Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Little Monsters
by Kara Thomas

For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected Publication date:  July 25th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble | Indiebound

My Thoughts:

“Little Monsters” is narrated by seventeen-year old Kacey Young. She transferred from the city to a small town in Wisconsin on her junior year in high school. She had since then been close with Bailey and Jade. In the beginning of the book, Kacey’s two friends are picking her up for their usual end-of-the-week night escapades. This time they are planning to perform a seancĂ© in an abandoned barn where a ghost called the Red Woman is said to be lurking around. Just when they are about to sneak out though, Kacey’s sweet younger half-sister Lauren saw them and tagged along. After that night of botched seancĂ©, Kacey thought that everything is still okay among the three of them. To her surprise though the two girls decided to ditch her for a party they all agreed on going to. And worse, Bailey went missing after she left that party and everyone in town starts eyeing Kacey for answers.

The book got me hooked a few pages in. It started with a paranormal vibe stemming from a small-town ghost story. I honestly got the chills in some parts that I did a quick check if I am reading a paranormal YA book. I thought that it’s interesting to have something spooky as a springboard for a mystery thriller. The idea is to have the creeps for the spirits of the dead wear off slowly and replace it with a shattering disbelief on how living little girls can become monsters. The appeal of the theory did not translate well in this book though. The transition from paranormal to mystery thriller is rather clunky.

I partially blame it on the choice of Kacey as a narrator. Do not get me wrong, I like her character just fine. I can relate to how easily she accepted the first offer of friendship that came her way as a transferee student. I can imagine how hard she had tried to reinvent her reputation in her new family and new school. I am beside her when all of those efforts seem pointless because after Bailey’s disappearance, everyone, even people who matter to her, starts becoming a stranger in her eyes. In the end, she will always feel that she’s an outsider. Kacey’s situations are worthy of sympathy from the reader but my problem with her is in the context of the book she is in. She does not possess the shade and nuance that is essential in being the main source of narration of a mystery thriller. Although she was called in the police station a number of times for questioning, she lacks the sinister of being a full-blown suspect. As for the paranormal stuff going on in the book, she does not believe any of it in the first place so eventually the reader will also not take it seriously.

The book’s soft jabs at being suspenseful are interspersed with hit punches in the form of Bailey’s journal entries. Through her writings scattered in-between some chapters, we discover bit by bit this obsession building up inside her. Her character is wrought with intriguing psyche that will send the littlest hair of the reader stand on its end. I would love more of these ominous feels from the book but they were few and far between. When the final reveal came, I did not feel anything. It sort of just passed by me and I thought the book did not quite earn that dark ending. (I love dark endings, BTW!) I guess what the reader eventually needs is more vantage points for all those monstrous things that happened to seep through. Maybe something that will flesh out the other characters as well. I would have liked to know more about Jade who obviously has the least dimension among the three friends. And Lauren’s view on things would be quite valuable too because of her naivety. Plus she seems to really believe in ghosts and evil spirits.

“Little Monsters” is not entirely bad. I enjoyed a few things but also found a few things lacking. The characters are believable but some could use more spotlight. When measured up with the recent popular works of mystery thrillers, the book came a bit underwhelming. Okay just for context, this opinion is coming from someone who was amazed by “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train”. Although the target readers/main characters for those are adults, I see no reason why I cannot compare it with something for young adults. Without the scrutiny of that comparison however, I think this book decently showcased how people are effortlessly manipulated and threatened because of our fear of being friendless and alone. Read this if you seek a chilling thrill on the lengths that young girls will agree to do just to gain approval from their peers.

Diversity Watch:
Kacey, Bailey and Jade are all white. Kacey’s stepbrother, Andrew, is half-Korean. The characters in the periphery are pretty much diverse. Mr. White, an art teacher wears dreadlocks and has brown eyes so I’m assuming he is black. One of the two nameless men mentioned talking about Bailey’s case is black. Other (I am also assuming this based on their surnames) characters who might be Asian are Mike Lin, one of Kacey’s classmates in art class and Mrs. Lao, an elderly neighbor.

A social worker named Dawn is lesbian and has a girlfriend.

My Rating:


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Hello and thanks for joining me on my stop for the PH Blog Tour of WHAT TO SAY NEXT by Julie Buxbaum, hosted by Fay of Bibliophile Soprano. Click the banner above to follow the tour along. We have an ongoing giveaway for three finished copies of the book, open to PH readers, so make sure to keep an eye for that, too.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date:  July 11th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Book Depository

My Thoughts:

I whizzed through the pages of “What to Say Next” and that’s a rare feat for a slow and easily distracted reader as myself. There is only one explanation for this: Julie Buxbaum has done it again. And by “it”, what I mean is that this author has conjured and charmed a yet another great contemporary YA worthy of praises and accolades as her debut, “Tell Me Three Things”. (Maybe Julie is a witch, a good witch.) Not only has she shown her mastery of exploring the intricate dimensions of grief from losing a parent at a young age, she also has a way of creating unforgettable characters.

