ARC Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

19547856Title: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Publication date: April 7, 2015

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 320

Source: ARC gifted by author (Thank you, Becky Albertalli!)

Purchase the book: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Fully Booked / National Book Store

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review:

A MUST-READ debut this year, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda explores the issue of sexuality and the idea of “coming out”. It is an LGBT novel that would appeal to YA fans of all ages regardless of gender and sexual orientation. The book brilliantly conveys the essence of bravery that inspires readers to take a leap of faith no matter how frightening it seems. It may be difficult at the beginning, but it’s something you’d be proud to have done. Being true to who you are is the best gift you’ll ever give to yourself. Don’t be afraid to come out to the world. Be the YOU that you want to be and that’s all that matters.

With a captivating and genuine voice, Simon Spier is a one of a kind character who is like an actual friend. Despite the fact that he’s fictional, Simon is the best gay friend I ever had. He’s geeky, witty, smart, ruminative, and easy to identify with! If Simon were a living, breathing person, we’d definitely bond over Classic Oreos, theater, Harry Potter, and golden retrievers! Ahhhhh! I want to hug him so badly! 🙂 The secondary characters—Simon’s family, friends, and cast mates in the stage play he’s part of—are all incredible. Their diverse qualities added extra appeal to the story’s already striking flavor. Also, the portrayal of friendship in Simon is remarkably realistic. Readers would see how characters deal with changes, how they handle misunderstandings, and every single thing that friends go through. Certainly just like in real life!

Coated with the mouth-watering sweetness of Oreo cookies, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has a super adorable, grin inducing, and flail worthy sort of romance. Believe me, you’d be smiling and releasing happy sighs most of the time. Before Simon and Blue met in person, they’ve been communicating through email, both without knowledge of one another’s true identities. Intriguing, right? But what impressed me was how their love story developed over email. They started out very friendly, which was so cute by the way! You know, with both characters exchanging funny stories and stuff about themselves that they’ve never shared to anyone. Their emails were such a delight to read! It was marvelous to witness two people chat and confide in each other comfortably, even if they only have a vague mental picture of whom they are talking to. Oh and the blackmail plot is very engaging. It was actually a great way to set the story in motion! I was hooked from page one!

As time went by, the friendship Simon and Blue built transformed into something deeper, something that involves romantic feelings that would definitely put any reader in a good mood. So if you want to experience all the fluffy, butterflies in your tummy, sparks are flying, walking on sunshine feels, READ THIS BOOK! The highlight of the romance was of course the mystery and suspense of finding out who Blue is. Oh my goodness! I was really keen on discovering his real name and what he looks like! In fact, I had two prospects, yet both of which were not Blue! So the revelation was quite a surprise to me because the person was my least expected one. But for all that, Simon and Blue’s first face-to-face meeting was absolute perfection and pure joy. I was very glad with how things turned out for them!

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda depicts the complex yet amazing teenage experience with utmost ease and authenticity. To me, that’s the core of YA contemporary—being able to reflect reality in a believable way. So two thumbs up for that!

Becky Albertalli’s writing is a breath of fresh air! Reading Simon was like meeting someone very fascinating, thus, harboring a desire to know that person more. Clever and entertaining, Becky’s words glue your eyes onto the page. She brings on the feels that are incredibly natural and oh so wonderful! For sure, Becky is on my list of auto-buy/auto-read/favorite authors. 🙂

An effervescent and uplifting coming of age story, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a spectacular book that fills your heart with the warm glow of infinite bliss.

 

Rating:

5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

Event Recap: E. Lockhart in Manila!

New York Times Bestselling author, E. Lockhart, visited the Philippines this month for two book signing events–one in Manila and another in Cebu. Yesterday was the Manila signing, which I delightfully attended. I loved her books, Fly on the Wall and We Were Liars (5-star review here) so I was really excited to meet the author in person.

Here’s a rundown of what happened at yesterday’s awesome bookish event:

Q&A with E. Lockhart

Q&A with E. Lockhart

Emily answered questions at a special Q&A gathering with book bloggers. She’s a deep thinker, you guys! She would pause to reflect on every question. And what emerged after a moment of rumination were words overflowing with profound wisdom. You may listen to the audio recording of the Q&A here.

