to execute the former because when he performed the later beautifully, it became more than enough the readers to solve the rest on their own. I super loved his choice of final words which perfectly relayed the essential message of some issues on the book. God, this book is just imperfectly perfect, a raw beauty that holds a bunch of wisdom about living a hard life as a fragile human being.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. No category or such. Just everyone.
Because every living person needs some wisdom to boost their mood up and The Summer Remains basically exists for that.
‘So I guess I want you to know that there was a boy named Cooper, and that he loved a girl who wasn’t beautiful until she felt like she was.’ 
(Chapter XXVII)

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

November 12, 2015

Book Review: One King's Way (On Dublin Street #6.5) by Samantha Young

One King's Way (On Dublin Street, #6.5)One King's Way by Samantha Young
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!
‘Could a realist and a romantic ever work together?’
What a surprise that Samantha Young decided to put one more last touch to On Dublin Street series since I thought Moonlight on Nightingale Way would be the last book of the series―not that I’m complaining, mind you. One King’s Way is presented as a novella which is actually a little worrying for me since I don’t really have a good history with romance novella (the one with an independent plot and not just a continuation of previous full-length book). I found their plot usually too simple and the endings weren’t executed quite well. Colleen Hoover’s novella Finding Cinderella so far was the only novella that perfectly suits my taste of a short read. I’m glad that Samantha finally added another piece to this barely-called-a-list of mine with this one.

One King’s Way brought us back to the memorable period of On Dublin Street. It’s right after Joss and Braden just finally gave in to their egos and made way for love to fill the space between them and when Jo’s still struggling with her issue. The story featured Craig Lanaghan, in case you forgot; he’s one of the bartenders at Club 39 along with Jo and Joss.

Craig was known as one of the biggest flirt walking. He would flirt to anyone from club visitors to his fellow bartenders. Sometimes he did it out of habit that he himself couldn’t quite differentiate when he really meant it. After all, Craig wasn’t into any serious relationship at the moment that he saw it was fine to do anything he wanted to do. Also it helped him to gain more money to his tips jar, so why not keeping it up? Simply put, Craig was happy enough with his life the way it was: bartending, flirting, and checking up on his family when he’s not bartending and flirting.
When a gorgeous girl clad in stunning 1940s style walked in to the club one evening, Craig instantly felt drawn to her up-to-something demeanor. The girl looked so calm in her movement yet so determined in the way her eyes searched around the club for something… or someone Craig had no idea.
Rain Alexander was her name. She kept coming to the Club 39 and seemed to always being surrounded by this anxious and determined aura every single time. Craig grew frustration to Rain’s secretive act that he kept pestering and―of course―charming her. Rain who was on mission needed no distraction, especially from a devilishly hot guy who was so eager to get her attention all night long. Craig made her feel special and lovable even without any physical contact; something that Rain never felt before and something that she’d been dreaming of feeling all her life.
‘He was heartbreak waiting to happen.’
Being a romantic was not always what men wanted from Rain. But growing up wishing for a prince charming to sweep her off her feet, Rain held a high hope to find one someday. Too bad the only man to whom she felt that feeling was no other than Craig the king’s of manwhore. Rain needed to stay away from Craig fast since 1). Distraction was a big no at the moment and 2). A big flirt like Craig wouldn’t want to settle down with only one woman any moment soon, especially with a hardcore romantic like her.
When Craig’s action showed that he was not just up to casual fling with Rain, his determination was tested to the point where he was faced with options whether he would keep clinging onto his ego or let Rain have her dream comes true. But it was not the only test coming their way. In the other side, Rain was faced with options whether she would choose her own happiness over everything or revisited her old mistakes again.
Anything could interfere with their future but Craig and Rain could make the one way between them work smoothly and all sunshine as long as faith was on the line.

I love everything about this novella. It was just enough: enough plot, enough twists, enough romance, enough satisfaction. Sometimes when you read a novella, you’d find yourselves wanting for more. One King’s Way gave you enough everything to enjoy in 158 pages. Not that I didn’t want to know about what kind of future they’d get eventually, but it’s more like I liked how they ended up for now and I did want to know more but not necessarily in a single story on their own. I’m just glad with how it played out in the end.

"And so the realist becomes a romantic."