David is a beautiful boy with a beautiful mind. Although he is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, he resists to confine himself inside the lines drawn by any label. He gets confused with the “normal” world and gets into trouble in lots of situations though, so he keeps this special social navigation notebook with him at all times. It has an index of names of his classmates with extensive descriptions (because he easily forgets faces), a Trust and Don’t Trust List, a Rules section (Do not engage with people on the DNT list.), a list of idioms, etc. He is funny in a pure and candid way but people do not understand him so he always sits alone at lunch.

That’s until Kit decided to ditch her usual lunch table crowd and sit with David. On that fateful day, Kit cannot be bothered to be her old cheerful self. Her world just imploded with the sudden death of his dad from a car accident. People have been tiptoeing on eggshells around her saying incomprehensible death babble like “everything happens for a reason”. She figured that David does not talk much and is the best company for sitting tight and silent. But David talked and said the exact same thing that she is thinking: her dad’s death is really unfair.

So one day of sitting together at lunch became two, then three, and more. Soon they became each other’s sort of confidant. A wonderful friendship blossomed between them.

And the readers are treated with the pleasures of an adorably awkward connection.

But David has to deal with some people in the Do Not Trust List, a.k.a. the meanie bullies.

And Kit has some unresolved issues with her mom. Issues that came crashing after her dad’s car accident.

Will Kit stand by David’s side against the DNT List people even if some of them were in her social circle? Can David help Kit get over her angsty grief or will he mess things up because of his lacking social skills?

These questions are answered best if you will read them yourself. Let me give you a hint, though. I have this face upon reaching the last page of the book.

I had fun meeting both David and Kit and I cannot wait to get the chance to re-read the book again. I guess the core magic of Julie Buxbaum’s books is that they compel you to reading them repeatedly with her effortlessly lovable characters. They have this light and easy air for such characters dealing with deep and heavy stuff, but no, these characters are not cartoonish. What these characters have is balance and believability. They felt real and they invoked feelings from me. In “What to Say Next” David and Kit made me feel that although friendships and relationships are hard, they are not that complicated. Conversations can be easy. You don’t have to impress and overthink what to say next. Just listen to what the other person is saying and be your honest self with your replies.

Diversity Watch:

Kit’s dad is white and her mom is first generation Indian American. Her grandparents moved back in Delhi and they visit them every other year. Though American-born, Kit’s mom raised her so she will not forget her Indian roots.

David’s guitar tutor, Trey, is a quarter Chinese, a quarter Indian, and half African American.

Kit’s mom, who is an advertising executive, spearheaded a campaign ad featuring biracial gay dads.

One girl from the Academic League decathlon team, Chloe, whom David described as may be the second prettiest girl in school is in wheelchair.

Another student from the decathlon team is Asian.

My Rating:


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Blast + Giveaway: This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

Paula Stokes is giving away a copy of her newest contemporary novel, THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED, a story that Kirkus Reviews called “a sobering exploration of absolution.”

Find out more about the book, check out the link of the first four chapters and don't forget to join the giveaway!

Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened.

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging. 

Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by HarperTeen

Enter to win a finished copy of THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED by filling out the Rafflecopter below. The comment question is about the best book you’ve read in 2017, so don’t be shy—share the love :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Paula is also giving away a second finished copy of This is How it Happened with this book blast on Instagram. Check her home feed (@pstokesbooks) for another chance to win. Both contests are international. Both contests end on July 7, 2017.
Want a sneak peek? You can read the first four chapters of the book on Paula’s website here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crowley

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date:  June 6th 2017 (first published August 30th 2016)
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon Barnes&Noble

My Thoughts:

“Words in Deep Blue” is not much about whether Rachel and Henry belong to each other even after years of distance and falling out. The book never puts a doubt to the answer to that. The two of them were close since childhood, bestfriends in fact. Right from the first page we see Rachel’s three-year old love letter to Henry. Rachel’s been away but in the first chapter, she’s about to go back to her childhood town. Then the next chapter began with Henry’s girlfriend, Amy, breaking up with him. It’s perfect timing. The stars have aligned for Rachel and Henry to be together again.

