The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess RothenbergThe Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Publisher: Penguin
Number of pages: 401
My copy: Kindle edition

Brie is the “biggest, cheesiest, sappiest romantic” who believes that everyone will find their perfect someone, so when Jacob, the love of Brie’s life, tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, the news breaks her heart, literally, and she dies. But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie revisits the living world to discover that her family has begun to unravel and her best friend has been keeping an intimate secret about her boyfriend. Somehow, Brie must handle all of this while navigating through the five steps of grief with the help of Patrick, her mysterious bomber-jacketed guide to the afterlife. But how is she supposed to face the Ever After with a broken heart and no one to call her own?

* * *

My friend Kai recommended The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg to me way back it first came out, but I never got around to reading it for some reason. Then one day, while waiting for some friends to pick me up in a bookstore in a mall that I’ve only been to once, I saw the new cover of the book and read the back blurbs. I don’t know what happened, but I decided to pick it up. Perhaps it finally piqued my interest? I can’t even remember if the words “letting go” were there, but in case they were, then it was probably why I decided to get it.

Brie dies because of heart break, soon after her boyfriend, Jacob, breaks up with her. Impossible, yet it happened, and Brie wakes up in the afterlife, unsure of what exactly she needs to do now. She meets another soul, Patrick, who goes with her when she revisits her old life. Brie realizes the extent of the loss that the people she left felt, and how things were suddenly so far away from what she’s expected: her family’s breaking apart, her best friend “going out” with her ex. Brie being dead meant she couldn’t do anything about it…or could she? How can she move on now, knowing that everything and everyone she left are now so messed up?

I didn’t really expect to love this book so much while I was reading it, but I did. Brie’s voice was fresh and snarky and so fun to read, that even if she was essentially dead, it wasn’t so hard to relate to her. I liked how Brie was such a normal girl, with her family, her dog, her friends and her boyfriend. Everything about her seemed normal, until she died, of course. But even so, Brie’s personality shone throughout, and I laughed with her, felt sad with her and I felt truly, truly happy for her when things started falling into place at the end.

The book isn’t really about death per se — it didn’t answer the mysteries of life or anything — but more about grief, and moving on. I liked how the story was framed around the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), which is basically applicable not just to deaths but anything that we ever grieved for. Here, I read about how Brie’s family and friends worked through these stages, and Brie as well…and they didn’t handle it all spectacularly. Which is okay, because they’re humans, and we never really go through all those 5 stages perfectly and not have battle scars in the end. The Catastrophic History of You and Me is really more about letting go, moving on, and forgiving – others and yourself – and that part really resonated with me.

I liked pretty much everything about this, except maybe the other backstory about this other character and the complications of souls was kind of dizzying. I mean, I got it, but a part of me kind of feels like it kind of came out of nowhere, and it was an additional layer that really didn’t need to be there. Except, of course, it provided a better resolution for why things were like that between them, but overall, I could do without it.

I was smiling at the end of this book. It was funny and sad and heartbreaking and hopeful all the same time, and I’m really glad I read The Catastrophic History of You and Me. I almost forgot that this was more of a paranormal romance novel than a contemporary one. :) If you’re grieving, or if you’ve ever had a hard time moving on or letting go, then this book will be a good friend for you. Trust me on this. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 22

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Falling in love is pretty much the same thing as being eaten alive by a grizzly bear.

News flash, Bozo. Don’t ever tell a girl to relax. It only makes us madder.

You can obsess and obsess over how things ended – what you did wrong or could have done differently -  but there’s not much of a point. It’s not like it’ll change anything.

It was one thing to leave. But to be left. That had to be even worse.

You’ve got to let go of this desperation. You’ll never have a chance of moving on otherwise.

Maybe all heartbreak is created equal.

The trouble is, sometimes words are like arrows. Once you shoot them, there’s no going back.

May you always have love.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Amaterasu Reads
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Corpse in the Mirror

Corpse in the Mirror by A.S. SantosCorpse in the Mirror by A.S. Santos
Student Paranormal Research Group # 2
Publisher: Flipside Digital
Number of pages: 207
My copy: Ebook review copy from publisher

Samantha Davidson’s powers have been growing. Now, not only can she hear other people’s thoughts, but she can also sometimes see things through others’ eyes. They aren’t much—momentary glimpses, really—but these are dark things. Twisted things. Things she can’t bear to watch. But since she is the only one who can see them as they happen, she may be the only one who can prevent them from happening again.

