When Life Happened by Jewel E. Ann

***This book review contains spoilers.***

Before I go even further, you really should be jumping into this book clueless. I did. Made it more enjoyable.

Jewel Ann can write. I give her that. The story line just didn’t do it for me though. And because it didn’t do it for me, unfortunately it’s not a 4. This is of course my biased opinion. I have the same mindset as Parker. I despise cheating. I have no tolerance for it. So to me, right from the get go, she didn’t exemplify those traits. She flirted with Gus right off the bat. For someone against cheating, you think she would have cooled it or backed away. Also, you can’t base a whole character on despising cheating and have her thinking about hooking up with a married man since Chapter 2. No no no. That’s now how that works.

And sitting here writing this, I realize I can’t be the judgement police. I’ve done a whole lot of stuff on my own that people can judge me on. Feelings are a powerful thing. So now that I’m continuing writing this review, I’ll give it a 4 because it’s just dawning on me that things aren’t so black and white. There’s also gray. Which was a major theme of the book.

“Someone cheated on you, and you’re so fucking mad about it because you can’t understand it. But love is an emotion that resides in your head and your proverbial heart. It has to be nurtured to grow or it dies.”

“I wanted you to acknowledge desire is a drug and no one is immune to its effect.”

“Yeah, life never checks the forecast before it decides to just happen.”

#Truth. That’s all I got to say. I relate wholeheartedly to all the above quotes.

I’m going to summarize the entire book right here. This is a total spoiler. Pretty much Parker falls in love with Gus. A married man. They never fully had an affair aka slept together but they were getting there. Gus felt ignored by his wife, Sabrina. Turns out Sabrina was legit having an affair. Life happens. Gus never makes it to be with Parker. Enter Sabrina’s brother, Levi. Parker falls in love with Levi. Clarifies it’s more in love than she ever felt with Gus. They get married. The end.

That’s what I didn’t like at all to be honest. The instalove. I’m all for instalove. But two instaloves in one book? And so quickly one after the other? You didn’t even let me mourn Jewel Ann. You didn’t even let me acknowledge how big of a loss Gus was because in comes Levi and it’s already being thrown in there where it’s like, oh here we go.

I got Christian Grey vibes from Levi. There was something about him I did not like. I preferred Gus to tell you the truth. And that’s saying something because I hated the cheating story line altogether. I just didn’t care for Levi and his cheesy lines. I was extra guarded with this guy. I’m just like soooo everyone ran away because you were honest? Like, I don’t get it. That’s it?

And then it’s also like, what made Parker so great that it made both Gus and Levi go completely head over heels? She’s an attractive, single 26 year old. I say attractive because that was the main focus for both of them. Other than that, all she did was flirt and be playful and pay attention to them. Any girl can do that. Which is why the instalove is so unbelievable to me. Instalove has to be believable if you’re going to use it. And I refuse to believe that Levi’s whole decision on his life partner was based the fact that Parker would leave his apartment in the middle of the night alone just to get a donut but that’s what Jewel Ann wants me to believe. I MEAN, I CAN LEAVE MY APARTMENT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT FOR FOOD TOO. Where’s my millionaire boyfriend?

Another thing too. Why is it that every person Parker met had some money to their name. The podiatrist. Gus. Levi. And she was the poor one. It’s like the author wanted her to be saved from her mess of a life with a man with money. Somehow, I don’t believe the story would have the same effect if Levi was poor.

This book wasn’t what I expected, but it was a good, fast read. And it gives you something to debate about after.

My Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Read from January 11, 2018 to January 12, 2018 (2 Days)

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer

***This book review may contain spoilers.***

I only have read Heartless by Marissa Meyer so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Renegades. I did notice some complaints in regards to how long this book was. So I was very tense about reading this book. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I personally think Marissa Meyer’s style of writing is addicting. Renegades was slow in the beginning, not going to lie, but it really did pick up after the backstory/world-building was introduced.

