Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying
by Karen M. McManus

Synopsis:
One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
  And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.



(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected publication date:  May 30th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble


My Thoughts:

TRIGGER WARNING: depression, suicide

HOLY MOLEY, SWEET MOTHER OF MILKSHAKE MAKING MURDERERS! I don’t know where to begin, I love everything!

THE CHARACTERS! The book is in a quartet alternating PoV among Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper. I’ve warmed up to Bronwyn almost instantly. I love her spunk and how she tries so hard for even the most mundane of things. Nate has this mysterious air about him that made me read more about him just so to discover what’s his deal. And then Addy surprised me with her transformation from an “airhead homecoming princess turned badass ninja investigator”. And even Cooper whom I thought had a personality of a cardboard became interesting and even turned into a kind of a superhero in the end.

THE FRIENDSHIP! Just like I don’t like insta-love, I also hate insta-friendship. “One of Us Is Lying” is gladly nothing like that. The book showed a dynamic and complex forged connection among the four main characters. Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper are the contradictions of each other’s images. They have no interest whatsoever on becoming friends even the day after the whole Simon incident. How could they, when they are all murder suspects? But then the investigation becomes more and more oppressive that they have no choice but to rely on each other. So they start sitting on the same cafeteria table after their own cliques ditched them. They sneak out on abandoned construction projects and hold “murder club” meetings in order to piece together the puzzle that is Simon’s death. Did they become friends even then? Well, to paraphrase Cooper’s words: they are not exactly friends but not nothing either.

THE ROMANCE! Just like in the iconic John Hughes movies this book is loosely made after, two of the “murder club” members start being attracted to each other. As expected, their romance has a forbidden love element to it and I love how their relationship is so well-developed and made me wish for a happily ever after for them. There are also two romantic sub-plots that are too cute for me not to mention. 

THE SISTERLY LOVE! I am a sucker for books with large helpings of sibling love and let me tell you, the sister affection meter went off the charts with this one. Bronwyn has this feisty younger sister Maeve, whom she is so protective of. Addy has this older sister Ashton, whom supported her through and through with the whole Simon thing. Then there’s this one time when Addy casually invited Bronwyn and Maeve over for a “sisters’ night” and I am like beyond ecstatic with the whole idea of these four girls hanging out! OMG, I can’t get enough! Something came up tho and the sisters’ night did not happen in canon. But in my mind, sisters’ night happened after the book’s timeline and became a regular thing among them.

THE DIVERSITY! The diversity of characters is not just there in order to tick off a box in a checklist. The diversity bears an importance with the story. It also helps, in a way, to move the narrative forward. For example, in Bronwyn’s case, being half-Colombian means avoiding association with Nate because her father hates the Colombian drug cartel related stereotype. And Mikhail Powers being a gay investigative journalist, eventually helped our main characters to sway the public opinion to their favor.

THE DETAILS! The author’s attention to details are just astounding. I cannot think of another contemporary YA that takes notice to the littlest of things such as this book. For example, there are these things that were mentioned just in passing that made the characters real and relatable: Addie checking for her period, dealing with a pimple, and the chore of maintaining a pixie hair cut. Cooper’s Southern accent is also a character nuance that is effectively detailed. When the narrative is in his PoV, his dialogues are mostly straight and un-accented but when the narrative’s PoV is on the other three, Cooper’s accent is visibly accented. And the blurb does not joke when it said pay close attention so you can keep up with solving the murder. Just a hint: take note of the characters’ hair and eye color.

THE WHODUNIT ELEMENT! So as not to give away a lot, let’s just say that I am beside myself guessing who the murderer is. Who among the four main characters is lying?! The ending is just brilliant. It’s not much of a shocker but it is extremely satisfying.

“One of Us Is Lying” is “The Breakfast Club” on steroids!!! If you’re a fan of the iconic movie, this book is that and so much more.


Diversity Watch:
The existence of this part of my review is thoroughly discussed in this post. The formula is basically this: list of characters + explicit race and gender description in the text = overall look of how diverse the book is.

Those with no mention of race and gender beside their names are racially indeterminate and/or gender non specific characters.


