Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

It Only Happens in the Movies
by Holly Bourne

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents' relationship imploded her mother's been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn't mean things are easy. Because real love isn't like the movies...

The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies... YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Expected Publication date:  October 1st 2017
Source/Format: Finished paperback from the publisher. (This, in now way affects the integrity of my review)
Pre-order links: Amazon | Google Play

My Thoughts:

Audrey Winters has been burned twice by romantic love. First is when her dad left their family for another woman. Second is when her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. She starts working part-time at a posh cinema to distract herself from her heartbreaks and there she met Harry. Harry, who despite being a bad boy, is irresistibly persuasive in making Audrey open and trusting again.

“It Only Happens in the Movies” is basically a YA book that satirizes romantic films. It tries on a lot of stuff to set its tone: Audrey’s Media course work which shows her utter disdain of how unrealistic romantic films are, screenplay of the things that she wants to say to her faithless dad, zombie film-making featuring a zombie bride who has an agency to make her own choices, montage of Audrey’s happy romantic days complete with background music and blooper reels of Audrey trying to be nice with a girl competing for Harry’s affections. For the most part, the story adheres to the romcom plot formula to prove the toxicity in most romantic films. To make its case, a chapter will begin with a snippet of Audrey’s course work featuring a certain element of romcom like “The bestfriend who only exists to be your bestfriend” and then that chapter will introduce a character that somehow fits the bill. Or another snippet that lambasts “The grand gesture” and then will be followed by scenes of Harry making a huge romantic effort to win Audrey. Audrey’s media course work snippets are funny and what’s funnier is when she contradicts herself and violates her own rules about entering relationships. I don’t think that the book will even pass the Bechdel Test and personally knowing Holly Bourne’s previous works, that is super funny in an ironic kind of way.

Through humor, the book exposes the dangers of cute and commercial cotton candy cinema that feeds our unrealistic romantic fantasies, which will eventually lead us to disappointments with how real-life romantic relationship works. Yes, it is a takedown on romance films but what I like about it is it does not offend people (like me) who enjoy fluff in films (and books). The book does not make itself sound superior over this brand of entertainment. It’s even indulging in some ways like referencing a lot of familiar romcom films. “Before Sunrise”, my favorite romcom film of all time (a fact which I have mentioned here and here in the blog before) is directly referenced in the book and mentioned in Holly Bourne’s bonus content in a positive light. Also, one of my favorite parts is when Audrey made a survey for her course work about which is the best cinematic kiss ever and I’m like,YAAS, I’M HERE FOR THIS! Audrey has many conversations about the survey with Harry and her friends. Audrey watched a film called "Cinema Paradiso" a film about film-making and cinematic kisses(?). I haven't watched this before onscreen but the book's explanation of it unexpectedly made me tear up.

“I do exist. I am here. I am part of this life, whether you like it or not. I will have reactions. I will be a human. I won’t go away quietly. I deserve to be here.”

The book made its main character explore and discover relationships on her own. Her friends are there for support but they don’t tell her what to do. I love the dynamics of friendship here that is very different but somewhat the same with the Spinsters Club. BTW, Holly Bourne’s feminist colors are always showing a lot of times in the book but that’s not a bad thing, I’ll eat up feminist stuff any time of day. Most (note, not all) adults around Audrey are cool, too. They do not choke or control her with rules. Her mom for one lets her do things and is not like against relationships just because of her failed marriage. Another adult, Loulou who warned Audrey about Harry’s bad boy reputation is like okay-Imma-warn-you but-it’s-still-up-to-you. Her Media course teacher is concerned about her work and is also instrumental for Audrey meeting up with a relationship expert. This meeting with the relationship expert is also one of my favorite parts because their conversation about real-life romantic relationship is so insightful. 

The pacing of the book gets uneven for me at times but all in all, I am entertained and enlightened. The narrative is character driven with plot points moving based on Audrey’s choices. Audrey made mistakes, learned her lessons and the last pages have a solid empowering ending for her. Highly recommended for fluff-lovers and fluff-haters alike, for people going through a heartbreak or for young teens just starting to find out what romance is all about. Oh, and you should really read this if you are a film lover. BTW, definitely the best cinematic kiss for me is the one in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in all its under the rain glory BECAUSE LOOK AT THE CAT, EVEN THE CAT IS FEELING IT!!! How about you, which film gets your vote for the best cinematic kiss? (Holly Bourne, actually put up a poll about this in her Tumblr )

Diversity Watch:

Audrey Winters is racially indeterminate.

Harry is described as looking like Joseph Gordon Levitt.