CORPSE IN THE MIRROR is the second installment of A.S. Santos’ three-book Young Adult Paranormal Romance. Follow Sam and her friends in the Student Paranormal Research Group as they encounter bizarre and often dangerous supernatural occurrences, battle demons both spiritual and psychological, and navigate adolescence and young love.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to receive an email about a review request from the publisher until I got an email from Katz of Flipside, about A.S. Santos’ new book, Corpse in the Mirror. I really enjoyed Voices in the Theater from last year, and it was one of those books that I didn’t think I would like but I ended up enjoying, so I was really looking forward to reading the next book. So imagine my joy when I received an email about this. I practically jumped in my seat (and I was having dinner with my family), and right after that, I started to reread the first book just so I can get ready for the second. (Oh, and I enjoyed reading the first book just as much as I did on the first time :D)

In the second book of the Student Paranormal Research Group (SPRG) series, Sam’s powers are growing, and more than just hearing things, she starts seeing things. But that’s not what really is taking a lot of her attention now, because her friend and fellow SPRG member, Richard, is being all too showy with her, almost like they’re dating but they’re not. When their next case brings them to Richard’s apartment where weird things have been happening lately, Sam realizes just how much her powers have changed. Now someone they know is in trouble, and only she can help her.

Just like the first book in the series, Corpse in the Mirror is very readable. It’s so easy to drop into Sam’s world (although perhaps it’s easier for me because the setting, again, was quite familiar) and be a quiet member of their group. The first few chapters of the book was equally creepy, so much that I realized I had to stop reading it when I realized I was reading it late at night, and I wanted to go to the bathroom to pee but there’s a mirror, and who knows what I’ll see there? :o But anyway, after the first initial creep-out part, it became more of a murder mystery with a supernatural twist, and it was quite interesting following the team in solving this mystery.

I think there’s a little less of the angel aspect in this book. I mean sure, there was still a bit of it, but there were more interactions between Sam and the other characters in the group instead of Sam and the angels. I liked this, and it was interesting to see how their relationships grew here, both in the platonic and romantic sense. I think I especially liked the romance aspect in this novel — it’s not cheesy, but it’s definitely a bit more complicated. But its complications felt grounded. A little spoiler: there’s some sort of a love triangle, but it’s not the usual triangle of the recent paranormal romance novels where one is the obvious choice. I liked how there were several voices of reason in the book when it came to the romance, and how the advice was sound and relevant. The lessons for the here were definitely something that everyone who’s ever been confused with relationships and romance need to hear. (Well I know I sort of needed to read them at that time. ;) )

I also really liked how this one ended, even more so than the last one. In a way, you would need to suspend your disbelief at how things were resolved, but I thought it worked well with the story’s universe. It reminded me a little bit of how the things worked in my favorite books, This Present Darkness, so I don’t have much complaint over that. It’s a bit of a cliffhanger, though, and now I can’t help but wonder what could happen next to Sam and her group? I have a few predictions on the romantic side though, so I really, really hope it works out that way. :D

If you enjoyed Voices in the Theater, I definitely recommend that you pick this up. Corpse in the Mirror is a good blend of horror, suspense, faith and romance. I am definitely, definitely looking forward to the third book in the series. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 21

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

That’s why relationships take effort. And because they do take effort, they’re more valuable when you make them work.

Then throughout our lives we make different choices and take different paths, and in the process we are changed, along with our souls. We either grow and expand with enlightenment, or become corrupted and weak and confused, because our souls and bodies are linked together…every choice and action we take in our lives also affects the lives of other people — other souls — creating a huge interconnected ripple effect throughout this world and the next.

We’re never really in full control of the things we feel. What we are always in control of, however, are the decisions we make and the actions we take…because of or in spite of the things we feel.

Love is always a gift.

Free will is what makes Love possible. You cannot force anyone to love you. Love only becomes love when it is a true and free choice.

Even when hearts are broken, they still keep beating.

Rating:

Book trailer:

I think this is the first book trailer the publishers have made for their books, so I thought I’d share it with you guys, too:

YouTube Preview Image

Corpse in the Mirror is out today! You can also read the first few chapters of Voices in the Theater here.

Radiant / Boundless

Radiant by Cynthia HandRadiant by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 2.5
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 69
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Clara is desperate to get away—from the memories that haunt her in Wyoming and the visions of a future she isn’t ready to face—and spending the summer in Italy with her best friend, Angela, should be the perfect escape. . . .

