Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon // Book Review

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon // Book Review

I’m such a huge fan of Nicola Yoon. I’ve read and own every book she’s written because she’s just fantastic in her way of writing diverse romance stories. I knew this was going to be a stunner just like her others, but I didn’t think it would be my favorite from her so far. Let’s get into it.

Here’s more about Instructions for Dancing

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

My Thoughts

This was an absolute delight and I truly loved reading this one.

Evie was one of my favorite characters by Nicola Yoon. I loved that she has this clairvoyant gift for a while that lets her see the outcome of any relationship. It was a funny coincidence especially when Evie was so convinced love didn’t exist. I even worried about some of the relationships she saw into because I had already fallen in love with the other characters in the story. Evie was complex, going through some difficult feelings, and dealing with it on her own. Her mother wouldn’t talk about it. Her sister refused to recognize it. It’s so hard to be that person with no outlets to discuss your emotions in seeing something serious like your own father cheating on your mother.

I’m not surprised by her reaction. In fact, I would feel the exact same way and what I thought was interesting is that this book tackles a big lesson we all eventually learn; that our parents aren’t superheroes. It’s a rough lesson, for sure, and Evie handled it to the best of her ability.

Evie and X’s relationship was also adorable. I loved that X is new to LA and Evie shows him around to all her favorite spots (except the celebrity tours). It felt natural to me and when Evie says that X fell into her group as if he was always there, I totally believed it. I also loved how they motivated each other. Evie was hesitant to go to her father’s wedding. X didn’t want to finish high school. And they both encouraged each other to do things that they already marked in their heads they didn’t want to do. That’s the kind of relationships I love seeing; more than the romance it’s about encouraging each other to climb a pretty steep hill and being open to accept that encouragement.

I will say the ending was surprising. I knew with Evie’s powers there would be some heartbreak in her future, but the heartbreak was even more unbearable than I imagined. Ooph.

Overall, this was such a slump buster. I’m so glad I picked it up when I did and the book will have you laughing and crying at the same time.

Thanks Get Underlined for a gifted copy of the book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

If You, Then Me by Yvonne Woon // Book Review

If You, Then Me by Yvonne Woon // Book Review

Every once in a while I come across a fun and interesting YA contemporary that pulls me in. This was one of them and I’m so glad to have read and enjoyed it.

Here’s more about If You, Then Me

What would you ask your future self? First question: What does it feel like to kiss someone?

Xia is stuck in a lonely, boring loop. Her only escapes are Wiser, an artificial intelligence app she designed to answer questions like her future self, and a mysterious online crush she knows only as ObjectPermanence.

And then one day Xia enrolls at the Foundry, an app incubator for tech prodigies in Silicon Valley.

Suddenly, anything is possible. Flirting with Mast, a classmate also working on AI, leads to a date. Speaking up generates a vindictive nemesis intent on publicly humiliating her. And running into Mitzy Erst, Foundry alumna and Xia’s idol, could give Xia all the answers.

And then Xia receives a shocking message from ObjectPermanence: He is at the Foundry, too. Xia is torn between Mast and ObjectPermanence—just as Mitzy pushes her towards a shiny new future. Xia doesn’t have to ask Wiser to know: The right choice could transform her into the future self of her dreams, but the wrong one could destroy her.

My Thoughts

Having a programming husband, I know way more than I need to about coding and the tech world. However, this book presented me with a completely different aspect; the business side. It was interesting to see how tech looks at these young folks and their apps. There was a bit of snobbery with some of the ideas the kids had while other kids were trying to save the world with their apps. I also thought it was interesting to see who got bought and who got funding. I don’t know much about those parts, but it was fun to read about.

Xia was the definition of naive young person. The story followed her more than had a plot that moved forward. Her actions leading her character development felt spot on and her blown up ego at the end made so much sense to me. Although, it did surprise me when the book finally got to the final showcase and everyone was already prepared.

