Recent Reads Review

Reading slumps suck. So far, since the year has started, I’ve only read three books—one of those I even half-assed and just practically skimmed through.

If you’re looking for more books to read, don’t look here. I’m actually just here to share what I think of these books and, hopefully, stumble upon someone who can recommend me books like the ones I’ve read. These reviews are very short and lazily written (I just copied them from my Goodreads account, actually). Really, they are just begging for more books to be with them. Oh, and tiny spoiler alert!

Eliza and Her Monsters

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

The writing, the story, and the story within the story (Monstrous Sea) were all captivating. It hooked me at once. I could relate with Eliza, with what she’s going through, though my social anxiety ain’t that bad (‘cuz I at least know how to fake knowing how to socialize and don’t let anyone else notice) but I know how it can be draining and overwhelming at times. Yes, the book opens up about social anxiety and what it’s like to have it. The writing is what really got me mesmerized because it flowed and transitioned so well. But the story of Eliza is what made me love the book so much.

What I just didn’t like was Wallace. He was so good in the first half of the book. The second half didn’t justify enough (or apologize enough) how Wallace could be so selfish as to force Eliza to finish the web comic while she’s having a mental breakdown. Like dude. Your life isn’t her responsibility so give the girl a break, please. Anyway, other than that I loved everything about the book. I wish there’s really a Monstrous Sea web comic. Is there? The on-page sketches look cool!

Geekerella

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Rating: 2/5 Stars

In between 2 and 3 stars. Maybe because I have read a book with a similar premise before this and did it much better? Reading this book felt like a chore; I had to skim through most of the characters’ thought process, and the dialogues were too sloppy and cheesy for my liking. Darien and Elle’s chemistry also felt forced, and they are being too dramatic. I also found some inconsistencies with Elle’s personality. Even the side characters seemed so stereotypical and that made them even more unrealistic. This actually reads more like a fanfic than an original YA stand-alone novel.

I usually enjoy feel-good stories with fairy tale-like themes like this one, you know, just for mindless fluffy reading. But Geekerella was just too plain. Kelly Oram’s Cinder and Ella is still the most enjoyable and believable modern Cinderella-meets-Hollywood YA novel I’ve read so far. I should probably read that again to make up for the disappointment that this book gave me. Anyway, nice try for taking on the kind of story concept that has been done over and over again. I am also aware that it’s hard to give this kind of recycled plot an original feel. Still, good try.

Burn Before Reading

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

I probably should’ve burned this book before reading because I fell a little bit in love with it! It’s the kind of book that you would want to read when you’re in need to swoon mindlessly and feel giddy all over. It was so much fun! But it also took on some serious issues, which is very commendable and genuinely well-executed. I admit though at first, I didn’t want to read it because the synopsis screams BOYS OVER FLOWERS. After having seen that a-group-of-rich-and-privileged-bad-boys-against-one-poor-but-stubborn-girl story in three live-action adaptations, I thought I’ve had enough. But Sara Wolf is an instant read to me. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because, boy, it gave a new spin and depth to that classic plot! What an enjoyable read!

By the way, Bee reminds me so much of Isis (another character from the same author). They have the same wit, and I wonder if that reflects the author’s personality in real life, too. That’s the one thing consistent through-out her books, some more subtle than others. That’s not a bad thing; just a random observation. Hey, her female characters are funny and #relatable!

YA Stock Characters (The ones you always read and write about)

I probably have more story ideas than I could write. But as I was writing the outline of the story that I’m currently working on, I noticed a pattern to my characters. Every time I create a story (usually young-adult contemporary romance set in small town high schools), I just use certain character archetypes and play matchmaker with them in the story. I blame the YA novels I read.

I do it unconsciously, but knowing it now makes me realize how cliche my characters can be. This challenges me to break their mold and give them more depth and development. But for now, let’s just get to know each of them and…make fun of them.

So, I wrote their basic character profiles.

Meet my YA stock characters:

The Bad Boy

A.K.A The Rebel; Female Counterpart: The Bad Girl (duh!)

Brooding, mysterious, damaged, rebellious. Hides a dark, tragic past. Often wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. Needs the right girl to change his rebel ways. Has a tattoo and hides a scar, literally and figuratively. Most likely orphaned to make him even more tragic. Obviously brings trouble but there has to be some redeeming qualities, right?

