May 15, 2016

Review: Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

Book and ARC reviews are posted under this feature!


*Digital ARC was received from HarperCollins UK through Netgalley*

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: Feb 2, 2016

Get a copy here!

It surprised me that it took me so long to write down this review when I’ve finished reading the ARC a few weeks ago and had quite interesting reaction upon finishing it.

I walked into this book thinking that it might not meet my cup of tea despite my attempt to request its ARC on the first place. But the mention of a lost baby and a girl who seems to live longer than her age pulled me to a stop… and I knew that I couldn’t skip this one.

I never considered myself as a reader who would enjoy dark and suspense read. So I was literally having a hard time reading this book at first. It didn’t help that not only this book was so intense; it also brought such disturbing topics like drugs and alcohol addiction and murders. Reading this was so out of my comfort zone but I could somehow bear it because of the characters of the aforementioned girl and baby.

Percy James was only sixteen but we could see how life had shaped her into a much older and wiser person than her years living in the world. For the nth time, Percy had to go out to find her mother who’s disappeared along with her booze addiction. It was snowing and probably going to be a bad storm soon but Percy had no other choice but to keep looking for her mom. It’s like a dead-end circle with her mom’s situation. Percy loved her mom, so deeply she could never forget the good times they used to have together when her mom was still fine. But lately things only got worse, moreover when her sister went to live her new life with their little happy family across the state, leaving Percy to take care of her alcoholic mother. Percy was a good girl; so good that she often lied to her sister that their mother was okay, that everything was as fine as a sunny weather. But it’s actually a snowstorm in Michigan; even a worse one in Percy’s household.

The first time Percy met Jenna, the baby was practically halfway to be buried by the snow blowing from the open window in Shelton Potter’s cabin. It’s like a fate. When Percy went there to find her mom (who last she checked with the neighbor, was on a drunk fight with Shelton), she found Jenna instead. The poor freezing baby seemed to alter her priority as its innocent grip brought Percy to her determination to get the baby out of the hell place. Looking at Jenna neglected in the middle of meth-house with no responsible adult to take care of her, tugged a string inside Percy’s heart. The baby was so much like her. Yet again she’s much older than Jenna when her mother had gotten to her worse condition and left her to fend for herself. Suddenly, Jenna became her priority. Even if saving Jenna meant she had the drugged-angry Shelton and his bunch of criminal friends hot on her heels. Even if saving Jenna made her fight her own beloved bad mother.

I felt so much emotion being played while reading this book. It was quite bothering that I had to see half of scenes on the book from Shelton’s perspective. Yet at the same time I was impressed by Mulhauser’s ability to write that perspective with such details. It was oddly fun and certainly dark but it was also quite heart-breaking when Shelton’s actual feeling sometimes was shown during one of his many weak moments. It surprised me that even in the end I felt a piece of my heart had gone along with Shelton’s character.

Seeing things from Percy’s perspective meanwhile was quite an experience. We could literally see her love for Jenna growing stronger. Her struggle, her hopelessness, her determination, and her faith for Jenna’s better future were all pictured in rich details for us to witness. I felt my love for Percy and Jenna grew as well. The appearance of Portis Dale as Percy’s hopeless savior just added another color to their tragically desperate yet endearing journey of escape. Portis was this skeptical figure who’s as close to a family Percy ever had in her life besides her mother and sister. I found it quite amusing how Portis kinda wanted to just leave Jenna behind because he was worried of Percy’s safety yet with Percy’s persistence (or really just stubborn) to keep Jenna, he let Percy had her way. Their banter often sounded intensely scary to others but we could hear in Portis’s harsh tone how much he cared for Percy and how much Percy needed a father figure in him. Completed with Mulhauser’s extremely detailed description of cold weather in Michigan, Sweetgirl would make you curl under your blanket in your reading couch, with heartbeat running and tears ready to flow any moment.

In the end, I had to give in with my emotion as I put aside my Kindle and hid my tears for the world to see. The tears were mixed of happy ones and sad ones but I’d like it to be a happy one because I knew that what the author decided to write in the end was for the best for all. God, even now when I re-read that last chapter I am tearing up again like a newborn baby I am. The author did write such beautifully heartwarming (with little heartbreaking-spice) ending to such a heavy read. It felt like Mulhauser did not just close the curtain after the show but also wipe the stage and cleaned the aisle from the tissues being left behind by people. It was a very neat ending; near perfect even.

I would like to recommend this book to just everyone who loves to read. Even me who prefers to read sweet, light reads than the heavy ones, Sweetgirl just made an exception for me.
‘I’m the one who found her,…. But I’m not the same person I was before. I am different now because of Jenna and Portis Dale and I believe we all tried to save each other in that storm and that mostly we did.’ ―chapter XXIII

May 8, 2016

Review: Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach

Book and ARC reviews are posted under this feature!

Anything You WantAnything You Want by Geoff Herbach

*Digital ARC was received from Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley*

Genre: YA (Contemporary)
Pub. Date: May 1, 2016

Get a copy here!

