Review: Playing the Player by Lisa Brown Roberts

Playing the Player


The Good Girl Vs. The Player
Round one begins...

Trina Clemons needed the money. Why else would she - the most organized, prepared student in school - spend the summer as a nanny and partner with the biggest slacker ever? Now she's ready to tackle nannyhood with her big binder of research and schedules. Just don't ask her about the secret job of "fixing" the bad habits of a certain high school player...

Slade Edmunds prefers easy hook-ups, and Trina is definitely not his type. She's all structure and rules, while Slade wants to just have fun. Fortunately, Trina has no idea about the bet Slade made with his best friend that he can totally get her to unwind by the end of summer...

Then the weirdest thing happens. There's chemistry. A lot of it. 
But nothing gets between a boy and a girl like a big, fat secret...

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Expected Publication date: September 14, 2015
Source/Format: Review e-copy from the publisher via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon | Barnes &Noble | iTunes | Kobo
Parental Guidance: mild exchange of cuss words

My Thoughts:
The girl is uptight. The boy is laidback. They both think that they are not each other’s type. But then when they are together, the chemistry is inevitable. The girl is in it because of the extra pay. The boy is in it because of a bet. Can a relationship bloom when it’s built on lies? Sounds pretty much all the other romance books that you’ve read already, right? Uhmm, yes... and no.

I consider myself a very hard to please reader of purely romance books. Usually, I would only read romance that goes with elements of fantasy or dystopia or adventure. This is because I started reading romance books at a very young age of nine years old so I thought that by now I am already immune to the charms (a.k.a. the formulaic plot) of a purely swoony feels book. I have never been so wrong. I was surprisingly seduced by this book that I’ve devoured it in one sitting.

Maybe it was because of the unconventional characterization of our protagonists. Trina, although described as a stickler for rules and schedules wears her hair short and wears swimsuits and shorts. Normally, uptight girls in books are stereotyped as long-haired and wears long skirts or long jeans only. Slade is also not your typical brooding YA guy. He is a person who is easy to read. He works to win the love of Trina. There is this one time when he reaches out to Trina’s bestfriend to get more inside info on Trina. He likes country music. And his wingman and bestfriend, Alex, is gay. Talk about a bit of a character diversity here.

Or maybe it was because of the writing style. The book is written in the shifitng point of view of our main characters. So we both get to know how each other’s feelings. Each chapter includes the day the story happens, so you don’t lose track of their schedules. Like for example, MWF's are for nannying duties. And Tuesdays are for Trina’s swim lessons.

Then, maybe it was because of the adorable kids, Gillian and Max, that the two of our protagonists are babysitting. The two kids have well buit-up characters as well. And there seems to be an uncanny mirroring of these two kids with our protagonists. Gillian is free-spirited like Slade and Max is reserved like Trina.

Heck, maybe it was because of the predictability of it all. We all love a good plot twist but sometimes, it’s just satisfying to read something that you’ll be able to foretell what will happen and to see what you foretold unfold on the pages you’re reading.

There may be some nanny trips that are too extreme and I found hard to believe why the kids’ parents agreed to those. There are exchanges of love letters (oh yes!) but I wish the author shared the content of those letters for a more swoony effect. But all in all, the book made my toes curl from start to finish. Read this if you are still miserable from that good mope-y read you've recently finished (like me) and you want to wash it down with some lighthearted romance.

My Rating:

Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

More Happy Than Not

The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto -- miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough. 

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Source/Format: ARC/Won from Dianne of Oops! I Read a Book Again (Check out her review of MHTN here)
Purchase links: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books of Wonder
Parental Guidance: cuss words, drugs, suicide, teenage sex, vandalism, violence

My Thoughts:
Calling all advocates of diverse YA reads for some virtual toast and cheers and happy dance for the success of this Adam Silvera’s debut novel! This book has done some pretty impressive work in representing a poor, gay Latino in YA. Bravo!

I will tell you straight-out, this one deals with some deep, heavy stuff. Lots of thought-provoking questions were swimming my brain while reading. Questions like: What if you are someone but you can’t be that someone because the people around you, the things that happened to you and the circumstances that you are in won’t allow it? What if the people whom you care for and love makes you feel unworthy? How can you find happiness if you’re not happy of who you are? If there’s a way to wipe out the things about yourself that you are ashamed of and makes you unhappy, will you take it? Will you choose blind happiness over an insufferable unhappiness?

All these questions were answered/resolved by the time I turn the last page. I love it when a story comes together like this. For me, the twist and the ending are both perfect. And it goes without saying that I am soaked with all the feels after I finished reading.

Soaked with all the feels.
Photo: Giphy

The book is divided into five parts. I am grateful to authors who put markers on their work by dividing them into parts and putting witty chapter titles. I know it’s mainly our responsibility as readers to figure out the book by ourselves but chapter titles are very helpful in seeing the book in a big picture. For example in MHTN, just by looking on the titles of each part, you can easily tell that this is the main character’s quest for happiness.

