Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Young Adult > Contemporary

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

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Without a doubt, Lauren Oliver is a great writer. But I think she should stick with romance, and stay out of any plot involving action, suspense, and pretty much anything that would suggest there could be an adventure in her book.

Because her weakness is poor execution.

Add to that the characters she wrote here are unlikeable, unrelatable, bordering on despicable. Always a pity-party for Heather, playing both sides for Nat, all puppy-dog eyes for Bishop, and nothing but angst (and endless infatuation) for Dodge.

Heather, Nat, and Dodge have different reasons in joining Panic. Heather’s? Dumb. Nat’s? Money. Dodge’s? Revenge. Heather’s reason was really, really dumb.

The mechanics of the game Panic was absurd. It was being portrayed as something other than what it really was: teenagers who really just had nothing to do, doing stunts, risking their lives for $67,000. And it has been going on for so long, and yet, when the police started interrupting, the game instantly went to a standstill. The structure of the game should be sturdier than that, right? Pathetic.

Terrible characters. Even terrible story plot and execution.

I love Lauren Oliver for Delirium and Before I Fall. It ends there.

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins/HarperTeen for granting my galley request.

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PANIC by Lauren Oliver

Kindle Edition, 416 pages

Published March 4th 2014 by HarperCollins
2/5 stars

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Book Review: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

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Young Adult > Contemporary | Realistic Fiction

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

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It looks like I still have a problem with John Green‘s endings. Still, I adore Augustus Waters. The perfect dose of medicine for swoon-seeking readers like me.

I was not ready to be in tears when I started The Fault in Our Stars. Come page 25, I was closing my borrowed copy and mulling about putting it down after my emotions calmed. That scene with her father, when she was near death, oh the heartbreak for any parent…! My unshed tears I kept in check, I was literally choking from it. =(

Then it dawned on me how JG can easily suck me into his gem stories.

I was okay with Hazel, but I was more focused on Augustus. His character was so vibrant, so electrifyingly alive! I was fully charmed by him. Augustus’ presence in the pages was so strong that I actually felt the loss when he’s not in it. Awesome writing, JG. 😉

I am happy with Hazel‘s admirable relationship with her parents. Because if there’s anything she needs, it’s the endless support and unconditional love she got from her mom and dad.

Whoever thought that a pre-funeral would be the best thing in this book? I loved every bit of it.

A little anti-climactic for me, but the ending was sort of joyous (triumphant, even) if you were to look it at a different way.

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

Paperback, 316 pages

Published January 3rd 2013 by Penguin Books

4/5 stars

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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Romance | Contemporary

Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . .

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Is this the same author who wrote Eleanor & Park?
I just wasn’t into it. Gah. Now, I feel horrible.

– It was a major bore.
– I could not find Lincoln romantic.
– I can relate to Jennifer, but not to Beth.
– Nothing happens.



Attachments could’ve been more different from Eleanor & Park. Not in story of course, but in the emotions drawn out of me by Rainbow Rowell. With E&P, I was constantly engaged, mixed feelings. With Attachments, grudgingly reading from one page to another – my response to Linc’s plight was continuously flat.

(What is wrong with me? I love Rainbow Rowell!)

The only thing I find even remotely redeeming about this book is Linc’s mom. I could identify with her stand on Linc’s life (and his sister’s). Her character is the one with fire.

Should I read Fangirl? Yes? No?

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ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell

Paperback, 368 pages

Published February 2012 by Orion

2/5 stars

Book Review: What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

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Young Adult > Contemporary

(What My Mother Doesn’t Know #2)

My name is Robin.
This book is about me.
It tells the story of what happens
when after almost 15 pathetic years of loserdom,
the girl of my dreams finally falls for me.

That seems like it would be
a good thing, right?
Only it turns out to be
a lot more complicated than that

Because I’m not gonna lie to you —
there are naked women involved.
Four of them, to be exact.
Though not in the way you might think.

Don’t get me wrong — my girlfriend’s amazing.
But the way things have been going lately,
I’m starting to believe that the only thing worse
than not getting what you want,

is getting it.

Literary Awards: ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2008), Wyoming Soaring Eagle Nominee (2013)

Book 1: What My Mother Doesn’t Know review

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I am swept away again. 🙂 Sonya Sones, how do you that?!

This time, it’s about Robin. And I adore this boy!

What happens next when you finally get the girl of your dreams? Robin is clueless. But as he navigate his way through Sophie’s heart, he realized that she might be suffering socially from their relationship. Sounds absurd, right? But where Robin is coming from, it sounds very legit, and very scary.

I think I enjoyed Robin’s POV a little bit more than Sophie’s (from What My Mother Doesn’t Know). I found his thoughts spot-on with his feelings: raw, in awe, in love! The verse here in What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is more honest, more romantic, and sometimes more painful.

The swoon you will get from Robin and Sophie will come from reading between the beautiful lines of Sonya Sones‘s writing =) The rush of falling in love is here, together with the classic mistake one makes when you have the everything you want.