Every character’s backstory is pretty interesting. I would love to see this turn into a movie. But you know…that’s called X-Men. Pretty much. Two groups. Renegades and Anarchists (formerly Villains). *cough* X-Men vs Acolytes *cough*. Anyways, the Renegades are regarded as superheroes by the “normal” people and revere them and count on them to save them. Renegades control the town and have rules. In contrast, Anarchists, believe that everyone should be free to do what they wish.

We get the story told by two perspectives. Nova’s and Adrian’s. They both have a major secret throughout the book. OKAY. I’ll tell you. Adrian’s a secret superhero. Because he was already a superhero. But he also is an extra superhero. LOL. Yeah. I know. Nova is working for the “villains” and raised by them. They decided that she infiltrates the Renegades to learn their secrets and to figure out a way to beat them. Which you know is technically hard, because Renegades have different chapters all around the world. You can’t really defeat the Renegades. Nova’s villain’s name is Nightmare. Her hero name is Insomnia. They both grew up very differently but the irony is, you can tell they both want the same thing for the world. Some different aspects, but overall, yeah. And I don’t even think Nova is a true anarchist. She can’t even kill someone. But she isn’t a Renegade either. They’re both in the middle in my opinion. And clearly there’s some romance thing going on here. I’ll feel bad when the truth comes out because Adrian is going to feel oh so betrayed. BUT I feel like Adrian will let it go. Which, you know, I wouldn’t. Nightmare did attempt to kill his father. Let’s not forget that.

I can’t wait to see what’s going on there between Ruby and Oscar. It wasn’t really addressed much but I see something big happening there. Otherwise why would it be mentioned.

Detonator was annoying as a character. Maybe because I’m more on the Renegade’s side and don’t think the Anarchist’s have a true mission value except causing anarchy.

I thought I would be confused with all the different superpowers going on but it was actually pretty easy to follow once the book gained traction.

I’m interested in Max’s ability. I figured he was something like that. He’s quarantined for a reason. I’m just trying to figure out the end game on that. Because the Renegades wanting to control who has powers? WTF? Whoever thought of this is clearly very non-heroic. I get it though. Like you don’t want people dying unnecessarily. People with powers killing people with powers? Yeah. I understand. But also, y’all think your ideologies are all running on the same paths? Clearly there’s Renegades that are ultimately “good”, and clearly there’s Renegades that are ultimately “bad.”

My Star Rating:4 out of 5 Stars

 Read From December 26 to December 30. (4 days)

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

***This book review may contain spoilers.***

No. Just no. In theory, the summary made this book seem great. The execution? Not so much. I couldn’t get into it, but I was able to get through it where I didn’t DNF.

The characters, in my opinion, were way too one-dimensional. And to work with such a controversial subject, you have to do it justice. I can’t read a book about a school shooting and not feel despair, but the way this story was written and executed, I didn’t harbor any emotions whatsoever for any of the characters. It’s like when you’re watching an action movie, and the side characters all get picked off and you’re just watching all the action, not thinking about the consequences of that character’s death because they’re nothing to you. The feeling I had reading this entire book.

And you know, this book went at a fast pace. So I could forgive it since the book went at a fast pace if you could have given me more depth later. After all the events transpired. And the author attempted to with the epilogue, but even the epilogue was a little flat for me.

For a book that had so many multiple perspectives, it also would have been nice to get Tyler’s perspective. I mean, he’s the main character, if you really want to think about it. There’s a reason they all knew his name. For someone who claimed to be a nobody and ousted from the world, they all seemed to know who he was.

My Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

“Thnks fr th Mmrs”

“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” – Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

The beauty of all these apps that people come up with and updates for them is that it reminds you of the stuff you forget. TimeHop. Facebook memories. Etc.

Do I hate it? Yes. Because it’s not like we all have great memories. I know I don’t.  I also  know how dramatic I used to be, and how dramatic I still can be. 2009-2012 Tanya was not pretty. I do not envy her position at all.