We bloggers lined up to have our books signed at the end of the Q&A. When it was my turn, Emily and I chatted a little about writing. I mentioned to her that I’m working on a contemporary YA. “Good for you!” was Emily’s encouraging reply. I requested her to write down an advice for me. On my copy of We Were Liars, she inscribed, “Keep writing.” Although short and sweet, the message meant a lot for an aspiring writer. It is additional motivation to push on with what I love doing the most. ❤

E. Lockhart signing my books! :)

E. Lockhart signing my books! 🙂

Emily has a warm, charming glow about her that enlivened the whole place. You’d want to be around her all the time! 🙂

With the lovely E. Lockhart!

With the lovely E. Lockhart! ❤

E. Lockhart signing books

E. Lockhart with bloggers

PH YA Book Bloggers with E. Lockhart

Aside from meeting Emily in person, I was so happy to see my blogger friends again after a couple of months. Catching up and talking about books with them was a blast! Also, my Hardest Selfie Ever buddies and I were reunited for version 10.0, which happens to be our first selfie for 2015. 🙂

Hardest Selfie Ever 10.0 with Lyra of Defiantly Deviant, Louisse of The Soul Sisters, and Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs

The tradition continues! Hardest Selfie Ever 10.0 with Lyra of Defiantly Deviant, Louisse of The Soul Sisters, and Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs.

Next was the public signing at National Book Store Glorietta 1. Filipino bookworms waited patiently at the venue. Some read to kill time, while others mingled with other bookworms. Don’t you just love it when books and bookish events bring people together? How wonderful!

IMG_2898

Public book signing at National Book Store Glorietta 1

A display of E. Lockhart's books

A display of E. Lockhart’s books

PH bookworms at the book signing event

PH bookworms at the book signing event

Signed books! :)

Signed books! 🙂

Thank you so much Emily for visiting the Philippines! We hope to see you again one day. 🙂 To the ever phenomenal National Book Store, my sincerest gratitude for making #ELockhartinPH possible. I’m looking forward to the next book signing event!

Were you at E. Lockhart’s book signing in Manila or in Cebu? Share your experience on the comment section below!

ARC Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

22429350Title: The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord

Publication date: March 31, 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Pages: 384

Source: ARC from publisher (Thank you, Bloomsbury!)

Purchase the book: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Fully Booked

Synopsis:

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review: 

When news about The Start of Me and You broke out on social media, I was one of the people who longed for it right there and then. At long last, I got a chance to read an ARC. Let me tell you this: its magnificence is twice the level of author Emery Lord’s debut, Open Road Summer. Need more convincing? Read on until you crave for the book like ice cream on a hot summer day.

A heartwarming novel of friendship, family, love, and second chances, The Start of Me and You is simply unforgettable. It’s a story that takes your breath away in a matter of minutes. In my case, I knew it was going to be an instant favorite at the end of Chapter 1. It’s that amazing! I admire how The Start of Me and You is about being brave to step out of your comfort zone. Putting one’s self out there is indeed scary. But this book instills courage in readers. It conveys the message that trying new things help you see the beauty of possibilities and new beginnings. Moreover, The Start of Me and You presents inspiring points on living again and finding happiness. I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading, deeply moved by the final scene that shines with the promise of a bright tomorrow. The Start of Me and You is truly a YA contemporary I’d fall in love with over and over again! Notable details include the cool pop culture references and the authenticity of the main character’s relationship with her family and friends. For me, those two elements brought out the extraordinary spark of the story.

Main character Paige Hancock revitalizes the existence of geeky, inward-looking characters in YA. Paige’s words express the most genuine of emotions that would certainly resonate with readers. Her character started off wounded by her past but as Paige opened herself to a second chance at a normal life, she began to move forward. It wasn’t easy at first yet Paige was determined to get up after her bad fall. I saw pieces of myself in Paige, a character that echoes the voice of my soul. This is why The Start of Me and You will forever live in me.

Then there’s Max Watson. Oh. My. Goodness! In all his adorable, geeky glory, Max Watson has my heart. He is always there for Paige. He listens to everything she says like the good friend that he is. I really loved that Max helped Paige overcome her fear (you’ll find out when you read TSOMAY!) as well as motivated her to move forward. You know, every girl needs a guy like Max in her life. It’s wonderful to have someone who believes in you, sees the real you, and most especially, loves you for who you are.