One of Audrey’s friends, Leroy is a gay church-going Catholic. He is not out yet with his parents. He has a boyfriend named Ian.

My Rating:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Allen

A Messy, Beautiful Life
by Sara Jade Alan

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Entangled TEEN
Expected Publication date:  October 2nd 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble 

My Thoughts:
“A Messy, Beautiful Life”concerns Ellie Hartwood, a seventeen year old leader of her school’s improv group, Spontaneous Combustion. At the start of the book, her team is sharing the stage with another school’s improv group, Scared Scriptless, where she met Jason. Ellie and Jason have undeniable chemistry and connection not only in their stage performance but in romance department as well. But then Ellie is diagnosed with cancer and Jason has just lost a family member from it. Ellie is now torn between keeping Jason, the person who brings her happiness or pushing him away to avoid bringing him sadness.

Whoever wrote the book’s blurb should get some kind of credit because that’s what drew me in to be interested in the book in the first place. Ellie’s voice in the blurb sounds like someone who is sunny and fun but suddenly here comes cancer. I thought it would really be interesting to see how a person with such personality would handle such a devastating situation. And then perusing through the first pages, I found out that Ellie, Jason and their friends do stage improv and I’m like hey, I haven’t read a YA contemporary with characters doing improv before. This is going to be interesting. After finishing the book tho, I’m like sigh, this is disappointing.

The narration is more telling rather than showing. There are a lot of times where Ellie makes info dumps on how certain improv acts are done. Here’s one example: “In the game of Freeze, two players do a scene until someone on the sidelines yells “Freeze” then the players have to hold whatever pose they were in. Another actor tags one person out, takes on the same position but starts an entirely new scene that justifies the starting position. It continues as people call out “Freeze” and start new scene after new scene.”

The characters, even the supposedly sunny and funny Ellie, have lacking personality. This is a shame because Ellie had the potential to be an inspiring character. Jason had the potential to be the supportive and gentlemanly love interest. But they are not given anything much because most of the things are told rather than shown. The side characters are just like background noises, telling the main character what to do: you should go to the party, Ellie; you should already tell Jason you have cancer, Ellie; you should sign up for the standup contest, Ellie.

The characters’ emotions are also kind of just stated there in the pages but not felt by the reader. There are scenes where the characters are in tears but I am not emotional about it. Or where the characters are laughing and I find myself not laughing with them. And where Ellie and her friends are swoony about their love interests and I’m kind of like a dead tree stump reading but not feeling anything. Of course, it’s not like I’m a real dead tree stump cursed to be devoid of emotions but it’s more like the book makes the characters cry, laugh and swoon without having to do the work of building up to those scenes.

While reading, I was getting the sense that things are happening a bit too fast for the characters. There is one when I was like what, they are kissing already when they’ve just met?! I backtracked and checked and it was actually already a matter of days already. Again, the passing of time is literally expository and told by Ellie like, “it’s been nine days since...” too many times and that’s not okay. It could do with filling the pages with daily, routine student activities like class attendance and stuff so the readers feel the passing of time as something resembling real life.

I could tell that the author really has the know how of improv, a backdrop that would really be interesting for cutesy romantic fluff. And the trope of getting through a life-threatening disease such as cancer has proven to be a success in milking the readers’ sympathy in many YA contemporary books. It was a shame that “A Messy, Beautiful Life” had these two things in potential but was not able to deliver on selling both the laughs and tears to me, (a real live human reader and not a dead tree stump, just to clear that thing up).

Diversity Watch:
Ellie’s ethnicity is specifically mentioned. Her mother has Italian descent and her father, Scandinavian.

Jason has tan skin and blue eyes.

Hana Yooon, one of Ellie’s bestfriends is mentioned to be Korean.

Quinn, the other bestfriend is mentioned to have two dads, Steven and Gary.

My Rating:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (STS#10)

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.

Huzzah, book wanderers! I am here for another book haul post. BTW, I noticed a shifting pattern in my last couple of book haul posts and it's that apparently, I am more inclined now to acquire digital copies because eBook sale!!! And I thought I'll always be a paperback girl. One pro that I see with this is that I don't get to worry about shelf space. We never stay the same, do we?

So here they are, have a peek at my new books! (Clicking the images will lead to Goodreads)


The Rest of Us Just Live Here

 Emmy & Oliver

Promdi Heart

Summer Feels

From Netgalley:

13Minutes MessyBeautifulLife


Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Amazon Freebie:


What about you? Noticed anything that has changed in your book buying habits? Do you think those changes are for the better or for the worse. Hit me in the comments and tell me what books have you acquired lately. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...