  • Bronwyn Rojas – dark ponytail, gray eyes, Colombian father, fourth generation Irish mother
  • Simon Kelleher – blue eyes
  • Nate Macauley – dark haired, dark blue eyes
  • Adelaide “Addy” Prentiss – blond haired
  • Cooper Clay – has a Southern accent,sandy haired,  hazel eyes, Captain America face
  • Luis – one of Cooper’s buddy, darker haired  tanner skin than Cooper
  • Jake Riordan – Addy’s boyfriend, blue eyes, chestnut hair
  • Keely – Cooper’s girlfriend, tawny skin, Swedish dad and Filipino mom
  • Ashton – Addy’s older married sister, blonde
  • Yumiko Mori – Bronwyn’s friend, black haired
  • Maeve – Bronwyn’s constantly sick sister, dark brown hair, amber eyes
  • Kate - Bronwyn’s friend
  • Lucas – Cooper’ 12 yo brother
  • Janae Vargas – Simon’s only friend
  • Luis, Olivia Kendrick, Vanessa Merriman, Tyler, Noah, Sarah
  • Amber
  • Chad Posner – hangs out with Nate sometimes
  • TJ Forrester – cocoa colored skin
  • Leah Jackson – tried to kill herself because of a Simon’s app gossip
  • Aiden Wu – transferred schools because Simon outed his crossdressing
  • Kris – of German descent, green eyes
  • Sam Barron – dark haired, brown eyes
  • Reggie Crawley
  • Evan Neiman 


PARENTS, TEACHERS, OTHER ADULTS

  • Mr. Avery –teacher in charge of detention
  • Ms. Grayson – one of the teachers
  • Mr. Contos – one of the teachers
  • Mrs. Park – Bronwyn’s homeroom teacher
  • Principal Gupta
  • Mr. O’Farell
  • Dr. Resnick
  • Mr. Camino
  • Officer Hank Budapest – sandy haired and freckled
  • Kevin – Cooper’s dad
  • Justin – Addy’s stepdad
  • Josh Langley – athlete scout
  • Officer Lopez – Nate’s probation officer
  • Detective Laura Wheeler
  • Lorna Shaloub – family liason for Bayview School District
  • Detective Chang
  • Detective Mendoza
  • Robin Staffod – Bronwyn’s lawyer, dark skinned
  • Coach Ruffalo – Cooper’s baseball coach
  • Mikhail Powers –gay,  dark skinned, gay
  • Ms Mara- Addy’s science teacher
  • Eli Kleinfelter – curly haired
  • Mary – Cooper’s lawyer


My Rating:
 

Monday, April 24, 2017

How To Buy eBooks from Amazon Without Using a Credit Card via Codashop


I cancelled my credit card centuries ago and alas, last week I was consumed by a deep need to buy eBooks. So I thought that maybe I can use Paypal in Amazon, which turned out is a close to impossible feat because they are somewhat from competing owners? I googled and scoured the internet to no avail. Most search hits that I got advised that I go through a reliable e-giftcard store first then use Paypal as a mode of payment to purchase an Amazon gift card. But most of the e-giftcard stores that I have found accepting Paypal (Gyft, eGifter, Newegg) have territory restrictions. So I gave up clicking next page and re-entered my search adding “Philippines” to the keywords. And that’s how I found Codashop. It does not accept Paypal though but it will do for now.


Full disclosure: I am not affiliated to or paid by Codashop. I just thought that someone like me must be struggling with the same trouble of having no plastic money at the moment. I am actually not familiar with Codashop until now. I did some research a.k.a more googling and found little to no info about it. It looks like gamers are its frequent users. Of course, I was a bit wary throwing money to an unknown online seller but yeah, I am notorious for always acting against my better judgement...so long story short, I tried Codashop and I want to share my experience with using their service here in the blog.

This is what it looks like upon clicking the google search link:




I picked the $10 voucher and the amount of voucher is automatically converted to Philippine peso. Different payment modes have differing conversions and they will highlight the best deals. I chose to pay via Bayad Center because we have a branch nearby. Actually 7-11 is the nearest but P600 is a bit too much. The exchange rate that day was $1=P49.11 so it appears that there is a “service charge” amounting to P38.91. Pretty reasonable, eh?