I think I’m going to buy my own copies of this series, because these books are worth a reread. 😀

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WHAT MY GIRLFRIEND DOESN’T KNOW by Sonya Sones

Paperback, 320 pages

Published December 16th 2008 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

4/5 stars

Book Review: What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

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Young Adult > Contemporary

My name is Sophie.
This book is about me.
It tells
the heart-stoppingly riveting story
of my first love.
And also of my second.
And, okay, my third love, too.

It’s not that I’m boy crazy.
It’s just that even though
I’m almost fifteen
it’s like
my mind
and my body
and my heart
just don’t seem to be able to agree
on anything.

Literary Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2004), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2002), Iowa Teen Award (2006), ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2002)

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Ah, yes. Thank you for making my 60-minute bus ride home very enjoyable. Simple, and sweet. And sometimes, I just need something simple to read 🙂

I’ve read some contemporary YA, and I think What My Mother Doesn’t Know fully captures why I like reading this genre. It is because a story so simple, so ordinary, and so obviously relatable, can make me smile, and make me feel good.

I love the prose, I love it! Funny and familiar, if I can somehow put only it into two words. The gist is this: Sophie is boy-crazy. And amidst the hits and misses she have with the opposite sex, she ends up liking (and falling in love with) the most unlikely boy. 🙂

I found myself looking back, when I was Sophie’s age. Reading how she clumsy her way through high school (and with boys), I wonder if I was like her back then..? I can only laugh now, for the awkward moments Sophie have with adolescence can sometimes be too real for me. Worth a cringe, if you ask me.

It is safe to say that beautiful words matching a sweet story is a sure recipe for a romantic read? With What My Mother Doesn’t Know, it sure is.

(Tina, I need book 2!)

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WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW by Sonya Sones

Paperback, 261 pages

Published February 2003 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

4/5 stars

Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

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New Adult > Contemporary

I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn’t run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.

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Beautiful writing… but the love story is more of sex than of atually knowing each other. And an open ending would’ve been nicer.

I felt icky and uncomfortable. Ha! It’s surprising that I found Unteachable’s theme more awkward and eyebrow-raising than Forbidden‘s. 🙂

I like how Leah Raeder writes. I do, I really do. But I felt disconnected with Maise and her troubled life. And I was incredulous when she constantly claims that she’s more matured than her mother. Well, is she? Not! She doesn’t want to face the responsibility of secretly traipsing around school with his teacher Evan. She carelessly throws her life out the window  when she doesn’t care if she gets caught, making out (petting heavily, and almost having sex) with Evan inside his classroom. It’s not the teacher-student relationship that bothered me, no. It’s the reckless idea that you can do all those things without consequences, because Maise gets away with it. And it excites her every time. Tell  me: is that love?

The unhealthy obsession of Evan on Maise is pretty much glorified, because he’s young, and gorgeous, and hot. And did I mention he says the sweetest things? Even I will let him get into my pants, hearing what Maise hears every time he whispers those syrupy words.

I guess there’s a thin line for me between liking them as a pair, and being utterly grossed out by their lewdness. At some point, I thought their scenes are sexy, but I remember, they don’t even know each other that well! Should Maise really trust this guy, a shady past like his?

Unteachable missed its mark on me. And yeah, I bought this on Kindle in a whim. Seems like I have a habit of buying those books that are not worth it. Look how it went with The Secret of Ella and Micha.

Read this if only for the attractive writing. The ending does not even sounds realistic. Ack.

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UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder

Kindle Edition, 356 pages

Published July 27th 2013 by Velvet Pony Press

2/5 stars

Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

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Young Adult > Contemporary

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

Literary Awards: Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), Andre Norton Award Nominee (2012), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (Top Ten) (2013), Cybils Nominee for Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult) (2012)

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Alexander Yin, you just saved me from hating this book. You are the only part worth remembering.

Could it be that I am getting over my fandom over David Levithan? Because I just didn’t like Every Day. It pains me to rate this a 2, but because of Alexander (thank goodness), I managed to up my rating just a bit (even though I feel it’s a generous one).

I started reading last February, put Temple down, and read other books. I promised that I would finish it, so I borrowed Tina’s paperback, thinking this would push me to read on. It took me months before I grudgingly read the rest of A’s story. In the end, I was still bored. I could not get myself to be compassionate about A’s situation. Sorry man, it’s just that, you’re so boring to read. sleepy-boring.

Everything about A was forgettable. I cannot push myself to like him, or even sympathize over his tortured so-called life. And his obsession with Rhiannon (yes I will call it that) was not something that I will romanticize. Was it love? Or was it just a recognition of what his life might’ve been should he ever be normal?

I think the paranormal theme was the flop for me. Or I might be just familiar with David Levithan‘s contemporary books. Or maybe, Every Day is just flat-out jibberish nonsense.

When A is living Alexander’s life for a day, it was the only good thing that livened up my reading.

Every Day. Sigh. How can you ruin my perfect record of loving David Levithan‘s works?

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EVERY DAY by David Levithan

Published August 28th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

2.5/5 stars

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Young Adult > Contemporary | Realistic Fiction

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.