One of the book’s pleasure comes with discovering how Rachel and Henry would finally catch on with their real feelings for each other. The book is in first person dual points of view, alternating between Rachel’s and Henry’s narration. Some same scenes in this book are seen from both their eyes, like when Henry confronted Rachel about her love letter. It’s a nice touch how the same sequences differ depending on who is telling them. The twist and turns of their love story involves the making up of their friendship, comforting each other’s grief and heartbreak, saving Henry from the bullies, an exchange of letters, saving a bookshop from being sold out and a handful of lovable supporting characters.

I love the Joneses, Henry’s family, warmth, complications and all. I want to sit with them in one of their traditional Friday family dinner solely dedicated to dumplings and book discussions. I want to visit and shop at the Howling Books, a secondhand bookstore owned by Henry’s parents. I am partial of course to Henry’s dad, Michael, and his sentimentality towards the bookstore and his favorite book, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. But I also understand Henry’s mom, Sophie, who argues for the practical side of things.  Henry’s younger sister, George, is the source of a few laughs with her snarky comments to Henry’s misery. Plus they have a bookshop cat named after an author, Ray Bradbury! You might already know that I want to be a bookshop cat or a library cat in my next life so yeah, I think I’ve seen a glimpse of my good life ahead, slinking through books and people thru Ray Bradbury. I love Rachel’s and Henry’s third bestfriend, Lola, who makes her own music with bandmate, Hiroko. I love Howling Books’ patrons, especially the sage septuagenarian Frederick. And oddly enough, my favorite character of all is Cal, Rachel’s dead brother. Cal is not just someone mentioned in passing for Rachel to mourn for. He felt so real to me. I got to know him so well – his interest on time theories, his favorite things, his letters, his hopes and dreams for the future – that I can’t help but feel for Rachel’s loss.

“Words in Deep Blue” heavily referenced a lot of books and authors. It covered a wide spectrum of genre from classics to contemporary YA, from John Steinbeck to John Green. I am honestly not familiar with every literary citations but I mildly obsessed about the idea of maybe checking them out later that I took notes and made a list of all the books mentioned in the book. The plot is not that extraordinary but the writing is exquisite. There’s this beautiful mental picture that Rachel thought while lying on the floor next to Henry holding a book over their heads: “The words could rain on us, I think. I have a strange image of us drinking them.” There are many mentions of the color blue all throughout: the blue velvet couch in Howling Books’s fiction section, bluestone walls of the reading garden, Frederick’s deep-blue ties, Rachel’s 1990 dark blue Volvo, George’s dark hair with a blue stripe running down on one side, Rachel’s blue bathing suit, Rachel’s blue eyes, and even Amy wore a blue dress on one occasion. Blue, being the color of sadness maybe? I will not dwell much on the significance of the imagery but still, nice mental pictures. Sandwiched between each chapter are notes and letters in the Letter Library. These extra parts added a whole lot of charm and character to the book. The Letter Library is a special section of Howling Books, where customers are allowed to circle words and highlight the lines that they love. They may write notes in the margins or leave letters between the pages of the books. Patrons may write to anyone (to authors, to their ex-lovers, to strangers) and anyone can also write back.

“Words in Deep Blue” will surely make a bookworm’s heart flutter. The book puts the written words as the central figure that has a great effect on its characters. One character, Frederick, said that books, words, music, and art are lights that reappear in a broken universe. When we come to think of it, these things are artificial. Man-made. Words are only strings of letters. Words are mundane, we use them everyday. They are just that, words. But most times when put together, they become stories or poems or songs. They become magic that conjures feelings and inspirations. They can hurt, but more importantly, can also heal and give us hope. And when written, as Rachel observed, they’ll always exist. With these thoughts in mind, I suddenly feel that we owe a lot of gratitude to all the people who put themselves out there and write. It’s thanks to their writings that words get to be shared or spoken or sung, again and again, across generations, to people who might need it the most at the moment. This is what exactly makes “Words in Deep Blue” beautiful. It’s a book about books and more. It’s a sort of tribute to written words: with all the books in Howling Boooks, to Henry’s favorite poems he recites to Rachel and to the lyrics of Lola’s and Hiroko’s songs.