For the most part, I can relate to Aaron’s quest for happiness (and him not knowing how to ride a bike 'coz I can't, too). Sometimes, it cannot be helped but to be unhappy because you CANNOT EMBRACE some side of yourself that seems less agreeable with the society. It’s easy to say, “have courage” or “love yourself” but nah, we all know it's not that easy in real life.

Aside from Aaron, a lot of other characters are also relatable. Even Eric, the almost absentee brother. Because sometimes we assume that our loved ones are strong and they don’t need our help. Even Brendan, the ignorant friend. Because sometimes when we care for a person and thinks that they are doing life wrong, we resort to shoving our opinions down their throats unaware that we are harming more than helping. Thomas is my favorite because of the irony that he says the wisest things in the book but he hasn't figure out what he wants with his own life yet. And lastly, my heart bleeds with Genevieve for falling in love with the person who will never love her in return.

I love how the sci-fi vibe is so subtle. The subtlety makes it all too real and believable. At first Aaron even thought that Leteo is a scam until one childhood friend of his has successfully undergone the procedure. Leteo is always just this looming presence until it became Aaron’s only option from his misery. Now you have to read the book to find out what happens between Aaron and Leteo. Check back with me after you read the book, okay? Or if you've already read it, come by the comments section and let's discuss it further, shall we?

For now, let me end this post by sharing with you these two life lessons that Aaron learned (and that I learned as well):
  1. Aaron learned that he should not place the responsibility of his happiness on others. He does not need someone, like a dead father, to teach him how to be happy or how to ride a bike.
  2. Aaron learned that no one is worth compromising his happiness for and it's okay to call it quits with people who hurt him just because they can’t accept him for who he is.

Ahhh, thank you bookish gods for beautiful books with life lessons!

I told you guys, deep, heavy stuff, right? So HAVE COURAGE and LOVE YOURSELF everyone!!!

My Rating:

Review: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten

Two-time Governor General's Award nominee Teresa Toten is back with a compulsively readable new book for teens!

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He's determined to protect and defend her--to play Batman to her Robyn--whatever the cost. But when you're fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it's hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a "normal" relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that's not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam's mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: March 2015 (first published August 27th 2013)
Source/Format: Paperback/Giveaway won from Fay of Bibliophile Soprano (THANKS!)
Purchase links: The Book Depository | Amazon

My Thoughts:

Adam Spencer Ross is a fourteen-year old who believes certain numbers are bad, taps his foot or fingers in certain patterns, and perfectly stacks his Thor comics in order of issue. He has a bad case of OCD and is trying to learn to control it with other kids with the same problem in a support group. He does not take these meetings seriously until one fateful day when Robyn Plummer stepped into the room. Then suddenly, Adam wanted to be a hero. He felt the need to become better in order to save Robyn. He was a boy who has never had a goal before but because of Robyn, he became a man with written goals. 

I picked this book up randomly and before I knew it, I was past halfway through it. It was surprisingly a very engaging and light read for a book dealing with a tough issue (mental disorder/anxiety/OCD). I expected myself to be gloomy under a dark cloud while reading but really I was like this most of the time:

Lots of times the book is cute, swoony and funny. Adam’s observations and thought process are funny. Him falling in love instantly with Robin is funny in a cute way. Him having to perform a ritual before entering doors is funny in a sad way.

I liked this book big time so right after I finished reading, I literally shoved it to my sister because I have to know someone else’s thought of it. Well, it took ages for her to finish (I’m a slow reader and she is way slower) but I am happy to report that she also liked it. I asked her what her favorite parts were and she said she specially liked the romance between Adam and Robyn. Me on the other hand greatly liked the friendship aspect of Adam both with the support group peeps and with Ben Stones, his childhood friend. I love that Adam was both open to make new friends with the people in support group and at the same time he gets to keep his friendship with Stones intact, despite his illness. We both agree that Adam’s little half-brother, Sweetie, is such an adorable addition to Adam’s life. Basically, we just want to wrap these characters in a big burrito and smoosh them all with hugs!
"Everybody lies.Well, hell, maybe everybody has damn good reasons to lie. Maybe we all just lie to hide the hurt or to fake being strong until we can be strong. That's not so bad is it? Is it?"

This is a story of a boy’s struggles of having to grow up, of making new friends and keeping old ones, of dealing with first love, of living with lies and of facing family troubles. Basically, Adam Spencer Ross is a typical teenage boy, except that he is not, because of his OCD. I commend the author for a well-researched work. I think this is a great representation of what teenage mental illness is about. Most of the time their lives are as regular as the next teenager, except when they have to deal with their monsters inside. Read this book if you're in search for a quick YA read with a little something of everything: fluff, family, friendship, faith and heroics.