Literary Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (1999), Golden Kite Award for Fiction (1999), BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (1999), Edgar Award Nominee for Best Young Adult (2000), Printz Honor (2000), South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book Award (2002), Horn Book Fanfare (2000), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2000), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005)

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…even Gumball will find this boring. :/

I have this utter dislike to Speak‘s main character Melinda. It’s not because she’s so dull, weak, and bully-material, but because she let herself be a victim after the “incident” happened. In her mind, she lost the battle already. Fighting back (even if only by moving on) was not Melinda’s strongest suits, and I have no sympathy for people like that.

I cannot see why not speaking up will help Melinda’s cause. It only triggered a series of bullying when she should’ve prevented it by talking about happened at the party, even if people won’t listen, but so what? The point is not to fight a battle like this by yourself!

Sheesh. Now I feel myself getting worked up.

I understood the need to be silent because something terrible happened, but time spent on not talking was too long. I say, fight back, even if it’s a lost cause, always fight back. Because that’s the only thing your enemies cannot take away from you: the will to stand up and fight back.

When Melinda finally speaks, it was already anti-climactic. How can I root for someone like her, someone who refused to rise up after such a debacle?

Speak is a short read, but I found myself thinking I wasted my time reading it.

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SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Paperback, 208 pages

Published April 1st 2001 by Puffin

2/5 stars

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Young Adult > Contemporary | Realistic Fiction

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

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‘Did I ruin everything?’
‘Every-what?’
‘Every-us.’

Oh, man. 🙂

Was it really like this? First love? *sigh* I must be old then, because Eleanor and Park‘s charm was fresh to me. Truth be told, I breezed through the pages. I didn’t mind the kind-of abrupt shift of Park’s feelings towards Eleanor. I didn’t care that Eleanor’s issues at home were only bits and pieces, not really explaining this or that. I am unaware of these faults, because while I was reading, I was entranced – I was in love!

*clears throat*

The bullying portrayed in Eleanor & Park were vivid, so real I can almost reach and give endless pain to this bunch of lowlifes. And yet how can they erase the colour of Eleanor, or the bravery of Park? It was amazingly hopeful, to fall in love beyond the hurt, and humiliation brought about by choosing to be different.

I thought the writing was beautiful. It mesmerizes, it jolts you to be emotional on what Eleanor and Park are going through! Rainbow Rowell totally captured the raw feelings during that age, that time. Whether Eleanor’s feeling stupid, or Park’s feeling defiant, the effect was always jarring.

The ending was kinda off for me though. I thought Eleanor just ran. She was strong, in ways she did not know, and she. just. ran.

Park will always be a favorite character from now on 🙂 The ability to see past of what his eyes can see was astounding. What I would not give to have this boy at my side. Whisper to me those sweet words, Park. I am so in love with you. *blushes*

Ahem.

This is only my first affair with Rainbow Rowell‘s books. Now, I am dying to fall in love again. *winks*

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ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

Published February 26th 2013 by St. Martin’s Press

4/5 stars

Book Review: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

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Young Adult > Contemporary > Filipino

Andi hasn’t seen her brother for eight years and when he steps off the plane from the Philippines, she cannot believe her eyes. He’s tall. EIGHT FOOT TALL. But Bernardo is not what he seems. Bernardo is a hero, Bernardo works miracles, and Bernardo has an amazing story to tell.

Literary Awards: Filipino Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Novel in English (2012)

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…Oh, wow. What a heartwarming, feel-good book 🙂

Family is very, very important. Would you agree? The sole reason that I do not want to work abroad is that, I do not want to be separated from my better half, my toddler son, and my “senior citizen” parents. I want to be with my best friend as we grow together in our married life. I want to be here when my son grows up. I want to be here for whatever number of years my parents have left before they retire to the afterlife. And so, Tall Story having centered on a Filipino family, here and abroad, pricked me, and that made it so dear to me.

I understood Nardo. Longing for a mom who’s halfway around the world with his little sister. Constantly anxious over the townspeople’s belief that he is their hero. Awkward over his gigantism. When his immigration papers came, suddenly living in London with his family is not a far-fetched idea. But the people of San Andres will not let him go, for fear of catastrophe hitting them once their hero leaves. And so Nardo’s blackouts began.

I understood Andi, too. The jealousy over a brother that her mom probably loved more than her. The determination to own something for herself through her basketball skills. and the incredulity of how being a girl limits her from reaching her dreams.

How Candy Gourlay reflected Filipino family virtues through the characters was really nice. Andi’s disdain for his brother was not prolonged, and so did Nardo’s despair. The common destroyers (sibling rivalry, parent-child separation, overworked parents) of a family was kept at a minimum, thereby keeping the lightness of the story intact.

I love Jabby (well, minus the freak show incident). And that scene where he’s calling for help? Creepy. Because I know that happens, like all the time.

I did not like Nardo’s mom, though. What kind of a mother discourages her daughter’s dreams because of her height, or thinks there is something wrong about her son, and be ashamed about it? Grrr.

Tall Story is a favorite. Something about it is hopeful, and it has a certain degree of kindness we can all benefit from, once in a while.

Goodreads – The Filipino Group Book of the Month (August)

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TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay

Paperback, 233 pages

Published May 2010 by PCacho Publishing House

5/5 stars