For as long as she can remember, Angela has been told that love is dangerous, that she must always guard her heart. But when she met Phen two years ago she was determined to be with him, no matter the costs. Now she must decide whether she can trust Clara with her secret, or if telling her the truth will risk everything she cares about.

Alternating between Angela and Clara’s perspectives, Radiant chronicles the unforgettable summer that will test the bounds of their friendship and change their lives forever.

* * *

It’s the summer before Clara and Angela goes to Stanford, and they spend it in Italy. What a summer vacation, right? But Clara was desperate to get away from everything that has happened to her and her family just recently, and Angela just wanted to discover more of their angel stuff…or so Clara thought.

I thought I didn’t have to read Radiant before I get to read Boundless, but I’m glad I had some sense to get this because I wouldn’t have understood the final book in the Unearthly series if I didn’t. Radiant alternates from Angela to Clara, and for the first time since Unearthly, we get to see Angela’s side in things. Is she evil? Is there something about her that will harm Clara and make us hate her? This novella sort of answers that, and we see Angela’s side — the little of it anyway. It makes you wonder if this book will mean something in the end, if the events here would lead to something. 

So is Angela evil? I will leave it up to you to find out. Radiant is enjoyable, but it left me a bit wary of Angela and the repercussions of her actions here. I think one can still understand the next book without really reading this, but if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll want to read this one, anyway. :)

Rating:
My copy: ebook, from Amazon

Other reviews:
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Boundless by Cynthia HandBoundless by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 3
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 438
My copy: paperback review copy, borrowed from Kai

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.

* * *

Series finales are a tricky thing, I think. A finale can make or break a series, especially in the paranormal romance genre, and ones with love triangles. Not that I know a lot, except for those that I’ve already read, but there were several finales that just sucked that I wished I never read them because it ruined the entire series for me. However, I had faith in Cynthia Hand, that she would end the only angel series I liked well, and when good reviews started popping up Goodreads as the release date neared, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book.

Spoiler warning for Unearthly and Hallowed!

Many things have happened since the end of Hallowed, including the things that happened in Radiant. Now Clara is a college student in Stanford, with no clear direction except that she wanted to protect Tucker from the dangers of her angel life, even if it means breaking both their hearts. Clara tries to make a home in Stanford, but it’s not so easy: she finds Samjeeza, the Black Wing, following her everywhere, her visions are still bleak and scary, and her dad has come to prepare her and Christian for an upcoming battle. Christian remains to be the perfect gentleman that he is and one of her closest friends, but Clara can’t help but think of Tucker even if she knew she made the right decision. With all this happening in her life, is Clara ready to face the the things she’s been seeing in her vision? And why is Angela acting so weird again?

So, Boundless. I went in this book, ready to get my heart broken for some reason, and for tears to come. Interestingly enough, I didn’t get much of those two expectations, but there were so many things in this book that I had a hard time putting it down. I liked how the story revolved a lot around Clara’s growth in Stanford — her classes, her friendship with Angela and Christian and the new people she meets in college — and not just the angel stuff. We see Clara (and Angela and Christian) grow more in this book, face their choices and follow through. I liked that they don’t always have to face their choices alone, and how they all managed to pull through for each other up to the very end. There’s also so much family in this book, both in the good and bad side, and I liked how they were weaved together (even if some of them felt a little bit too convenient in the end). I liked how they never let go of that concept and how it all tied them together.

The book felt just a little bit long somewhere in the middle, and I kept wanting to get to the action, to get to the battle and to finally find out who Clara would choose (of course, we all want to know that, right?). I was honestly a bit teary-eyed at a certain point, and then…things happened. I liked how things were handled, although I’m not quite sure until now how I feel about that last part which changed things for one character. (I am trying to be as cryptic as I can, promise!)

Overall, though, Boundless is a very satisfying ending for a fan of the series like me. I’m quite happy with the ending and this is one of those books where I am pretty happy with everything and I can close the book without needing any more answers or wishing that things were different. I’m quite happy that I decided to take a chance on Unearthly years ago, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered one of the two (the other is Angelfall, but the second book won’t be out until late this year) angel series that I really, really like. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
The Blair Book Project

Every Day

Every Day by David LevithanEvery Day by David Levithan
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 304
My copy: paperback, from National Bookstore

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

* * *

I can’t exactly say I’m a huge, huge fan of David Levithan’s books, although I admit that I like reading his stuff. I mean, I enjoyed The Lover’s Dictionary immensely and I am rather charmed by Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, but it doesn’t make me feel like I would go out and read everything he ever wrote. For Mr. Levithan, I still rely a bit on reviews before I actually get one of his new books again.

