Book Review #78: The Build-Up Season by Megan Jacobson (Review Copy from Penguin Random House Australia)

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“Everybody’s good when they’re good, darling. You don’t judge a person by that. It’s how they act when things aren’t good that tells you who they really are.”

Title: The Build-Up Season
Author: Megan Jacobson
ISBN: 9780143573388
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Date Published: July 31, 2017
Publishing House: Penguin Random House Australia
Goodreads Rating: 4.31
Personal Rating: 4/5 

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Iliad Piper – Ily for short – is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. Her love-hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. She takes off her armour for nobody until she meets Jared, a local actor and someone who’s as complicated as she is.

From the author of Yellow comes a powerful exploration of family and identity set against the humid build-up to the wet season in Darwin. [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

The Build-Up season is a young adult contemporary story that gave me the “feels”, literally and figuratively. I have always been cautious and feeling off whenever I review a book that contains sensitive topic like violence against women and children. I hate it, I just so despise the fact that this thing exists not just today but even before we were all aware of its modern term. I remember when I reviewed Colleen Hoover’s novel entitled “It Ends with Us” (check my review HERE)r , it was very delicate and I even revised my draft a few times just to make sure that I did not offend anyone or opened up a very controversial stuff. It’s hard if you know someone who’s a victim, but it’s even harder if you are the victim itself.

I would like to thank Penguin Teen Australia for providing me an advance copy in exchange for an honest and fair book review. This, however, does not change my view and opinion about the book.

First and foremost, let’s start talking about the setting. The story took place in Darwin (Australia), I actually do not have a vast amount of knowledge regarding the place but because it was here in the land down under, it made me appreciate the story more. The story and setting matches, it is a perfect place for someone who’s hiding from someone and wants to start over. I am guessing that some people in Darwin like the main character herself dreams of taking up a college degree in Sydney or in a more modernised state and it was perfectly portrayed in the story. Some simple high school students aspire to become popular in Sydney and excel in their chosen careers. I have nothing to say regarding the setting aside from the fact that the author chose the perfect place.

Moving on, I will discuss the characters briefly one by one. Iliad is the young female character in this novel that is named from the famous poem itself about war. She is fierce, loyal, and free-spirited. I love how Ily expresses herself without the fear of being judged and rejected. She does things that will satisfy her without giving a crap about other people’s opinion. The negative thing about Ily is that I hated the way she treated her mother. I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s one of the main reasons why you should pick up this book and dive in her story. The next character is Jared; he is ambitious, handsome, but has a temper. He could have been a perfect partner for anyone but I was so disappointed when I discovered his true identity. I love his chemistry with Ily but at the same time, I was afraid of him as well. There is a love triangle in the story (which I always enjoy! Ha!) and my ship has always been with the bad guy, and this time it is Max. He is Ily’s neighbour who happens to be her mortal enemy at the same time. I enjoyed their prank war and the way their story and characters developed. It may sound cliché but I find the love hate relationship highly entertaining especially at first. The last character that I want to discuss is Ily’s mother. I pity the woman so much. She loves Iliad unconditionally that she almost gave up everything and pretended to be the bad person just so she could protect her daughter. I personally felt her battles and feelings because I am also a mother. I find the heroic act of standing up and fighting for your child as the best action of all.

The writing style is superb. I already liked it just by skim reading the first page. Iliad’s name already caught my interest and curiosity and I wasn’t disappointed. I love how delicate the topic was and how the author gave justification to it. I cringed a couple of times and it also made my heart skip a beat. Everything was so intense and beautiful. I could never wish for a better ending. Everything went the way they should have ended and I could not ask for more. I love how the problem with her father was figured out. I am impressed with how the author made Ily realise all her shortcomings and how she made some amends to all the people that she unintentionally hurt. And of course, my OTP (one true pair) ship made it! Yay!