The Popular Jock

A.K.A The Popular Jock (there’s no other way to do it); Female Counterpart: The Popular Cheerleader

The guy every girl wants. Also a known playboy. Supposedly the epitome of a cool guy. Acts like an airhead on the outside, but keeps a sensible and thoughtful personality. Has honey-chocolate abs to die for. Most likely the town’s golden boy quarterback. Redeeming qualities: HOT. But also his secret philosophical depth hidden behind his good looks and jackass-jerk facade.

The Boy-Next-Door

A.K.A The Nice Guy; Female Counterpart: The Girl-Next-Door

Best friend-to-boyfriend material. Literally the guy that lives next door. Also known as Mr. McPerfectson. Likes basketball and music, plays the guitar, can also sing and cook, loves dogs, love babies, loves you. Gentleman with a killer smile and dimples on both cheeks. Redeeming qualities: EVERYTHING.

The Cute Nerd

A.K.A Totally-Not-A-Nerd-Just-A-Cute-Guy-Wearing-Glasses; Female Counterpart: The Cute Nerd (girl version)

Shy, quiet, awkward. Not necessarily studious but naturally smart (or not). Loves his video games, superhero comic books, and sci-fi/fantasy movies. Often wears glasses. Secretly hot and wild and everything you want him to be. Is working on a sci-fi graphic novel of his own (so he most definitely knows how to draw).

The Good Girl

A.K.A The Mary Sue; Male Counterpart: Definitely NOT The Bad Boy

Innocent, humble, simple (or plain), timid. Doesn’t know she’s pretty until the right guy tells her. Loves reading books, and probably has a book and movie review blog. Has hidden wit and sarcasm (how is she gonna write those killer reviews if she’s not witty like me). Can stand up for herself only when she’s up against her love interest and the love interest’s evil ex-girlfriend.

The Ice Princess

A.K.A Elsa, Concealed, Doesn’t Feel; Male Counterpart: The Ice Prince

Complete straight A’s, no non-sense girl. Perfect in every way except for her cold, uptight, and a little bit (by that, I mean very) naive personality. Trained in some fancy talent like piano, ballet, or painting. Uses only at least three-syllabic SAT words in a casual conversation. Facial expressions are limited to a resting bitch face. Actually has feelings.

The Tomboy

A.K.A The-Girl-You-Didn’t-Realize-Was-Beautiful-Until-A-Makeover; Male Counterpart: (I actually have no idea)

Quirky, sporty, one-of-the-boys. Hates make-up and wearing high heels or skirts. Tough as nails but still a lady at heart. Can play basketball, knows how to skateboard, and beat the boys at it. Secretly a huge fangirl of boy bands. Fashion sense is limited to over-sized T shirts, baggy jeans, sneakers, and other hand-me-downs.

The Queen Bee

A.K.A The Girl You Envy; Male Counterpart: Your Dream Guy

The girl every guy wants. Pretty, sassy, and fierce. Often mistaken as the mean girl. Always the homecoming and prom queen. Also known as the popular girl that rules high school, and your teacher’s favorite student. Probably in a relationship with The Popular Jock. Rival includes The Popular Cheerleader. Struggles to keep her royal image.

This list doesn’t represent all of the stock characters that we have in YA contemporary fiction. These are just the archetypes that I use in my own stories. So, if you think I missed someone, no worries, you can write about them. But don’t forget to try and destroy their tropes. That makes a story more interesting.

Single (and Bitter): What They Say vs. What They Think

Straight from your resident still-single-but-NOT-ready-to-mingle blogger girl, Sophie Kat! (Note: You can only relate to this if you’re single AND bitter…and maybe a bit desperate too.)

What they say: “Ugh. All these couples making-out. Gross.”

What they think: “I’m so jealous! I want that too.”

What they say: “I don’t need a man!”

What they think: “Love me please. Love me!”

What they say: “See? No relationship drama.”

What they think: “No make-up…’cuddle’ either.”

What they say: “Freedom!”

What they think: “…is so lonely.”

What they say: “Sure, I can tag along on your date.”

What they think: “I’m the thirdwheel. Again.”

What they say: “Yeah! I have the whole bed to myself!”

What they think: “B-but I need someone to hug when I sleep!”

What they say: “I can have as many book boyfriends and celebrity crushes as I want!”

What they think: “Wow. My boyfriends are either a poster on the wall or a fictional character. I’m so pathetic.”

What they say: “I don’t have to buy presents for Valentine’s Day!”

What they think: “No one’s gonna give me presents on Valentine’s Day.” *sobs*

What they say: “I don’t have to deal with someone constantly checking up on me.”

What they think: “No one cares for me!”