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.
  • Rachel Sweetie – soft dust of freckles, blond that she later bleached, looks like Audrey Hepburn if she’s a surfer
  • Henry Jones – racially indeterminate
  • Cal – Rachel’s brother. Tall, skinny guy with a cloud of brown hair
  • Rose – Rachel’s and Cal’s aunt
  • Tim Hooper  – Cal’s friend in school
  • Amy – long red hair, grren eyes, fair skin
  • Aaliyah – Amy’s friend
  • Ewan – Amy’s ex
  • Lola – Rachel’s and Henry’s third bestfriend, openly gay, short and curvy, long brown hair and olive skin
  • Hiroko – Lola’s bandmate
  • George Jones – (17yo) Henry’s sister long straight black hair w/ a blue stripe down the left side
  • Frank – owner of bakery next door
  • Frederick – 70-yr old customer of Howling Books
  • Frieda – another customer, plays Scrabble w/ Frederick
  • Al, James, Aaron, Inez, Jett – Howling Books customers
  • Gus – Rachel’s grief counselor
  • Joel Winter – Rachel’s ex-boyfriend
  • Greg Smith – resident idiot in Henry’s life, supernaturally white teeth, perfect hair
  • Mai Li – her family owns Shainghai Dumplings, where the Joneses hold their Friday nights family dinner tradition
  • Stacy – George’s classmate who is giving her a hard time at school
  • Katia – Henry’s classmate whom he is tutoring in English
  • Emily, Aziza, and Beth – classmates of Rachel and Henry
  • Sophia and Michael – Henry’s parents
  • Martin Gamble – another part-timer in Howling Books
  • Justin – some guy who threw a party at his house
  • Ray Bradbury – Howling Books’ resident cat
  • Woof – Cal’s black Labrador dog

My Rating:


Monday, May 1, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (STS #8)

Image: Kaboompics

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's all about sharing the books added to our shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

Heya! It's been a while since I posted a book haul. Today I share my new eBooks I have obtained from the last few weeks. As I've shared in this post, I recently discovered a way to purchase from Amazon without using a credit card and we all know where that would lead, right? Yes, you guessed it right: adding more books to my TBR.

Also, I won an eBook from the Facebook Launch Party for Promdi Heart, an anthology of Filipino hometown love stories. And downloaded a freebie book from Ines Bautista-Yao.

So see below all my shiny new digital acquisitions! Cover images are linked to Goodreaads.









Ahaha, I am extremely pleased with my haul. What about you, fellow book wanderers? Any new books acquired lately? Share it with me in the comments section. Or link me up to your book haul post, I'd like to go and see your new books. :)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Love at First Sight: Chi Yu Rodriguez (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, author Chi Yu Rodriguez is behind the wheel of this blog. Enjoy the ride as she talks about her new book, "The Art of Shifting Gears".

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “The Art of Shifting Gears”?
    It was actually an old story... fan fiction, specifically. I wrote it I think in 2008 but I never got past 2 chapters. When SparkNA came around, it was the first story that came to mind. So I decided to write it again. That being said, it's turned into something completely different. What inspired this version of that little story I started years ago was SparkNA's required theme: "Be brave." It turned into something extremely personal. Though not a mirror image of actual events, what Rae goes through is a reflection of the same feelings I felt  when I was in college and trying to survive life.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I have a very stressful writing process. At least I think people will probably find it stressful? Because most people I know write in increments... 500 words today, another 500 tomorrow, maybe 300 after that or a thousand, something like that. But in my case I write in bulk. For example, I wrote The Art of Shifting Gears mostly in Starbucks. I set aside one day in the weekend when I would arrive at Starbucks at 8am, set up shop at my favorite table, and go home at 8pm or sometimes even 9pm if my muses are feeling particularly loud. I bust out 3000-7000 words per I go through two orders of coffee every single time (with some tv series or movies in between to give myself time to breathe). I take down two orders of coffee, and maybe some cake too if I'm proud of myself. I did that weekend, after weekend, after weekend until a few days before final manuscript submissions.

  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?
    I'll just pick one from The Art of Shifting Gears too because I've actually thought about this a lot...

    I would've wanted to talk to Rae after her parents died and they moved to Pampanga. I would've tried to talk her out of shutting her friends out of her life completely. Though she dealt with the blows the way she thought would be best for her, I as a friend would've tried to tell her that she didn't have to leave her life behind too along with the city.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    Love at first sight, no. The seed of love being planted after meeting a person for the first time... yes.

    I just think that love itself is not something you can quantify, and especially not with a single glance. Love, as most of us know it, takes time to become real I think. Yes? No?

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    I am single and have been single for the better part of three decades... that should explain why I have absolutely no answer to this question. :p

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    All it takes is a little spark to start a raging fire.

About Chi Yu

Chi Yu Rodriguez has many feelings. Sometimes these feelings find their way to paper in the form of short stories and fiction online. Sometimes they don't come out at all and end up as unresolved sexual tension or terrible internal angst.