"Only with you, darlin', only with you."
Craig’s dual side of personality: a flirt and a family man, was the attraction point of him. At one side, he might be the last candidate of man for you to make a long commitment with. But in another side, he had a potential to be a loyal partner in life because he grew up in a family like that. The limited pages of the novella didn’t force their romance into an ‘insta’-kind in my opinion since it started as a physical attraction at first, then it turned to be a bit more like a challenge for Craig toward Rain’s craving for affection which kept shifting a little into an exclusive relationship that led to Craig realizing his deep love for her one morning watching her sleep. That one scene when Craig’s realization came crushing down on him as he was reminded to the memories of her parents in the same situation, it was so beautiful and really touching. I swear I wanted to cry at that point but held myself because I was in public.

I could so relate with Rain’s romantic personality. But what I love from her more was the fact that she was also a strong independent woman in another side. These kinds of two sides of characteristic made a complex delineation of characters in this novella. And their issue of a realist and a romantic was executed very well. The introduction of the issue was presented from the start along with little confrontations between the characters even before the relationship began. Then it hit the climax and how it was resolved was just perfect for me. The ending was not like I expected but I didn’t complain about it. Guess it’s because I got what essential message the author actually wanted to relay through the conclusion.

One King’s Way was the first ODS book that didn’t make me think of Joss and Braden as much as I did in the other books and I think it’s a good sign because it meant this couple successfully directed my attention solely on them. But this novella just makes me miss this series even more. Hopefully Samantha Young would write another novella of this series again or just write a whole new series in the future that as good as ODS.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.

November 2, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins

Until We Meet AgainUntil We Meet Again by Renee Collins

Rating: /5

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

Pub. Date: November 1st, 2015

Get a copy here!

The title was the very first thing that tugged the invisible string in my heart. It sounded sad and emanated poignant feeling like longing, aching, and saying farewell to someone you fell deeply in love with. And though the title says ‘Until We Meet Again’, it somehow indicated that none of them would ever come around to meet each other again; that it felt a lot like a final goodbye…
‘“…. Time travel is impossible”
“And yet, here we are, a hundred years apart and in each other’s arms”’

(Chapter XIX; Until We Meet Again)
The summer everyone dreamed of had come around once again, except, it might be the most boring one for seventeen years old Cassandra. Unlike her best-friend who was lucky enough to get to spend a time in Paris, Cass had to tag along with her family to Crest Harbor where her stepfather, Frank, rented a house for the whole summer. Don’t get her wrong; Cass loved her family so much. It was just that she was half-frustrated to her own self for being so clueless with what she really wanted―or needed―to do with her summer and half-dreaded her mother for dragging her to a place where she felt like a total stranger which surely didn’t help with her issue on the first place. Every day went more like a punishment as Cass still getting used to the life Frank brought them into―a life where people would rent a big summer house with a private beach and hold a party every weekend while laughing at lame jokes and exchanging polite smiles with cup of tea in hands. Frank was a great stepfather who Cass felt grateful for, and he even gave her an adorable little brother that she loved so much with all her heart. But sometimes it still felt surreal that Cass and her mother were now living a whole different life than their ‘live-in-the-suburbs’ one any longer.
Cass tried her best to distract herself from dying of boredom in her own family’s summer house. And that’s including getting herself into trouble by sneaking into the neighbor’s pool; anything to infuse some little drama into her long torture of boring summer. Until one night, Cass met someone strange on the private beach behind her summer house. Someone with eccentric sense of fashion who didn’t just bring ‘drama’ to her life but also engulf her into a warm yet mysterious delicate summer that suddenly felt so short to her liking. Someone with odd choice of words and claimed to come from 1925.
Lawrence Foster had almost everything he seemed to need this summer: a great place to spend his vacation at, good friends to hang out with, and a beautiful girl who attracted to him. Yet there he was feeling as out of place as he’d ever been. Lawrence felt more like floundering with his summer than enjoying it. Everyone seemed to know what he wants as they stirred him to go along with the arranged plan: law school, being a lawyer, marry a girl from the elite class, when what Lawrence truly wanted was to write poetry. No one thrilled to hear his dream of being a poet, especially his own father who literally dreaded the very idea of it. It was after he met a strange girl on the beach which belongs to his uncle’s property that Lawrence felt that someone finally acknowledged his talent and even supported his dream. Cassandra, being the girl with whom he could be his own self. She was everything he never found in a girl before. Being with Cass made Lawrence realized that he should not have let the others get a control of his life, including which girl he should be with. Even if the said girl was someone with a witty and free soul who claimed to come from 2015.
‘“In my mind, you have come to embody my dreams,” he says softly. “A girl from another time. Who only exists on one windswept beach. You’re a poem, Cassandra. You’re my poem.”’
(Chapter XV; Until We Meet Again)
A cosmological anomaly allowed Lawrence and Cass to be able to meet each other, flesh and bone, hundred years apart, on the beach in Crest Harbor. Both was in denial when they first found the truth but hundred years apart or not, the feeling of attraction could not be avoided between two people who share a rather similar issue: obscure feeling toward the future. Soon it developed into something more when they realized their feeling could create some ‘new’ ripple of events over time between 1925 and 2015. Lawrence and Cass knew better not to play along with mysterious game they were in. But when a history record of 1925 told Cass that Lawrence’s life was in danger, she could not not plunge herself into a mysterious and dangerous circumstance with him. No matter what would change in the end, she could not let Lawrence’s fate stopped in some record of 1925.