What they say: “I’m so happy to be single.”

What they think: *sighs*

What they say: “Being in a relationship is overrated anyway.”

What they think: “Who am I kidding, I need a boyfriend now!”

(Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I decided to repost one of my favorite relationship-related posts. I hope you enjoyed it the second time. Or if you’re a first-time reader, did you enjoy it?)

[BOYSFALL] English Class

Even if I promise her that I’ll be the man she needs, I know I will never be good enough. I’m just a clueless boy, she is a woman. I’m just a high school kid and she is my teacher.

(Oh, the cringe! But I wrote this so I must share this. Some people just love tragic stories and forbidden romance. Even cheesy ones like this. More posts like this here, here, here, and here.)

[BOYSFALL] The Bad Guy

“Why are you doing this to me?”

You yelled in agony and frustration.

I wanted to wipe your tears

And kiss the pain away

But I didn’t.

I won’t.

Because I am no hero.

I am no lover.

To you, I am the villain.

The monster.

The bad guy.

(There’s more from where this came from. Just cheesy stuff like this. If you want to read more, links are here, here, and here. I’ll post some more later on. Cheers!)

Romance Cliches That I Absolutely Love

People hate cliche. But what they don’t realize is that cliches are cliches because they always work! Here are my top 5 favorite cliches in romance that you might hate to death but I absolutely enjoy reading or watching when done right.

1) Love Triangles. It gets tiring when all the mopey main characters  always have a hard time choosing between two equally sexy, equally good, love interests. “Boohoo, I don’t know who to choose. Both of them are hot.” But I love it when Miss MC clearly knows who she likes. No more playing games. It gives me a hard case of second lead syndrome which I enjoy. A lot. It’s a torturous kind of fun when I’m rooting for the other guy but the girl is so damn loyal to the first one so she rejects the other one. Korean dramas are full of that cliche, but I love it! Come to Mama Sophie, you broken-hearted second male lead hottie! Lemme comfort ya in ma lovin’ arms!

2) The Bad Boy. No, not the douche-y kind of bad boy but the bad boy with a soft, big heart. Girls love bad boys and although I often criticize them for going after that type (because when a boy is bad in real life, he is actually bad, not good, not cool—never accept any kind of douche-y-ness even though he’s your one true love) I love the way fiction easily breaks the archetype. The guy might be wearing the stereotypical leather jacket, the stereotypical dark tattoos, and riding the stereotypical big black bike, but this guy ain’t bad. He’s a nice gentleman with just an awful fashion sense.

3) Special First Meetings. It’s a magical, wonderful thing when two people meet for the first time in a happenstance as strangers. They still don’t know yet what comes to them after but as a reader, you already know. Something deep and special will blossom between them. It doesn’t have to be an insta-love, love-at-first-sight kind of thing. I just want to see the two main characters bump into each other one day like it’s fate or destiny that brought them together.

4) A Shared Past. Plot twist, they were actually childhood sweethearts that got separated from each other long before they even realize what love and puberty are. I’m a sucker for that! As a hopeless romantic, I live off stories of true love and soulmates and meant-to-be’s where people still end up together no matter what happened to them and no matter how long they’ve been away from each other to the point that they’ve forgotten one another. Yet, like fate, they meet again years later. Ah, the unrealistic depiction of love and relationships is so much fun.

5) Star-Crossed Lovers. You know, the usual Romeo-and-Juliet forbidden romance plot or the interspecies, vampire-human, love story—they just never get old. Why do you think are we going to have a Beauty and the Beast live action remake next year? (By the way, I’m so excited for that one!) It’s practically bestiality! Don’t tell me it’s not because Belle fell in love when the Beast is still a beast. That’s kind of the requirement to break the spell. Anyway, there’s something fascinating about forbidden love. There’s a reason why Romeo and Juliet is such a popular classic love story. I want to see love conquering all (although Romeo and Juliet were both too stupid so let’s not count them as an example for the “conquering all” part).

Now, can someone recommend me a good cliche YA romance novel? I want to read something with all of these elements present. Should be fun!

Pick a Love Story! (Part Two)

Help me choose! Here’s the next four romance plot ideas. If you want to read the first four, just click this link. Don’t forget to leave a comment of your best pick below and, also, help me come up with a title. I’d really appreciate it. If ever I get to finish the book (which I pray I will), I’ll dedicate it to you, guys. It’s the least I can do for you for helping me out. If you have any comments, suggestions, writing tips, or any form of feedback, don’t hesitate to tell me.