As Paige and Max got to know each other, their chemistry intensified. Their connection would make you glow with bliss, like you’ve seen the sun for the first time. The relationship unraveled the way you wrap a gift—slowly, carefully, and tied securely with a ribbon. Special, don’t you think? 🙂 It’s a warm, tender type of romance that gives you lots of happy and swoony feels! ❤ There’s an undeniable sweetness about stories in which friendship is the foundation of a romantic entanglement. Because both people are comfortable in each other’s company, they are their real selves. They are not hesitant to speak their mind and share secrets. To me, that’s a great thing because the relationship seems natural.

Emery Lord’s writing is gorgeous! Moving at a graceful rhythm, her words will carry you along in the most beautiful, sweep-you-off-your-feet dance of extraordinary feels. 🙂

An outstanding second novel from a talented author, The Start of Me and You is pure heart and soul and the best kind of perfect.

 

Rating:

5/5 stars

 

 

ARC Review: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

22504702Title: The Wrong Side of Right

Author: Jenn Marie Thorne

Publication date: March 17, 2015

Publisher: Dial

Pages: 400

Source: ARC gifted by the author (Thank you, Jenn Marie Thorne!)

Purchase the book: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Fully Booked / National Book Store

Synopsis:

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of Aaron Sorkin.

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review:

2015 is, without question, a year filled with promising YA contemporary titles. A lot caught my attention yet only a few are on my highly anticipated list. Debut novel The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne is one of them. I LOVED it! ❤ ❤ ❤ Now here are reasons why the book MUST be on your TBR pile:

The Wrong Side of Right explores self-discovery, family, first love, and the world of politics in a way that holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. It has a rich, absorbing force that accentuates the skillfully executed plot. Brimming with sincerity, wit, and utmost authenticity, The Wrong Side of Right contains the ingredients of a stunning YA novel. Although the story is built in a political setting, it does not focus on that angle alone. The family and romance aspects are marvelously sewn into the plot, resulting in a balanced story. The Wrong Side of Right gives readers an exclusive look at the behind the scenes action of a presidential campaign. Fascinating, realistic, and enlightening! Also, the unpredictability of the story is noteworthy. To tell you the truth, I did not see what’s coming next! The surprising twists make the book a compelling masterpiece. For a debut, The Wrong Side of Right shows great potential to be a well-loved contemporary in the YA community.

Author Jenn Marie Thorne created a set of dynamic characters that are distinct from one another. Main character Kate Quinn is a smart, sensible, and kind girl. She values her family and friends. She fights for what is right. Kate is one of the most reflective characters I’ve ever encountered in YA. She is quite something! Her character transformation is admirable and inspiring.

Next is Andy Lawrence, the president’s son. With his gorgeous looks, irresistible charm, and swoon-worthy moves, who wouldn’t be smitten with him? Andy is perceived as rebellious but I don’t see him that way. To me, he is a normal teenager who just likes to have fun. Andy sees the real Kate, not “publicity” Kate (you’ll understand when you read TWSOR). I love him for that! He knows what Kate is going through because he experiences it too. It’s amazing that they have each other in spite of how intricate and forbidden their connection is. Secondary characters like Senator Cooper, Meg, Gracie, Gabe, Penny, and even the Cooper campaign team infused diverse flavors into the story through their individual personalities.

I would describe the romance in The Wrong Side of Right as a delightful, unforgettable sensation of first love. It is not rushed at all, that’s why I adore everything about it. Although Kate and Andy are situated in complicated positions, the two, being children of respected politicians, their relationship unfurled naturally. It’s the same way two strangers get to know each other, become really good friends, and after some time, romantic feelings flourish between them. As Kate and Andy’s friendship evolve into something more, readers would witness their indisputable romantic chemistry. Their spark jumps off the page and into your heart, charging it with swoony, jovial feels. Believe me, guys. Kate and Andy’s relationship would light you up in a flash! I didn’t realize I was smiling until my cheeks hurt. I’m not kidding! Their interactions are extremely adorable. #TeamKandy forever! 🙂

Jenn Marie Thorne’s writing is a lovely combination of creativity and heart. Vibrant and clever, her words breathe like a living creature, emanating a fresh, polished tone that echoes the unfeigned reality of life. The dialogues, which are remarkably sharp, are genuine in every sense of the word. Moreover, the vivid descriptions are works of art—you’d want to plunge into the story and live in it. Jenn Marie Thorne is indeed an author to watch! I’m an instant fan! Added her to my list of favorite authors. 🙂

Bursting with the brightest intensity of awesomeness, The Wrong Side of Right is an extraordinary debut novel that warms the heart in every beautiful way.

 

Rating:

5/5 stars