Let me paint the picture for you.  I never knew what a solid non-toxic relationship was like. Friendship-wise or relationship-wise.  My parents weren’t exactly the best role models to learn from and I really grew up in such a toxic environment for both my mental health and social development. No offense to them.  I sometimes think of myself as tainted. But that’s portraying myself as a victim. And the number one thing a toxic person does is always play the victim, even when the situation is not deserving. It’s a never-ending cycle. You surround yourself with toxic relationships, you become a toxic person yourself. I own up to all the things I did in the past. Playing the victim when I didn’t have to. Not being assertive enough. Letting my low self-esteem get the best of me. I didn’t respect myself so I let others disrespect me, and made it such a norm, that when I started deviating of what was expected of me, it was just more drama than was necessary.

In my first two years of college, I put all my eggs in one basket for my two roommates/friends. I considered them my best friends. One of them really tried to help me get past my low self-esteem and gain the confidence I needed.  I commend her for her attempts.  But as we all know, change comes from within and I wasn’t ready then. And it’s really hard to be friends with someone who’s depressed. So I understand why that friendship became toxic.  The other friend. There was clear red flags she was toxic from the beginning but these signs, I ignored.  The thing I feel about that? Toxic people ignore signs emulating from other toxic people because you’re cut from the same cloth. She had demons of her own she needed to resolve, as did I. Clearly, these friendships didn’t last for a multitude of reasons. I always tell myself one of these days, I will officially write about it. I don’t think that will ever happen. But it would be one version of the truth. And this version of the truth would be told in retrospect. What should I have done instead?  The what ifs? If I were mentally healthy/sound then, would it still have gone down the same way? When those friendships ended, my self-worth and esteem was at a rock-bottom level already,  and they were well aware of that.  They used my weaknesses, and exploited it in their bullying tactics. To the point where I almost committed suicide. I remember that day perfectly. Superbowl Sunday. February 5, 2012. Damn, that day is another story in itself. Like I said, I always tell myself I will officially write about it, but I never could write it down. Any growth I had was completely shattered. And it’s been 5 years.

Do I wish them well? Yes. Do I think about them? Not really. Just when they show up in my memories or when I’m asked about my roommates from college. And trust me, I don’t think about any of the bad shit. I think about the good memories. That’s the only thing I can do. Why live in misery? Another reason why I don’t think I’ll ever write about it. I mean, these guys were my best friends no matter how much I try to ignore it and how much reflection I go through.  I loved them both so much. I had them on pedestals and they were well aware of that too.  And friendship break-ups are the worst kind of evil. I’m sad no one ever thinks these are that important as relationship break-ups. They’re heartbreaking and anger-inducing realities that always should be acknowledged. I also know to realize you’re better off without. So keep the good memories. Acknowledge the bad. Move on.  Do I forgive them? Yes. More for myself and my peace than for their benefit.  I know I’m being friend requested and followed on social media for bad intentions. It’s sad to think that way, but I would be naive to think otherwise. Peep all you want. It’s okay. I have my reasons for my memories. I almost died because of you. What’s your excuse?

The irony of college and my social anxiety and all the memories that keep coming up on these apps.  When I look back , there were so many openings for myself to make all different kinds of friendships.  I limited myself because of my social anxiety.  And in doing so, I lost out on what could’ve been an amazing 4 years. I closed myself off to so many people who really tried to get more than one word out of me and my anxiety was firing at all different levels. Mostly because I had two friends. I didn’t need more.  That’s the regret I have to this day. No one knew who I was.  I was always in the corner. A glorified wallflower. It wasn’t until my back was put against the wall, that I started realizing that it could have been different. My senior year was a very different year. Granted, I never had any really close relationships. I was  afraid of letting anyone in that close, especially with all the drama that occurred and especially with my mental state. But I did hang out with all different types of people and had such a different experience that I consider my senior year at college the best one. If I had done the things I had wanted to do instead of having my anxiety control my life and incorporated it my freshman year, I probably would have had a way different life.