It’s really my dream to get published. Of course, I also want my stories to come out with the best quality. I don’t really care about having readers, I just want to see my stories come to life on bookstore shelves and tell myself, “I wrote that. This book is mine. The name on it is mine. I did that.” But even finishing a draft seems so hard for me. So please feel free to leave comments and criticize my ideas if you want.

5) I’m going to start off with a story of unrequited love. Most love stories are in the perspective of two people who are obviously going to end up together, that’s why this time I want to try telling the story of the guy who doesn’t get the girl.

Caleb is a troubled teen. He’s been in a lot of school fights and into some suspicious stuff. You can say that he’s the typical bad boy you read in romance novels minus the obligatory coolness that often comes with it. He’s just plain problematic. That’s why his grandmother forced him to work in a flower shop. This flower shop is owned by the wife of a police officer that helped them out with one of his cases. His grandmother thought that they will teach how to be responsible, respectful, etc. Turns out, the couple has a daughter his age, Sarah, who is the complete opposite of him. Thoughtful, responsible, and sweet—basically the “good daughter” but she’s also frail—and you guessed it right. He’s totally going to fall in love with her.

The problem is, Sarah has a boyfriend and, worse, he is the star swimmer of the school who is also known for his abrasive personality. Obviously, that’s the reason why this is an unrequited love story.

More than the romance though, I want to focus on the character development and break their archetype. Yes, we’ve got the typical bad boy, the typical good girl, and the typical popular jock. But I want the characters to learn that there’s so much more in a person than the reputation they have. They don’t necessarily need to step out of their personalities and be a changed person but, if I can pull it off, I want them to realized that they are their own person and they don’t need to box themselves into the image others have formed for them.

Caleb, despite him causing trouble for everyone, cares about his grandmother so much that he agreed to work in the flower shop, of all places. If he was the jerk everyone thought he was, he wouldn’t agree to work there despite his hesitance. He worries about his life too.

Sarah, even though she has a weak body, is not afraid to set people straight. Most “good girls” in the romance genre are often the submissive type and they still have to work on their confidence to speak out. On the other hand, most of the “strong heroines” in fiction always fight back, always trying to match the wit of the other person, but not Sarah. She doesn’t bite back but she knows how to put people, Caleb most especially, in their places when needed.

Sarah’s boyfriend, Mikel, is the popular guy but he doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He only cares about two things: Swimming and Sarah. If you’re not one of them, you better expect the cold shoulder from him. Caleb often scoffs at him because he’s supposedly the jock who is confident and oh-so-perfect but he’ll discover a lot of things about him too which will surprise him and he’ll realize how sincere and serious Mikel is about Sarah. Maybe they’ll form a friendship eventually—I want them to—but I’m still not sure how I should do that.

6) This one is about two best friends who, after years of being inseparable, will go their separate ways to different universities miles away from each other. They decided to keep in touch through a series of letters and emails, and I want to tell their story through their messages for one another.

They each have a love story so, unlike the first ideas where I focus on either one pair or a tangle of couples, it’s like I’m telling two stories in one. The main characters just happened to be best friends but they’ll experience romance separately and they’ll also learn to be independent and confident without the other physically on their side.

Mickaela stays in an apartment outside the university because of the cheaper cost, although it takes a longer walk to get there. Next to her lives a mysterious guy named Adam who works multiple part-time jobs. They never really talk—partly because Mickaela is too shy—but they always pass by each other when they go to work or school. One encounter will push them to interact. This will lead to them getting to know each other, becoming friends, and falling in love. But Adam has secrets that he doesn’t want Mickaela to find out. (Of course, we have to make the love story interesting. It can’t be that easy.)

Noah, on the other hand, stays in the university dorm. He has a roommate, Ethan, who he found annoying at first. Since Noah is quiet and a bit of an introvert, he hated how loud and outgoing Ethan is. But through Ethan’s persistence to make him his friend and help him out of his comfort zone, Noah starts to admire his personality and unexpectedly falls in love with him. But Ethan has an on-again-off-again girlfriend so he’s obviously not gay. Or is he? Don’t worry, we’re not turning Ethan gay. You can’t make people go gay or straight like turning an on-and-off switch. But Ethan has been struggling to “be straight” because of his family’s expectations of him. Here’s where Noah comes in and helps him out to come clean and be himself.

It’s going to be fun writing their stories in the form of letters and emails. I also want to see the dynamic of their friendship and just them growing on their own.