I also really liked her removal from both the tech world (growing up outside of Boston) and from the kinds of privilege and luxury the other kids. She got herself into a lot of messes. At one point, I kind of felt bad for her. A lot of the situations she found herself in were very adult for someone just sixteen to be in. I don’t think it was wild that she went off to California on her own (as someone who’s traveled across the world at 15, I know that that level of responsibility is possible for someone that age), but the situations she found herself in were so much more than even I want to find myself in. Because as an adult, you can read her situations and can determine right off the bat that something feels scammy or someone’s out to get you behind your back, but as a kid, you don’t know better. This is all new to you and with that newness comes a level of naivety that you don’t develop until you’ve experienced it.

The situations Xia found herself were rough and with each new experience, it felt like it got worse and worse for her. At one point, I just wanted to give her a big old hug and pull her away from everything. I wanted to save her from what she was going through, but at the same time I understand how important it is to experience these things first hand. That’s how you grow and learn.

The characters were great. I thought it was an interesting mix including folks who were super rich and privileged and other folks who didn’t have all the luxuries in the world. There was a lot of backstabbing, envy and jealousy, and petty arguments as well given that they’re teenagers who were living in boarding school together. It made for some interesting dynamics that played so well throughout the story. I loved Amina, Xia’s best friend. She was so confident in knowing who she was, which was just a nerdy tech girl feeling a bit lost in the whole game of things. She provided such good advice and insight that Xia desperately needed (and desperately avoided).

The only issue I had was that there were a few storylines that were dropped towards the end. I wanted to know what happened to Mitzy and I wondered what the kids were doing after they finished their year at the foundry. Also, it felt like Mast dropped off right in the middle of the story and aside from a few glances his way, he didn’t have a big part in the story. It made the ending feel a bit weird. It’s not a big deal, but something I noticed while I was finishing up the book.

I also loved the whole You’ve Got Mail vibe going with Xia and her mysterious online friend, ObjectPermanence. I tried to guess who it was (and came out wrong), but pleasantly surprised to find out who it was in the end.

Overall, this was a fun story that followed a young person through some heavy trials and tribulations. I really loved getting to know Xia throughout.

I received a copy of this book from the author. My opinion hasn’t been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord // Book Review

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord // Book Review

This book was Gossip Girl meets Romeo and Juliet meets You’ve Got Mail. I would say out of all these comparisons, it’s more like You’ve Got Mail and here’s why.

Tweet Cute_CoverTweet Cute follows Pepper and Jack. Pepper’s family owns and operates Big League Burger; a fast food chain that’s been growing exponentially over the last few years. Jack’s family runs a small deli called Girl Cheesing in the East Village for the past two generations and Jack’s dad is thinking of passing the deli to Jack in the future. When Big League Burger announces a brand new sandwich, Jack and his family can’t help but see a suspicious resemblance to one of their iconic sandwiches. And in good modern fashion, they retaliate via Twitter starting a Twitter hashtag war between the two brands.

And here’s the added layer; both Jack and Pepper go to the same school in the same homeroom class and they’re both on the swim team. However, for the four years Pepper’s been in school, she’s been a little robotic focusing only on schoolwork than making friends. Meanwhile Jack is hidden behind his twin brother, Ethan’s, shadow. Jack and Pepper will have to work together in their final year of high school as Ethan shirks his swim team captain duties to his twin.

But then there’s another added layer. There’s a new app the entire school has been using called Weazel. It connects its students anonymously to set up study groups, complain about tests and teachers, and speak directly with each other. Of course this app isn’t an official school app, but everyone uses the app to connect to one another and that even includes Pepper and Jack. Pepper has been talking to Wolf for a few months now, but his identity hasn’t been revealed yet to her. She thinks it might be her high school crush, Landon. Jack created the app and spends his time filtering out the trolls and bullying on the app, but he’s been talking to Bluebird and really enjoying their conversations. The app hasn’t shown either who is who, but when both Jack and Pepper find out who they’ve been talking to for all these months, it’s not very surprising.

This story isn’t the easiest to explain mostly because there’s so much going on. I was worried with so much going on that one will get dropped over another or Emma Lord would forget something. However, she was able to cover all her bases and do it in a way that makes reading so natural. I honestly was surprised by how easily everything fell into place. Did it work really well together? Yes. Did it work 100% of the time? Not really.