Overall, I highly recommend this story to YA readers who enjoy books that will give those bits and pieces of life and love advice. This is one hell of a book that one should read because it is an eye-opener and it is phenomenal. Plenty of women or family are suffering from this kind of crisis and immediate help must be sought. Please, wherever you are in the world, please be aware that you are not alone in this battle and there is help available. Do not be afraid to walk the path alone, being abused is not something to be ignored or be given a justification. Nobody has the right to hurt you, not even your spouse. We care, I care.

~JaNnA

Book Review #77: Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan (Advance Reader Copy from Bloomsbury Publishing)

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“When a huge star dies, there is a massive explosion, a supernova, and later, all that’s left is a dark, dense black hole where no light can get in or out. From brilliant lightness to total darkness.”

Title: Stargazing for Beginners
Author: Jenny McLachlan
ISBN: 9781408879757
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Date Published: April 06, 2017
Publishing House: Bloomsbury Publishing
Goodreads Rating: 4.14
Personal Rating: 4/5 

Synopsis [Goodreads]

Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mom leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her.

And Mom’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat a close rival, Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions…

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sun kissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters; it goes straight to your heart.

My Personal Thoughts

Alright, so I find this book cute, nerdy and totally awesome! I received my copy from Bloomsbury Publishing Australia along with other three newly released young adult contemporary novels. Frankly, young adult contemporary is not my thing, but since different publishing companies are sending me books with this type of genre lately, I am becoming more and more inclined to it. And I actually find myself liking it. I can’t believe that simple stuff and stories like this one can still make me feel giddy and excited. The story is simple, there’s really nothing unusual in all honesty, but I find myself enjoying it as the story progresses! It is highly entertaining because of the female character, Meg Clark is a certified Science geek and a smarty-pants. I even learned a lot from her and took down some notes. She is so obsessed with the galaxy and she was able to make me reminisce some of the stuff that I’ve already forgotten since my elementary days, and God knows how long it has been since. Let’s talk about Meg’s prince charming, Ed King, I like Ed! I love the idea that despite being an athlete and a heartthrob, he also happens to be Meg’s fellow Science geek and it’s just so cute that Meg and Ed are the contenders in class ever since. I know it may sound cliché but things like this still make me swoon so badly. I can relate to Meg’s character because obviously, she is an introvert but not until the Biscuit Club was founded (you have to read it to find out more). Her mother is a selfish and self-centered woman and I just hate the idea that she left Meg and her little sister alone with just the grandfather to look after them, and apparently, their grandfather is already showing signs of irresponsibility and dementia. So, yes, for me Meg’s mother is the antagonist-ish here. But I am so impressed with how the character handled all the chaos that she was put into and how all these stuff made her a better person. Furthermore, the friendships formed here are just too beautiful; you can see the transformation of each character from being mean and selfish to selfless and loyal. I also like the author’s writing style, it was a fast-read and even though that the story is predictable I still manage to enjoy and appreciate it so much. I highly recommend this for young adult readers. I gave it a four out of five rating and I was hoping for a sequel because I can’t get enough of Ed and Meg’s story. Lastly, I want to commend the cover! It is undeniably gorgeous and elegant! It is very enticing because purple and gold are always good together. Hope I was able to help you with my insight and thanks for reading my review, until the next book talk.

~JaNnA

Book Review #76: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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“I’m a little distracted by this English French American Boy Masterpiece.”

 Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
ISBN: 0307968537
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Chick Lit
Format: Audiobook
Date Published: October 11, 2011
Publishing House: Books on Tape
Goodreads Rating: 4.08
Personal Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her co-worker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for? [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

The very first time that I’ve read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins was two years ago via digital copy and I wasn’t a book collector yet back then, I was just a plain book reader. I enjoyed this so much; it was cute and highly entertaining. Although the story is shallow, I still find myself immersed within Anna and Etienne’s up and down ride. This week, I decided to re-read this story through an audio book which approximately took me two days to finish while doing some coloring and stuff.