It’s hard to say this in retrospect. Anxiety still controls me. It’s what I go to therapy for. I’m able to manage depression at a better level than ever before. But anxiety? It’s a whole distinctive animal that I still haven’t been able to tackle.  I’m tackling it on a day by day basis. And every year that goes by, I get better at it. Maybe going at it at a turtle’s pace, but I have all the basics I need.

All I have in my memories are flashbacks of what anxiety has controlled. Of what I have avoided. My anxiety has made me stagnant in my growth, but I also know I’ve been changing and seeing a lot of growth in myself. And that’s all I can hope for at this point.  To the day where I am able to say, “Yes, I can do that.” with no thought to what would happen once I do do it. I mean if I really think about it, my best memories are the ones where I wasn’t sitting in the shadows. When you take away that type of control, how great can it really be?

Capture

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

***This book review may contain spoilers.***

“What was the point of trying to run away if people were going to insist on reminding you of what you were running from?”

Said from the point of view from our main character, Taylor. She recently found out that her dad had terminal cancer so her and her family were going to their summer lake house which they had abandoned going to for 5 years for a variety of reasons. Her father wanted to spend his last months with the family at the lake house. Taylor didn’t want to go back. She had a ex-boyfriend and best friend she did wrong so she did her best to avoid them, but alas, she could not.

I don’t know if I liked Taylor. I know I love running away from my problems, so I can’t hate on her for that. How she wanted to avoid going to the lake house, even though she just broke up with her ex she didn’t care about too much and her friends sided with him so you would think she would say that she’d rather face her childhood friends. The way she was acting over Henry and Lucy. It was like okay. You should have just apologized right away. Not insincerely. And the way I was reading it in the book, it’s like she did something MORE than just leave. So when I found out that she just left and stopped talking to them, and that’s why they were both off with her, it was like really? Y’all both were only friends in the summers you shared. It was anti-climactic for me. Like y’all were 12. You weren’t over this? Granted, if I had any middle school drama that I had to face when I was 17, I don’t know how I’d really react. So I’m being a little judge-y here. Sue me. There was just a lot of build-up for me, for a “That’s it?” reaction.

Warren and Gelsey are Taylor’s siblings. Warren’s character made me laugh. The best part was the part about how Taylor reminisces about the time the convenience store ran out of ketchup, and Warren couldn’t eat anything other than Heinz. Ketchup snob he was, he needed to order it in on his dad’s corporate card. So when they went to the lake house that summer, he already stocked up on his Heinz ketchup to avoid that scenario. The way he would buy all these toys and make grooming appointments for their “adopted” dog just so he can see the girl behind the counter at the pet store. Just to see her. Because in all those trips, he didn’t have the balls to ask her out. Taylor had to do it for him. And you know what. I like people who point out facts when they’re talking about something. I don’t see it know-it-all-ish. I see it as I’m learning something new. Some people are cool with it. And others are not. I honestly didn’t really get that much from Gelsey’s character. Or maybe I just don’t remember. Gelsey and their mom, I didn’t really get much of a grasp of their personalities. I wish I saw more. I also find it ironic because they both had the same love/attention for dancing.

Taylor finds out her dad had terminal cancer on her birthday. They’re getting ready and being all celebratory with a pepperoni and pineapple pizza (um, GROSS)…just for her parents to come home to relay the bad news. It’s relevant because over the summer, they re-did her birthday. Gave it a second chance, you can say.

The story in itself, was about Taylor’s relationship with her dad. That’s where this book shined to be honest. I literally just finished reading a cancer book, so I was just like, oh gosh, another one. But this is where the book shined the most. I didn’t really care much for the other arcs. (Warren and his gf. Taylor and Henry. Taylor and Lucy. Gelsey and Nora). I feel like the best arcs were with the characters and Rob(in). Their dad.

“A thousand moments I had just taken for granted – mostly because I assumed that there would be a thousand more.”

“And now that I knew that the time we had together was limited, I was holding on to it, trying to stretch it out, all the while wishing I’d appreciated what I’d had earlier.”