Next is provide them with your email address where they will deliver the gift card code.



This is the screen that appeared after I check-out.


I immediately received two emails: one from Codashop confirming my purchase and another from Dragonpay which contains the payment instructions. I have dealt with Dragonpay before for my discount voucher purchases (Metrodeal, CashCash, etc.) so no panic there. I placed my order Thursday afternoon, April 20 and the payment instructions gave me a deadline to pay until Saturday, April 22.

I paid the next day and within minutes, I received an email confirming my payment along with the Amazon gift card code. I immediately used it to buy eBooks in Amazon and the code worked! So there you go, Codashop is legit and I’m pretty satisfied with their service. I just hope that they accept Paypal in the future tho.

If you have other ways of purchasing from Amazon without using a credit card, or specifically if you know how to use Paypal money in Amazon, please share with me in the comments.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Love at First Spark: Six de los Reyes (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Today's featured author wrote a very summer-y book. Find out more about Six de los Reyes and discover her nerdy side (YAY, NERDS ARE SEXY!) from my interview below.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “Sounds Like Summer”?
    Like most stories, Sounds Like Summer is a product of my imagination, my fascination and love of music festivals, and my inevitable propensity to write about conversations I’m not invited in. Sounds Like Summer is part of the #SparkNA class mentored by Mina V. Esguerra and sponsored by Spark Anvil. The theme was “Be Brave” Write in striking clarity the truth you’re afraid of. At the time, I was on field with several research associates and one drunken night at the beach, we shared stories about our lab lives and the dark clouds that follow us along. I did not set out to write about depression or touch on mental health. I just wanted to write about the beach and a music festival, but the character of Lux had anchored herself in my mind and I knew I had to write about her and her journey.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I outline! Outlines are very useful. They give me structure and provide a reference point for each part of the story. As for quirks, every book has a “personality”, and some are more demanding than others. Lux and Micah were nicer to me. While they did set me off into a frenzied panic, afraid I’d lose the words before I wrote them down, they didn’t demand to be written at odd hours of the night and they didn’t wake me up after only two hours of sleep. I can’t multitask, so when I write it’s the only thing I need to be doing. Can’t have snacks or drinks—I always forget about them.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    Can I cheat and say instead of meeting with just one character, can I just attend an EDR concert and watch NICO, Rhys, Egosonic, Arabella and everyone else perform live? (with a backstage pass and a meet and greet HAHA!)

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I don’t think about it as “love” at first sight, but I think sometimes you get this feeling, this inkling like how an object gains potential energy, gravitational or elastic, and then it reaches that instantaneous point when force is released and sparks fly, so to speak. I guess in short, it might not be love, but a potential love. 

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    Hi. Would you like to conduct an experiment with me? I can talk nerdy all night.

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    Sorry, was that a spark? Let me review the voltage applied to the current, I can’t seem to resist you.

About Six

Six de los Reyes has been reading and making up stories for as far as she can remember. In fifth
grade, she learned to wield dragons and phoenixes through written word. As a pretend grownup, she writes contemporary romance novellas. Her day job doing science has something to do with being part-time labrat. She currently lives next to the sea.

Other works include Just for the Record and Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions.

Find more about Six: Wattpad | Twitter | Goodreads

About Sounds Like Summer

Synopsis:
It’s not just a weekend for Lux Castelo. She has a plan, of course.

Phase One: Escape to the beach for a music festival.
Phase Two: Deal with what she can’t control.
Phase Three: Return to reality whole and ready.

Nowhere in that plan is Micah Jacinto, self-proclaimed adventurer and the kind of boy with his head stuck in the clouds and the moon inked on his arm—everything her rational sense tells her to stay away from. And yet Lux finds herself welcoming the distraction. As they spend the entire weekend together, Micah leads her to rediscover the lost pieces of herself amidst the excitement and the confusion of a raving mosh pit.

But all weekends come to an end and Lux needs to return to the dreaded reality she’s running away from. Does being brave enough to leave summer behind mean being brave enough to ask Micah to stay?
Series: Summer Storm Book 1
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201013
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 128
Sounds Like Summer is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here: Amazon | Anvil
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