The setting is in a boarding school located in Paris. Who wouldn’t want to read a book that is set in one of the world’s most beautiful cities? When I read the synopsis before, I was already so eager to dive into their world because Paris is one of the places that I’ve been dreaming of going to and it’s even included on my bucket list. So, yes, the setting is definitely very appealing and romantic! It is undeniably perfect for the story line.

Let’s talk about the characters one by one and let me tell you something nice and annoying about them. Etienne St. Clair, he is the American/French boy who swept me off my feet two years ago. He is sweet and handsome. There is nothing to dislike about St. Clair except for the fact that he is afraid to be alone and to make big life decisions. It sucks right? You have all the beauty and everything but some of your principles in life are just off. Next is Anna Oliphant, the innocent girl from America who fell in love with her best friend. Anna is nice, an ideal girl to go out with but I find her pathetic and a certified boyfriend stealer! Sorry for the fans but Anna just annoyed the hell out of me when I read the book for the second time. I liked her so much before but then now I realized that she did things on purpose even though the boy is in a relationship. She did not actually resist his advances, she flirted with him as well. Oh gosh! I just hate girls and women like her. Anyway, they still made the perfect pair! It may be a cliché but the best friend to boyfriend thing is kind of cute but RISKY.

The story line is usual and there’s nothing special, to be honest. There is nothing in the story that I haven’t read from other young adult contemporary books before and it is not a good thing if you’ll ask me. I was expecting for something new and interesting but no, it was disappointing to realize that the story is plain, odd, and just simple. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the story and I am not complaining.

Overall, it is highly recommended for young adult readers because it does not contain sensual scenes and it is full of innocence and pure fun, friendships, and first loves! New adult readers might find it boring though. Four out of five for giving me butterflies in the stomach because St. Clair is swoon-worthy, indeed.

~JaNnA

Book Review #75: The Diabolic (The Diabolic, #1) by S.J. Kincaid

20031005_1068750266589697_416498703_n“Some might call us a monstrous pair, and they would be right. Tyrus and I were both scorpions in our way, dangerous creatures crossing most treacherous of rivers together. Together we might sting- but we also would float. Perhaps Scorpions were the only ones who could save each other. Whatever lay ahead, it would always be the two of us above the rest of the universe, and woe to any who dared step in our path.”

Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Pages: 407
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Format: Hardback
Date Published: November 01, 2016
Publishing House: Simon & Schuster
Goodreads Rating: 4.07
Personal Rating: 5/5

SYNOPSIS

Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire…

MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS

WOW! Just WOW! I can’t even start drafting my book review for this! I actually started typing ten minutes after I finished the book! Yes, that’s just how awesome it is! It may sound cliche’ but this story is actually one of my best reads for 2017. I seldom give a five-star rating these past few months because everything seems to be just the same but this one definitely made an exception! I am so impressed and I feel totally refreshed! Honestly, it took me ages to finally be able to finish it because of work, university, etc. I even had a reading slump last week because I just can’t seem to focus on the story. But when the characters finally merged and everything fell into place, OMG!, I was left breathless and in deep awe! It exceeded my expectations and I was surprised! The main character is very different from all the other characters that I have read before. Nemesis is a diabolic who is destined to kill and protect that one person that she was created for. Diabolics are ruthless but loyal creatures. They resemble the features of a normal person but they were trained to kill and be murderous if needed. Nemesis is a badass female protagonist which can sometimes be an antagonist as well. I know, you’re getting way too confused right now but all I can say is that this story is worth a shot, I wasn’t disappointed, it is indeed worthy of your time and effort! The author writes in a very interesting manner, I like how the story went on and evolved. The political thing is not my cup of tea but I was able to enjoy it being incorporated in a science fiction slash dystopian setting. Ugh! I’m running out of words right now and everything is so overwhelming. I can’t get over the fact that I misjudged this book during the first few chapters and I am completely wrong! I did not read any book review prior to commencing this book so it was really a fair shot. I loved each and every chapter, I am fascinated by how the characters were made and polished, I am overjoyed with Nemesis’ development and I am so proud of what she became in the end. It was mentioned that Diabolics does not have any emotions and that they are not created to feel anything for anyone except for their master, but the story really astonished me because who would have thought that a “Madman” like Tyrus Domitrian can change everything? The love story included is just to die for! I’ve been shipping the pair since the moment I’ve read Tyrus’ name and YAY I am so happy with how it ended. Sorry, I can’t help but be a bit spoilery. It is so good and I am so excited for the next book to come out! There are plenty of life and love lessons and it made the story even better. One badass story like this deserves some hype and appreciation. I highly recommend this for readers of all ages who enjoy reading stories about a kickass female character.  This will undeniably blow your mind! Highly entertaining and gripping, INDEED.