“And so I lay there, just listening, knowing that each breath was another moment he was still here and, simultaneously, that meant that he had just moved a little closer to being gone.”

This book broke my heart man. And her dad made her do things. He made her get a job. He made her not stay in the house. He always wanted to make sure that Taylor followed through. That she wouldn’t quit. That she wouldn’t run away. That she would stay. His “mystery project”, I already knew what it was going to be. Knowing you have cancer, you have the opportunity to say things you would like your family members to know. Especially if you will not be able to see them grow up. I would have done the same. For this relationship alone, you should read the book.

My Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Read from December 18, 2017 to December 23, 2017 (5 days)

180 Seconds by Jessica Park

***This book review may contain spoilers.***

I didn’t love it. With such a high rating, I thought I would be completely engulfed in feels and would be thinking about this book days after I’ve read it. It didn’t happen that way. Don’t get me wrong. I had the feels. I was crying like a baby while my boyfriend was playing video games and he’s staring at me like, “You good?” Mind you, I told him someone was dying, I just know it. So when he sees my crying, he’s all “You called it though!” Yeah. So it gives you the feels. I feel like you are heartless if you didn’t cry. But then again, I’m a sensitive type of gal. Maybe if I weren’t, it would justify the rating I’m giving it.

It just didn’t take. Allison was an okay character. As was Esben. I just couldn’t take Esben for some reason. It’s like he could do no wrong. He embodied qualities/personality traits that mirrored a do-gooder samaritan but with no flaws whatsoever. It annoyed me. I don’t look for flaws in characters. Trust me, I don’t. But Esben’s personality was engorged all over the pages and was such a big distraction to me. It was too forced and fake to my liking. Also, Allison’s and Esben’s instalove. The author even brought it up within the story. And I’m a-ok with instalove. I am. But I’m a sucker for build-up. Complete sucker for build-up. So to me, their relationship was fast-paced for the different stages every relationship goes through. And sometimes it works for me. Sometimes it doesn’t. It didn’t work for me. Their relationship was way too much to the point where it had me thinking somebody was going to die. Made me already guess where the story was going.

Another issue I had. I read the characters younger than they were. Allison and Esben are supposed to be juniors in college!!! College. I’m over here thinking they’re in high school. Maybe I can just pretend they’re in high school but an elite private boarding school. The only reason I didn’t forget altogether they were in college is because of the beginning. Book started off with so much promise and belief that characters were in college. Then the minute 180 seconds occurs, it just goes downhill. I felt like I regressed into the teenage years. But I guess maybe that’s Jessica Park’s point. Allison didn’t really get the childhood she wanted, and with her walls building, she also took away the emotional growth aspect. So it’s reading childish because she hasn’t emotionally grown yet or isn’t at the level that she should’ve been.

I loved Allison’s and Steffi’s friendship. Steffi was a solid character and had so many more depths to her than Allison. No offense Allison. I wish I could see/read Steffi’s version of events. I feel like it would have been more entertaining and also more heart-wrenching. This friendship was the only reason to keep reading. I didn’t know who was dying until Steffi said she was going on some 3 week cruise for Christmas break. Then I knew. It’s her best friend dying. Steffi. So sad. I wished many things for her. The way she went? Very peaceful. Very much in a room filled with love.

When I figured out it was Steffi who was dying, I also predicted that Allison would blame Espen in some sort of way. It was a reach and irrational to state that because she fell in love with Espen, they took away Steffi. THANK GOD that Simon has a good head on his shoulders to set her straight. Simon was another character I loved. Him as a dad for her? Lovely. I kind of just wish it was some different story where it was Steffi, Simon, and Allison. I would have loved to see all those dynamics.

The book ended predictably. It was a good read. Just not really my cup of tea to give it a five. There was distinct flaws in my opinion to warrant not rating it a 5.

My Star Rating:3 out of 5 Stars

Read From December 14, 2017 to December 18, 2017 (4 Days)

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

***This book review contains spoilers.*** 

As I read this, it really made me ponder how many books I read that are mystery/thrillers and the fact that they’re always set in Europe. Are the best ones just written that way…..or coincidentally, that’s how it turned out?