I had such a long complicated journey with this book during the past two weeks.

The blurb promises a story of how a barely-17 years old boy working on to be a bright student, promising drama actor, and… perfect dad, all at once. It does sound totally unlikely. Except this is Taco Keller we’re talking about. Taco―as he earned the nickname ever since forever―might be the most positive human living ever existed in the entire galaxy. And it is supposed to be a very good thing if Taco isn’t also kind of dumb at times because when those two things collided, it creates something called delusional. I don’t know how to best describe what I felt about Taco because I swear during the first half of the book I wanted so much to kick his character out of the book (when clearly he’s the main character…). I just couldn’t connect with his way of thinking. It’s not helping that the author made Taco the only narrator in the story and decided it’s okay for him to sound very immature and irrational most of the time…

Taco had this belief that partly responsible of his overly-positive attitude. His mom once said before she died, “Today is the best day of your life. So is tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next. No matter what happens, every day you have is the best day of your life.” Unlike his brother or even his father, Taco believed in this saying very much. Even when his home life was a mess, with a father (running) away to work in the Mine leaving him with only his brother whose drinking problem was as hopeless as his job to support their little family of two, Taco still believed in the good in everything. Then he fell in love with this girl named Maggie and I had to bear a few pages of Taco telling me that they kept―and I quote― ‘celebrating love’ until we reached the obvious outcome of all that: unexpected teen pregnancy. With a baby on its way, Taco officially added quite a few messed-up things on the list of his family messed-up life because instead of running away from the responsibility, he embraced his upcoming title of becoming a dad. I felt like reading a big joke of a character with a weird nickname and even weirder mind when Taco with all the train-wreck around him still believed in trying his best of doing impossible things with positive attitude because what? Every day is the best day of your life, no matter how ugly things already were. Kill me.

I blamed the absence of responsible adult was the main cause of Taco character became somehow ‘uncontrollable’. Because as much as I disliked him, Taco was the most genuine character I ever knew. I suspected that Taco had been raised by his mother’s overflowed love. Seeing how her first son grew into an angry boy, she tried to shower Taco with so much love so he could grow into a loving boy. He did though, but before Taco got a chance to step into a real world with real problems his mother had died first. Taco had his lesson on how to act positive anytime but no one left to teach him how to act rational at times.

The things were just getting messier each page and I almost gave up finishing the book. But then again, I’m all against DNFing books. Nothing personal, but I think it seems unfair to stop reading certain books because of some (or most) part pissed you off causing you to judge the whole story negatively without bothering to finish it to prove it yourself.
‘In retrospect, I believe I was overthinking. This overthinking caused larger crisis.’ ―chapter XI
I literally cheered inside when I read the line above. I was like, ‘God, finally this boy has a connection working on his brain cell’. But it’s not until a character named Nussbaum came out that thing starts looking up.
I started to enjoy Geoff’s humor through Taco. Maybe it’s partly because I finally got it why Taco adopted such unbearably uncommon character like that.
‘Never let anyone tell you your butt is not important. Your butt is very, very important to general motility’ ―chapter XVII
I laughed a lot at that silly yet serious statement of Taco!

I also kind of loved it when Taco worked real hard on his impossible dreams. I even ached witnessing how selfless he was.
“So you want to get a job and work here and go to school and be a musical munchkin and be a dad?”
“Yes,” I said.
―chapter XXII
Yes, Taco was dumb, so dumb even but all he knows is how to do the right thing. Even if it was irrational thing to do. Even if it hurt him.
‘How can your muscles feel sad? They can. That’s why I laid so still after Mom died. Because even though I couldn’t cry, my muscles were so sad, they didn’t want to move. Liquid sadness had pooled in them.’ ―chapter XXVII
I started to feel real bad for Taco. I was so mad at his sorry father and his drunken brother and literally everyone who only knows how to tell him to stop his gut rather than explaining why he should stop in the first place.
“I know I can be a dumb kid. But I’m growing up,” I said. ―chapter XXXII
I liked how Geoff wrapped the story up. I liked that in the end it was Taco himself who came to the final decision on how to fix all his messes. I really didn’t expect for this book to make me cry, yet it did. I was teary-eyed and my heart felt like it was broken into pieces reading the letters Taco wrote to Maggie and their kid. His sincere was crystal clear there; you just want to cry no matter how much you said you hate Taco before.

Anything You Want and me clearly had a rough start but we eventually became buddies in the end. I practically had to put my Kindle down several times during the first half of the book because I barely tolerated Taco’s behavior. I’m glad I didn’t give up halfway or else, I might not be able to write down this review.

Just so you know, this barely is a romance piece. More like a story of how a clueless young boy tries to figure out his life –which is a total bundle of mess- when there’s no one to turn to yet there’s people who depends on you. Hopefully there’s more people who’s on board with me to finish this book till the end because trust me, when you’re patient enough you’ll find out what a gem this book actually is.
‘In the end, maybe that is what a best day looks like? Making hard decisions so that the people you love are okay?’ ―chapter XXXI