~JaNnA

Book Review #70: Geekerella by Ashley Poston (Advance Reader Copy from Penguin Random House Australia)

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Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling
Format: Paperback
Date Published: April 04, 2017
Publishing House: Quirk Books
GoodReads Rating: 4.13
Personal Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Anything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

My Personal Thoughts

The story is very predictable but highly entertaining and young adult friendly! I personally requested for a copy of this book because I was so curious about its hype and rating on Goodreads especially its impact on young readers on the bookstagram community. First, I must admit that it is truly adorable and bubbly, and super CUTE. I have nothing against it because what would someone expect from a modern-day Cinderella story? Obviously, it contains the usual ingredients: a young lady who’s deprived of love and attention from her stepmother and two wicked stepsisters; and who also happens to meet a prince charming in a ball with the aid of her fairy godmother-ish bestfriend slash workmate. PRESTO! And I was right, although, in this book, the antagonistic witches aren’t as gruesome compared to the classic fairytale that all of us have read over the years. The stepmother here in the story was still decent in a way and less bitchy-ish. The stepsisters, on the other hand, surprised me because the other twin sister actually has a heart. The so-called prince charming is Darien, and I like his character. He is famous and rich but despite all of the fame and wealth he still felt lonely and abandoned. There’s a lot of amazing stuff here which is different from the original story. I just don’t like the idea of having a fandom! Like seriously? It’s not my cup of tea, it was added to match the novel and for me, it’s not appealing. It seems like the fandom was just added and viola everything should match perfectly! It’s a major turn off. Aside from the fact that it’s weird, it’s also annoying because the story revolved around this sci-fi fandom that the characters were so fond of, without it, I could have given it a higher rating. But I am not complaining, it’s just that it took me ages to finish reading it (one week to be exact) because I find the Starfield thing boring. The main character, Elle, is a sweet and nerdy girl who likes to self-pity most of the time. I just love how Sage (her instant bff) brought out the inner fighter in her and helped her with all her shenanigans. This story is also LGBT friendly which makes it cool but I find the love story of Darien and Elle too good to be true and an insta-love. I believe that we can’t really fall in love with someone that we haven’t met or even talked to yet. Come on! In addition to this, the cover is just so commendable and to giggle for! It is a combination of pink, purple, and glittery font; and for me, it is a cover-buy-book. Anyway, overall I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It is recommended for young readers; it is Young Adult themed but I would also recommend it for much younger readers (even for starters) because of its innocence, simplicity, and life lessons. Kudos to the author for creating such an inspiring light-read and thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.

~JaNnA

Book Review #65: My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley (Advance Reader Copy from Bloomsbury Publishing Australia)

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Title: My Name is Victoria
Author: Lucy Worsley
Pages: 372
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Paperback (Advance Reader Copy)
Date Published: March 09, 2017
Publishing House: Bloomsbury Publishing
GoodReads Rating: 3.87
Personal Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

‘You are my sister now,’ Victoria said, quietly and solemnly. ‘Never forget it. I love you like a sister, and you are my only friend in all the world.’ Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows. Miss V’s father has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess, which he calls the Kensington System. It governs her behaviour and keeps her locked away from the world. He says it is for the princess’s safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it is to keep her lonely and unhappy. Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the wilful and passionate Victoria, Miss V has a decision to make: to continue in silence or to speak out. By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria’s childhood as you’ve never heard it before.

