Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (Review & Giveaway)

Made You Up

“Sometimes I think people take reality for granted.”

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Personal Thoughts:

“My first-ever friend was a hallucination: a sparkling entry on my new resume as a crazy person.”

The quote above basically describe the condition of the main character in Made You Up. Alex is suffering from schizophrenia, a mental health condition where a person experience hallucinations, delusions or something similar. Alex mind can project a lot of things, and sometimes she failed to recognized what’s real and what is not.

As a narrator, Alex is very unreliable which makes me on the edge of my seat. I keep questioning everything while trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not in the story. I’m trying to dissect Alex mind, trying to find pattern or clues that is non-existent because even Alex doesn’t know it herself. It’s a tricky experience reading from Alex point of view. I keep on expecting something and questioning everything. Like who’s real and who is not? or did that really happen or just another hallucinations?

And the biggest question that keep on popping is, “Is Miles real or not?” What if he is just in Alex’s head all this time. But then the question and doubt is gone when Alex and Miles are in school where Miles is acknowledge by other students, teacher and almost everyone in there. He can’t not be real if others interact with him too like real person. Can’t he? But after removing Miles on the list of possible hallucinations, the next question is “who isn’t real then?”. The title MADE YOU UP suggest someone is just from Alex’s head. So I keep on guessing while I read. When it was revealed my mind still can’t stop thinking what if everything isn’t real? Or more accurately fictional real. What if everything is just in Alex head? Ok. I think I sound crazy saying that but honestly this book is a crazy read. I swear my mind almost hurt trying to figure out what real and what’s not. It’s crazy!

“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter? You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”

Ok, I guess I’m done talking about my crazy experience, let me try to review this now properly.

Beside Alex being crazy and unreliable, she is also an interesting and charming character. For one she is a history buff, which I find really cool. The first time she played Five Questions with Miles I’m impress. For someone who has mental condition, Alex is definitely handling it well. She seemed already come to terms with her mental health. Even sometimes, she herself doesn’t know what is real and what is not, she still brave enough to want to figure things out. I admire her for that.

As for Miles, well he is fascinating just like Alex. No he doesn’t have mental health issue but he’s unique on his own. He’s like one of John Green’s male characters if you know what I’m mean. Yeah, I think he fits the part. He is smart, quirky, adorable, and did I mentioned smart? Yeah definitely smart. Maybe even the genius kind of smart. Love him simply being that. He maybe the king of franks at school who people interpret at smart-ass jerk, but actually he is just a driven person who will do anything for his Mom. Readers will surely feel for him. Everything he went through at home with his Dad is just heartbreaking.

“Intelligence is not measured by how much you know, but by how much you have the capacity to learn.”

Then we have Tucker, Alex’s co-worker/friend, second genius to Miles, and ex-best friend of Miles. His closeness to Alex is heartwarming. He add normality in Alex’s life. He never judge Alex even when it was revealed to everyone her sickness. Even when he has the right to be mad at Alex he never did. He understands her, supports her and continue to be her friend.

“People say teenagers think they’re immortal, and I agree with that. But I think there’s a difference between thinking you’re immortal and knowing you can survive. Thinking you’re immortal leads to arrogance, thinking you deserve the best. Surviving means having the worst thrown at you and being able to continue on despite that. It means striving for what you want most, even when it seems our of your reach, even when everything is working against you.”

Francesca Zappia’s written a unique, interesting, fun, and enlightening story in Made You Up. Her take on mental illness is very eye-opening. Having read a lot of contemporary novels that deals with different mental conditions, it is surprisingly refreshing to read a different type and different approach on character like Alex.

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Vendetta Blog Tour: Character Interview with Luca + Book Review

Vendetta Blog Tour Banner

I’m crazy excited to start the PH promotional tour of the first book of Blood for Blood series Vendetta by Catherine Doyle. Not only because I’ll be able to tell to all of you how good this debut novel is but also because I had a pleasure of interviewing one of the five brooding characters inside it, Luca. If you haven’t read the book yet, and haven’t met Luca here’s your chance to have a piece of his thoughts. I guarantee you, he is the best of part of this new thrilling contemporary series from Catherine. Vendetta won’t be as fun and thrilling without him. Anyway, before I gush too much about Luca, here’s the interview, I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy interviewing Luca.

Interview with Luca:

Q1. What does it mean to be part of a mafia for you? What do you think your life will be if you are not born in a family like yours?

Being part of the mafia means the same thing as being part of my family. The two are interconnected. I’ve never known anything different, so it just means getting up every day, living, breathing, doing what my father wanted me to do, what his father wanted him to do, and so on. It is what it is.

I don’t think it does much good to dwell on things than can never be, but sometimes when my mind is quiet, I do wonder about it. When I was a kid, before I understood the permanency of my life direction, I wanted to go to university, to study languages or history maybe. What kind of kid dreams about lectures and college assignments, right? I must have been the only boy who didn’t fantasize about shooting guns or driving fast cars, and yet that’s where I ended up. Life is funny sometimes.