Oh boy, I could go on forever with the synopsis above but I know better than telling the whole story here. I even left out some important points so that you could find it on your own on the book. But seriously, this book makes me realize just how much I love and hate time-travel story with sparks of romance. Why? I love it because it’s usually more romantic than any other kind of romance, much sweeter, and deeper in every way. Yet I hate it because it’s usually also crueler and sadder… because whatsoever kind of plot it goes with, the characters would never end up together eventually. Trust me. I’m not giving a spoiler here but the truth is it’s a fact in the history of time travel story I ever read. The couple would not stay together because it’s just against the rule. God…
then why these authors cruelly write such amazing love story of them in the first place??

Okay, ignore my stupid rambling.
‘Cause no matter what I complain here, this book proved to give me something more.

The beginning of the story felt a little pointless (and plot-less) as we introduced to background story of the heroine, Cassandra. I couldn’t really see the point of slipping the scene of her breaking into her neighbor’s pool and such except that it only made me see Cass as some annoying brat at first. But then I found the reason why a few chapters away later. And wow, it was kind of mind-blowing for me because I almost missed it that it caught me totally off guard. Cass is a girl with issue on her own which was being in the mid of what-will-I-be-later-in-the-future trap of anxiety just like any other teenagers her age. She loved to paint but she wasn’t sure if it was something that she would make a career out of. And a series of other interests that her mom totally supported but ended up being left out again and again. She might be a little difficult to connect with in the beginning but after she met Lawrence, she became much more likeable that she drew me in. Lawrence’s character meanwhile is amazingly loveable. And did I mention that he’s a poet? Dude, nineteen-twenties boy with a hell of a skill in writing poetry? Hell yeah, count me in! He might be a little too cheesy for some but seriously, cheesy-poet is just one of my biggest weaknesses in life (someone slap my mouth shut, please).

The plot was simple and well-built. Even though I somehow could guess certain scene but I still found the story as intriguing and mind-blowing. This book also made me laugh a lot of good times with Cass’s hilarious reaction of Lawrence’s cheesiness. Seeing this couple just made me want to make love-shaped confetti out of my work files and pour it all over my bed (seriously people, just slap me hard already). It was just so cute when Cass contemplated between telling or not telling Lawrence about the coming World War II, imagining him in a uniform and all. And I liked how wise Cass could be sometimes. I also liked Cass’ family. Even though their involvement in the story was not that much but I loved the portrayal of happy family they were in.

The ending was the best. When I thought this book would put a smile on my face in the end, it also didn’t forget to make me cry. It’s not that because I was sad, it’s because the ending was so beautiful that I cried. Ms. Collins did a nice job portraying the difference between the eras and slipped in little clues here and there to be unwrapped in mind-blowing revelations. The tension was real that I could feel it as if I was the one who’s on the scene battling with time and danger. I really liked it when she did that.

With lyrical and beautifully rhymed writing, Until We Meet Again is a time-travel story you would be engrossed deeply in, especially those who enjoy romance a little too much like me. And as a closing, here I present you a poem by my new favorite poet, Lawrence <3>
‘Of truth and sea, her eyes become
Bound, endless in the vast beyond.
And morning starlight’s milky shine
Reverberates her soul in mine’

(Chapter IV; Until We Meet Again)

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.