My Personal Thoughts

This book is epic, classy, and very informative. I just love how the author made it look like a cute young adult story but the truth is it talks about history and royalty. The two main characters are both easy to like and understand. One bratty, cute, and moody princess named Victoria which is actually the late Queen Victoria when she was young and careless. And the other girl is Miss V (who also happens to be named Victoria as well), the daughter of the princess’ comptroller. I like the girls’ friendship because it is so pure and innocent, no drama and everything. Miss V is so selfless and devoted to the princess which is what I admired about her the most. The story obviously took place in England where the royal family resides and it is just so awesome to be able to travel back in time and revisit the past thru a modern-ish story like this. The author is a historian and she did a great and awesome job with this novel. It is so entertaining and fun! I like every scene and chapter. I did not get bored. I was able to finish the story in two days and there is just something about it that you won’t be able to set it aside. The antagonist on the other hand who is Miss V’s father, Sir John Conroy, is a manipulator and a total control freak. He symbolizes the image of men ages ago who manipulates women and who constantly wants to be on top and with power. I feel sorry for Princess Victoria’s mother, the Duchess, because Sir John used her to his advantage. Miss V’s mother is also a victim of the man’s greediness. The story is an eye opener, it will make a reader realise what life was a couple of decades ago. How money and wealth rules and how powerless princes and princesses are when choosing who to marry. Overall the story is screaming perfection. I like the first person narration and the small and simple images drawn every chapter. It is a very cute book, the cover is breathtaking and an auto-buy! Thank you, Bloomsbury, for sending me a copy to review and promote. Highly recommended for readers of all ages. Bravo, Miss Worsley, this was incredibly written. 😊

Book Review #62: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han

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“Disappointment is good for kids; it prepares them for the real world, where it’s not all about them and their feelings.”

Synopsis

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

My Personal Thoughts

Young adult contemporary books are really not my cup of tea since I started my reading habit, but Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series definitely made an exception. OMG! I don’t know how to start drafting my book review about the 3rd and final installment of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s young love story. It is evidently innocent, pure, and overflowing with emotions! Just like what I mentioned a year ago when I read the 1st two books via audiobook during Valentine’s Day. I know, it’s so cheesy and everything but a woman can only fangirl and reminisce, right? The characters both matured and evolved into more fabulous and gorgeous beings! Lara Jean is someone to be proud of because she kept her thoughts and principles about love and sex until the very end. Peter, on the other hand, is a young man who changed a lot because of Lara Jean. He transformed into a real gentleman compared to the naughty and easy-go-lucky dude he was from the first 2 novels. I am so happy because this book is very inspiring and it contains a lot of life lessons which are suitable for young readers especially to those people nowadays who think that young love is not or will never be a real love. I am so proud of Lara Jean’s conviction and Peter’ not-taking-an-advantage attitude. Basically, this story is just so light and cute and realistic. Many young readers can relate and reflect about their own situation and views in life. The story is fast-paced which I was able to read and finish for 6 hours. The writing style has always been my favourite part, the author writes from the heart and it is evident in my e-reader because I highlighted plenty of inspiring lines and scenes. Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Nicola Yoon are my favourite YA contemporary writers at the moment and I just admire the way they write books that will make a person swoon. I am so happy that I immediately started this book after I did a whole day of reviewing for my upcoming final exam. It was worth it. Family, friendship, life, and love lessons are all here! I can’t think of anything negative to say, maybe the simplicity which I think New Adult story lovers would find boring but not with a 29 y/o mom of two like me who still enjoys reading stories that gives me butterflies in the stomach. It is highly recommended for readers of all ages. Five amazing stars for Jenny Han and cheers to Lara Jean and Peter K’s refreshing love story.

~JaNnA💖