7) The next story is about two close families whose surnames I still haven’t come up with. If you have any suggestions, just share it in the comments. That would be real lovely. For now, I’ll just call them Fam A and Fam B. These two families have always lived next to each other and they share everything, from cooking recipes to general life problems. Makes sense because the parents have been friends since college.

Now, there are four “kids” directly involved in the story. From Fam A: Trisha, 16 years old, and Jacob, 20 years old. From Fam B: Marco, 19 years old, and Joshua, 16 years old. While Jacob and Marco are best friends, Trisha and Joshua can’t get away enough from each other. They always fight and it’s almost certain that hate each other. But each of them is keeping a secret and the families aren’t always happy.

In reality, Joshua has a crush on Trisha (which he hides by being a jerk to her, but it’s so obvious that everyone knows except Trisha herself), Jacob is suffering from panic disorder (which he’s keeping a secret specifically from his parents), and both Trisha and Marco are trying to hide their feelings for each other—Marco most especially because he doesn’t want to ruin his friendship with Jacob nor hurt his younger brother. One couple is also going through some relationship difficulties that might lead to divorce (annulment in my country because we don’t have divorce).

Besides the romance, I also want to show how strong the bond these two families have. They’re like the extended family of each other. I want to see how their problems and secrets will affect their relationship, and how they’ll overcome it. I also want to focus on Marco’s relationship with Jacob and Joshua. Jacob is over-protective when it comes to Trisha despite him being the annoying, goofy brother to her. Even if it was his best friend, no brother would feel easily reassured with the fact that their sister is dating some guy. Not especially his best friend whom he’s done some stupid sh*t with. At least, that’s what I know based on what my male friends tell me. So it’s going to be hard for Marco to confess.

There’s also his younger brother, Joshua, who likes Trisha as well. Of course, he doesn’t want to hurt him by dating the girl he likes. Usually, the eldest is the one who gives way for the younger siblings—and Marco is that kind of brother.

8) For the last story idea (finally, this is taking forever), it’s about a girl who everyone thinks is perfect. Emily comes from a wealthy family and it is also believed that she going to inherit her father’s company. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, and she’s also a piano prodigy. Guys want her and girls want to be her. But she’s has a dark, cunning personality that she often hides with a sweet smile. However, she meets a guy that can see beyond her perfect image.

Chris also comes from a well-off family but despite his background, he’s simple and very down-to-earth. He works part-time in his mother’s restaurant as a waiter to learn responsibility and the basics of service (an idea of his mother which he easily agreed to). In return, he gets extra allowance. In his senior year, he moves to a private school where he meets Emily. He discovers her despicable side which causes him to dislike her immediately.

There’s another important element in this story. Emily has a cousin, Tara, whose family owns the school. Because of her privileges, Tara was allowed to put up her very own club in the school and she forces both Emily and Chris to join. Despite being known for her quirks and crazy ideas, she is very observant and level-headed. She knows what Emily has gone through and understands why she is the way she is now. Through the club meetings, Tara will help Chris to be more understanding of Emily and Emily to become a better version of herself. They’ll get to know each other and, long story short, fall in love.

I think this is going to be the hardest to write because I have to justify Emily’s actions. Of course, there’s a reason why she acts a certain way, why she can be so mean. Most of the “mean girls” in fiction are two-dimensional and I hate it because it’s so unrealistic. That’s why I want to try getting into the mind of a “mean girl.” But I just don’t want to teach her a lesson, I also want to give her hope that there will be people who won’t give up on her and believe that she can be a better person. Chris, with the intervention of Tara, will be one of those people but before he’s able to do that, he also needs to learn to be more sympathetic and to have faith in the good in others. So both of them will become better people in the way. He may be the good guy but he’s not perfect either.

It also seems interesting to write in the perspective of rich people. I’m not rich (I could only wish) but I went to a high school that mostly people with money can afford to go to. I only went there because I got a full scholarship, lucky me. The gap between the lifestyles of the rich people and the less privilege ones is a curious thing for me.

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If you want to read the first part, I’ll put again the link here. Just click it. Also, please don’t forget to comment the number of your best pick because I really, really need your opinion on this one. It’s so hard to decide for myself! Ugh.

You might have noticed that my characters are either in high school or college. I’m more in touch with my young-adult self—I am one—that’s why my stories are all about them. So, if you’re looking for a more mature type of romance, sorry I don’t have one. Maybe in the future, I’ll try my hand at adult romance. But I have to finish one of these stories first before I can think of a plot for that. Anyway, thank you so much for keeping up with these longs posts, everyone! Stay awesome!