I loved this story and to be honest, I was a little nervous with reading this one. I’m not a huge fan of Gossip Girl-like stories where the super rich just abuse their privilege to get whatever they want. It doesn’t read well with me, but because neither Pepper or Jack are born with spoons in their mouths, the story was a little bit more fun to appreciate. I love that Pepper is a chronic people-pleaser and that conflicts with Pepper’s entire life. She feels beholden to her mother and continue a toxic Twitter feud. She also feels like she needs to get everything done and perfect. I absolutely loved that Pepper wasn’t perfect.

Pepper’s mom also seemed like a such a complex character. At first, I thought her instance to keep the Twitter feud going was a little hard-headed, but when she tweets herself I knew she was as stubborn as myself. But when you finally learn the truth about Pepper’s mom, it starts to make more sense why she pushes so hard. I felt like Pepper’s mom was a much bigger feature in the story than Jack’s family. I mean, Jack’s family does get some of the spotlight, but I feel like I knew Pepper’s mom’s character way better than I knew Jack’s entire family (including Ethan).

Coming from this third part perspective where the reader is exposed to both Pepper and Jack’s perspective really made it difficult for me. I wanted to side with Pepper but Jack’s side revealed something I couldn’t look past and vice versa. You couldn’t help but to love both these characters and hope for the best for both.

For issues, I don’t really have many. There was one big reveal that didn’t make sense to me or was a little too convenient and the story does lag a little bit, but it’s not the end all of the story.

Overall, this is such a great and fun read. I absolutely enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It’s perfect. It’s fluffy as hell. And you’ll definitely be satisfied by the ending.

I received a copy of this book from Wednesday Books for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay // Blog Tour

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay // Blog Tour

I was so excited to read a book with Filipino representation! It feels like I’m always on the hunt for books from marginalized voices and Filipino was one I haven’t heard in a while (or at all). And for the first book with Filipino rep, it definitely delivers a fantastic story that’s unafraid to be real and reveals some truths about what’s happening in The Philippines.

CoverPatron Saints of Nothing starts off with Jay. He’s your average American teenager living in the Midwest, playing video games with his buddies online, and having no clue what he wants to do with his future. When his parents tell him his cousin, Jun, in The Philippines died, Jay wants to find out more. Being pen pals and friends from when Jay visited The Philippines as a kid, he was saddened by the news and determined to find out what happened. But his father isn’t the kind of person who likes to talk and doesn’t want to go over the details of how his cousin died. In fact, no one in his family was willing to talk about what happened.

With the strength of his love for his cousin and his curiosity to how this could happen to someone at such a young age, Jay convinces his parents to send him to The Philippines on spring break. They agree and he goes off to spend a week with his family there and learning about what happened to Jun.

As Jay slowly learns the truth about Jun through pieces of info he gathers with the help of a friend he makes, he also learns he doesn’t know much about The Philippines and what’s going on there. It’s not until he’s really in the thick of his search that he sees that President Duterte’s policies on drugs are targeting addicts and sellers without trial or a chance. It’s a multi-themed story that will make you google everything and make you reconsider the “truths” you’re told as a kid.

I’m going to be real with you, I cried. It was one specific moment right at the end when I did but if a book brings me to tears, then it’s a good book. I don’t cry often. I was most definitely pearl-clutching for sure and having my heart break over and over again.

For the most part, this book reads like a mystery or a thriller without the suspenseful parts. There’s no creepy murderer. The story is very much steeped in real life and the horrors of reality. There’s only the suspense of finding out the truth in a place that wants to forget just as quickly.

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Randy Ribay doesn’t pussy foot around the reality. He doesn’t dumb it down with magical realism or make you go on this journey his cousin left behind for him. He literally walks into the slums of The Philippines where homes are made of corrugated cardboard, pallets, and metal sheeting. He hears about women being raped just because they walked down the street and a president who hides behind his belief he’s saving his country. This is not the beautiful tourist photos people see. This is the reality of a place that I believed to be a beautiful country and a place many of my IRL friends are from.

Themes are all over this book, so I decided to break them down and what I felt about them.

Being American and Being Filipino

I think this is something a lot of us Asian Americans feel. We’re American because we immigrated here when we were super young or we were born here, but we also are Asian. It’s tough when you’re not accepted in certain areas and then you go to the country everyone tells you to go back to and you don’t fit in there either. The displacement is real for any kid who’s grown up with immigrant parents and I love that we read this book from Jay’s point of view and see what it’s like from that particular lens. The insecurities of not keeping up with your culture, knowing what’s going on in the news, and not even being able to speak the language is a feeling I know much too well. Nicely done.