The concept intrigued me. A friend request from someone from your past that you shouldn’t be receiving. The story was told with alternating timelines. High School Aged Louise vs Grown Up Louise. To be honest, I HOPED…I HOPED that Maria Weston was still alive. It would have been creepy. Technically it still was creepy because we didn’t know she was alive but I still think that would have been a great story. Her need for revenge. What she has been up to all those years? Why she decided to disappear and start over. But it became abundantly clear the more I read the high school timeline that Maria wasn’t capable of revenge. Otherwise, there would have been signs of it earlier. I’m a solid believer that if someone’s going to be all-out crazy and vengeful, they’ll have the type of personality traits that exemplify that which Maria did not have at all. She wouldn’t have just disappeared. She wouldn’t have waited to show herself after 25 years. Nope.

I had a couple of ideas on who it was. And I know Laura Marshall was trying to throw us curve balls in her writing but my position was never swayed. When it comes to mysteries, my first opinion is always going to be the ex husband. The ex husband is/was the killer. It made sense to me. Why? Because he was aware of what Louise did. One of the few. AND IT’S ALWAYS THE EX-HUSBAND. And in a way, I was correct. Sam was the killer. But Bridget…Bridget being “Maria Weston”? That I did not foresee. Ironic really, because I’ve been noticing on all the mystery novels I’ve been reading, it’s always a two person job. So you would think I would assume two people in case. A back-up plan. But no. I did not.

I liked the messages the book had about bullying. The things you do when it comes to peer pressure or the insecurities you feel. I felt bad for Sophie Hannigan. The insecurities glowed throughout. There’s two types of girls with insecurities. The ones who take it out on other people and the ones who take it out on themselves, and Sophie, I am sorry that you couldn’t let them go because I know how hard it is, and I’m sorry for your death, that you were unable to ever get the chance to. I also liked how they touched upon it present day as well bringing in Polly and Phoebe.
“Phoebe’s always been so funny, so sparky, and now it’s like she’s shrinking. She’s fading away, that person she used to be. And of course I knew she would change as she got older, grow way from me, but I thought that the essence of her, what makes her who she is, would still be there. But it’s going; she’s losing it. This girl, she’s taking it away, she’s taking Phoebe away.” 
When Polly mentions this to Louise, it was all too real. It’s true. This stuff happens. It should never be ignored. And I love when books bring it up because it will always be relevant. Bullying is not a generational problem. It’s always going to be a problem. Also talks about how the stuff in high school that’s happened to you, sticks with you. Kindness matters. All I’m saying. No one wants to be remembered as the person who caused misery. Unless you’re really that malicious.

When Sophie Hannigan was found out dead, and Louise was talking to Mr. Jenkins, who else saw the Naomi Strawe/Maria Weston anagram right away? I laughed the minute Mr. Jenkins said who organized the reunion. I’m going to give Louise credit for not realizing it was an anagram at that moment due to the fact she wasn’t reading it like we were. She was being told the name.

Louise was one smart cookie though for a middle-aged divorcee with a 4 year old son. Kudos to her for building a life outside Sam when she found out Sam cheated on her. That was another thing I loved about Laura Marshall’s writing. You really were in the character’s shoes. Even for Sam, I felt a little bit of sympathy for. I’d still send him to jail, but yeah, I had a little, teensy bit of sympathy for him as well.

I was disappointed that nothing came about with Louise and Pete after the whole mess. They had a nice rapport. Who knows if he was married or not.

I also want to point out that the italics I was reading, I always thought it was Louise. It would have been too predictable Maria Weston otherwise. And the more I read realizing Maria Weston was not alive, the more I knew that writing was Louise.

It was a good mystery novel. Entertaining. A nice little break from YA contemporary that I love going back to.

My Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Read From December 8, 2017 to December 14, 2017 (7 Days)