She prefers making imaginary people go through these feelings for her pleasure. Her muses hate her for it, and they repay her by being forever fickle.

She wrestles with them in her head everyday.

Find more about Chi Yu: Blog | WattpadTwitter | Goodreads

About The Art of Shifting Gears

Rae de los Santos was en route to a perfect adult life. She knew what to major in, she knew what career path she was going to pursue, and she knew who she was going to be with all the way to the realization of her dreams—until her seamless journey made a turn for the unimaginable and skidded to a stop.

All of a sudden she was facing every roadblock possible, and the people she held dear ended up running over her heart.

For a year, she distracted herself with hot lead and burnt rubber, using karting as a lifeline until she was strong enough to face the world that shunned her.

But during Rae’s junior year in college, she was again blindsided by signs that weren’t supposed to be there. Will Rae go full speed ahead? Or will the seduction of the past slow her down?

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201037
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 120
The Art of Shifting Gears is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here: Amazon | Anvil

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Love at First Spark: Farrah F. Polestico (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.

I am back at it again with bringing you another interview, this time with "First to Fall" author, Farrah F. Polestico.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “First to Fall”?
    Inspiration for me isn’t just one thing. I get inspiration from everywhere-- movies, music, TV, even on social media. For First to Fall, my biggest inspiration would be the movie 500 Days of Summer. But I’ll be honest, most of my (yet to be published) books are inspired by that movie. I really like that movie. Another inspiration for me was the song Dark Paradise by Lana del Rey. Also, it’s no secret that I really want to visit New York someday, and that city plays a huge part in the story.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I research everything from recipes of food my characters eat to how long they have to commute from one place to another. Research is my favorite part of writing. My least favorite would be revising and editing. I can no longer count how many finished first drafts I have. I’m going to publish them all someday but they need a lot of polishing.

    I have a list of plot bunnies in my notebook so whenever I’m about to start writing another book I just choose whatever plot bunny I like and start fleshing it out. I’m also a huge believer of the outline. Outlining is life! But I also leave room for improvisation when I write. If someone would ask me whether I am a pantser or a planner, I’d answer I’m a pantser! Haha

  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?
    It would have to be Zang. He’s one of Georgie and Atkins’ co-workers. He’s loud and sociable and an all-around extrovert. *whispers* He’s getting his own book soon too! I feel like our sense of humor is so in sync. If I ever get the chance to come face to face with him, we’d probably just talk about the most mundane things. I’d say something funny and he’d say something witty and we’d probably look like loons laughing and giggling.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I do believe in attraction at first sight. Especially physical attraction if the person is really good looking. I’ve personally felt that. I totally get that kilig feeling when you spot someone cute.

    But love is a commitment. It’s a choice. I don’t think you can just know if it’s love the first time you see someone. Attraction, definitely. But love, probably not.

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    I’m not good with banator pick-up line but I saw something on the internet that’s pretty funny. It goes like this: My love for you is like diarrhea, I can’t hold it in.

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    I’m so bad at this I Googled “use spark in a sentence.” Oops. But okay here it goes.

    Their eyes met and sparks flew instantly.

About Farrah

Farrah F. Polestico wanted to be a lot of things in life— an engineer, a nurse, an astrophysicist. But it wasn’t until she was thirteen when she knew she was going to be a published writer. When she’s not up all night writing her next book, you can find her reading anything and everything from a Charles Dickens novel to old grocery receipts.

Find more about Farrah: Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

About First to Fall

Georgina Harrington knew right from the start that she and Matt Bishop were meant for each other. He was The One. Or so she thought, until she caught him making out with his co-worker—in their sofa! Now Georgie has to face the music and start packing her things and look for a new apartment, because she can’t bear to stay in the same roof with a cheating bastard.

And then, the newly hired software developer, Atkins Rosenfeld, came strolling into the firm where she works. He had everything a woman would want from a man—angular jaw, day-old stubble, long lashes. What’s not to like? She can’t deny her attraction to him but is she ready to jump into a new relationship after her last one ended so disastrously?

Meanwhile, Matt comes crawling back to her. Will she forgive him? Was five years of being together that easy to toss to the curb?

Georgie is terrified to entrust her heart to someone again after Matt cheated on her. But deep down she knows she loves Atkins. Just when everything is falling into place, Atkins screws up big time and breaks her heart all over again. Will Georgie and Atkins be able to fix it before she finally throws down the towel and turn her back on love? 

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201129
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 124
First to Fall is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

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

One of Us Is Lying
by Karen M. McManus

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 


  • 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 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.

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