Coming to terms with the fact that adults aren’t always right

I thought this was a little more subtle, but there’s some subtext around growing your own opinion and beliefs that aren’t quite the same as your family’s. I really liked the juxtaposition of Jay against his Tito Maning. Tito Maning plays as the voice of many Filipino people who voted Duterte into office. He believes that despite the number of losses his drug policies have caused, Duterte’s done “good” for the community and country at large. Randy Ribay brings up often how many people are complacent with the losses because a few dead drug addicts means safer streets. It’s a really good topic to bring up and I loved that Randy Ribay wasn’t afraid to share this point of view as well.

Tito Maning is legit everyone in my family that’s told me I needed to be a doctor, married with two babies all by the time I was 30. These are the people who made it difficult for me to be myself because I had to follow these ridiculous rules of behavior. I understand respecting your elders and all that, but come on. Something’s gotta give sometimes.

But I think this is a valuable lesson for folks who are just getting to the adult ages. Please keep in mind that your parents don’t know everything and that adults can be wrong too. You don’t have to be disrespectful about it, but understanding their view and then comparing it to your own allows you to see the full breadth of opinions and make a much better opinion on your own.

The War on Drugs in The Philippines is very real

If you’re going to read this book, I strongly STRONGLY advise you to google “Rodrigo Duterte” and what’s happening in the Philippines right now. While the story Randy Ribay wrote here is fictional, the events taking place are real. I can’t do the topic justice and I strongly urge you to read his Wikipedia article at least to know what he’s doing. Basically, what’s written in the book is true. Duterte’s has encouraged police and vigilante groups to kill any drug dealers and drug addicts they see. This is in an effort to “clean up” the streets of The Philippines and make it safer.

However, we have to keep in mind the fact that not every drug addict is a criminal. Everyone has their story and reasons for getting to the place they are. I highly doubt they’re all doing illegal things and while I don’t condone drug use, I also don’t believe someone should be judged based just on the fact that they use drugs. Where’s the human aspect to this? It’s nowhere because the death tolls are in the thousands and they can’t even pin down an accurate number.

The fact that Randy Ribay incorporated this into his story is legit what makes this book one of my favorites. He’s unapologetic and he does a good job sharing both sides of this massive debate, so it’s not just one sided. The theme carries throughout the novel and really you can’t finish this novel without googling the events that take place. It may make people a little uncomfortable, but that’s what makes this book special. You have to give it credit for that. You can go on about how he didn’t dive into more, but also keep in mind the fact this is a fictional story and not the oral history of The Philippines. It encourages you to research and google and I strongly advise you do.

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The final thing I want to mention, which is touched lightly but made a huge impact while I was reading is the number of rapes happening there. There was one scene in the book (and this doesn’t spoil the overall story) where a woman wasn’t okay with having a male adult in her home because she doesn’t know his intentions and worried he’ll rape her. I tried to do some research on this and found this article where the same President Duterte speaks about the rape cases. He says “as long as there are beautiful women, there will be rape cases.” Jesus, take the wheel.

All of these themes take place while Jay continues to be a teenager who likes girls and just wants to play video games with his bros. Randy Ribay is such a prolific and efficient writer that it really boggled my mind how he fit so much into about 300 pages.

I will say the only thing I had issues with is the believability of Jay’s story. For all intents and purposes, the events taking place in the story lead Jay closer and closer to the truth, but at some points it felt too easy. Information too conveniently falls into Jay’s lap. While I don’t know how hard or easy it is to find someone who runs away from home, I felt like Jay didn’t come across enough road blocks. It doesn’t take away from the book at all because the themes in the story carry you throughout and honestly, this didn’t bother me and doesn’t take away from my 5-star review. I just wanted to bring it up.

Ok, I’m done reviewing and ranting. This book was amazing and doesn’t read like your typical YA novel. Even though there was the average “oh I’m just a teenager who doesn’t know what I want from life,” it opens your eyes.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Teen for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.