And that is why I got myself a copy of Every Day. Truth be told, the summary isn’t enough to get to me — I tend to avoid paranormal things unless I’m watching the series or I strike a particular mood, and Every Day‘s synopsis kind of reminds me of those insta-love things that I don’t really like. Granted, it seems more sci-fi than paranormal, but it wasn’t until I read Wendy’s review of the book that kind of sealed the deal for me.

So A is a…being. Something. He wakes up in a different body everyday, and he has no attachments, no nothing. He cannot afford to have them because nothing is permanent in his world anyway. Until one morning, when he wakes up in the body of Justin and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Suddenly, there’s something that makes him want to stay — and it’s Rhiannon.

We don’t get explanations why A jumps from one body to another, so we pretty much have to accept what he can do at the start. It was a bit hard for me to swallow, especially when my mind gets confused when A is in a female body but in my mind he is still a male. Then I recount his/her interactions with Rhiannon, and it gets even more confusing. There’s a lot to question, and if you’re sci-fi buff, you’d wish for an explanation, and that was never really provided in the book.

However, there is something about the way Levithan writes. Just like Dash in Dash and Lily and that unnamed narrator in The Lover’s Dictionary, Levithan’s words captured me and made me dog-ear so many pages in the book. Case in point:

What is it about the moment you fall in love? How can such a small measure of time contain such enormity?…The moment you fall in love feels like it has centuries behind it, generations – all of them rearranging themselves so that this precise, remarkable intersection could happen. In your heart, in your bones, no matter how silly you know it is you feel that everything has been leading to this, all the secret arrows were pointing here, the universe and time itself crafted this long ago, and you are just now realizing it, you are just now arriving at the place you were always meant to be. (p. 23)

This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be. (p. 175)

Every Day had the right amount of angst and hope and sentimentality to make me sigh at the early parts of February. Some book club friends and I had a readalong for it, and we had a very interesting discussion about love, about A and if there’s anything selfish about falling in love. I honestly felt sad for A because he cannot afford to have memories, and so he clings so hard to Rhiannon because she seems to be the only good thing that he can hold on to.

It’s sad, and somehow you knew it was a doomed thing from the start. I wondered how Levithan would end it, and I was really pleased with what he did with the ending. It seemed the most right thing to do. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but perhaps it was the best for the both of them. It doesn’t make it less sad, though.

But…that’s love. More than being a decision, love is choosing what’s best for the other person, even if it is at the cost of your own happiness. I read this article sometime last year that hits this right on the head (emphasis mine): How do you truly know whether you are committed to this person and that you truly love him or her? Here’s how you know: Your love is directly proportional to your willingness to act unselfishly, to even let the person think less of you, if in doing so you are serving their spiritual advancement.

Every Day isn’t the kind of book that will give you all the warm fuzzies, but I think it’s a pretty good one even so. And while I still can’t say I’m a huge David Levithan fan after this, I will still be on the look out for his books, if only to read passages such as the ones above and one like this:

When first love ends, most people eventually know there will be more to come. They are not through with love. Love is not through with them. It will never be the same as the first, but it will be better in different ways.

Rating:

Required reading - February

Other reviews:
taking a break
The Midnight Garden
The Readventurer

2013 Must-Have Books

I almost forgot to come up with this list because of my recent sort-of blogging slump. Thank goodness for archives, though, because I checked my posts during January and found my 2012 Books I Can’t Wait to Get My Hands On list. In order to keep up with tradition, I am coming up with a list for 2013 so I can remember which books to pre-order for myself and use laser labels (assuming I have them, that is).

Besides, it’s fun writing this list.

Image from we heart it

Image from we heart it

And here we go.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee (February 5). I’ve heard of this book around…2009? Early 2010? And finally, it’s coming out. I am so, so excited for this. I loved Demon and Havah, and when I heard that Tosca is writing a book about Judas Iscariot, I knew I had to get it. I actually have a galley of this already, but I am so, so getting a print copy because it’s Tosca. And I’m pretty sure she’s going to tear my heart apart again with this one.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee

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