Q2. If you were in charge for a day with your group, what is the first thing you would do as the boss?

The idea of being in charge doesn’t appeal to me. I suppose if I had to do it, I’d reign some of the older family members in, and give one person in particular a lesson in respecting the hierarchy of our family before his head gets so inflated it endangers us all. In a male-dominated order of assassins, egos can be more dangerous than guns. We can’t defend ourselves from the outside if there are cracks on the inside.

Q3. Can you give us a little peek of what’s a life with four brothers like? What’s it’s like to have a twin brother?

Having four brothers is a lot of work, especially with the ones I have, but there’s no greater feeling than being surrounded by your family. Being a twin has its ups and downs. On the one hand, Valentino and I share an unshakeable bond. We would do anything for each other. On the other hand, our roles within the family can be clouded by our closeness, and sometimes when our decisions clash it’s not a nice experience for anyone.

Q4. If you can have one more day with your Dad, what are the things you want to tell or ask him? What are the things that you’ll do together?

If I couldn’t stop him, you mean? If I couldn’t change the events of that night? I wouldn’t do anything special or extraordinary during our last day together. I wouldn’t waste our time. I’d sit with him, I’d talk to him, I’d laugh with him. I’d spend every last second of our time together listening to the sound of his voice, studying the lines on his face, remembering every facial expression, however small, so I’d never forget any part of him.

Q5. If you had to describe the day you first met Sophie in the diner using a song, what song will it be and why?

I’m not going to pick something soppy if that’s what you’re hoping for. That’s loverboy’s thing. I remember that night in the diner being incredibly annoying. We had just moved to Cedar Hill, and Nicoli and I had to go and case the place for Jack and his crew. Within five minutes, Nicoli was drooling all over Sophie instead of concentrating on what he was supposed to be doing. And she was encouraging it, blinking those big eyes too much and smiling crookedly at him. I honestly considered smashing my head off the table just to be free of the torture. It was like being sucked into the worst romantic comedy ever made. I know it wasn’t exactly her fault considering that big bubble of naivety she was living in at the time, but it was an incredibly frustrating evening for me. It’s hard to put a song to that level of exasperation. What about Secrets by One Republic? It’s about baring your secrets, which is ironic, considering we were all lying to each other that night. Or maybe Robbers by The 1975. That song comes to mind when I think about that night. I’m not even sure why. Maybe I just like the melody.

Q6. Finally, what’s new with you? What should we expect from you in the future books of Blood for Blood series?

What’s new with me? Oh, just this gaping gunshot wound. I can’t tell you what to expect from me, but I can tell you I’m going to be around, and I’m going to be my usual charming self.

Thank you so much Luca for answering all my questions and to author Catherine Doyle for allowing him. If only we can continue the Q&A more longer but I know you need to rest too, especially with your condition. Get well soon ok? I want to see you in action in the next book.

Isn’t Luca charismatic? And here’s more, a character profile of Luca made by the author, Catherine Doyle. Just for you to have a little more idea of Luca’s appearance and background. Also, check my review of Vendetta below for more idea of the book.

VenCharacter-Luca

About Catherine Doyle:

catherine-doyle-2

Catherine Doyle lives in the west of Ireland. She holds a bachelor’s degrees in psychology and a master’s degree in English from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Vendetta is her first novel. Catherine lives in Galway, Ireland.

Find Catherine

Website  | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

Blood Will Spill, Hearts Will Break: With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

 

Vendetta

“There is beauty everywhere; even in the dark, there is light, and that is the rarest kind of all.”

Blood Will Spill, Hearts Will Break: With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

For Sophie, it feels like another slow, hot summer in Cedar Hill, waitressing at her family’s diner and hanging out with her best friend Millie. But then someone moves into the long-abandoned mansion up the block–a family of five Italian brothers, each one hotter than the last. Unable to resist caramel-eyed Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling for him — and willfully ignoring the warning signs. Why are Nic’s knuckles cut and bruised? Why does he carry an engraved switchblade? And why does his arrogant and infuriating older brother, Luca, refuse to let her see him? As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. Suddenly, she’s torn between two warring dynasties: the one she’s related to and the one she’s now in love with. She’ll have to choose between loyalty and passione. When she does, blood will spill, hearts will break. Because in this twisted underworld, dishonor can be the difference between life and death.

Personal Thoughts:

Since this post is quite pretty long than I intended to I won’t give you a run down anymore of what’s the story is about. Though the blurb doesn’t do much justice which basically tell a Romeo and Juliet type of romance, I still encourage you to read the book and find out on your own what’s the deal is about. Trust me, there’s more into Vendetta than just the romance. It is action packed and gritty to be just a romance novel.

For a newly debut author Catherine Doyle writing is pretty impressive. Vendetta is an easy flowing read. All the actions and tensions are well written. Catherine knows where to push her characters and throw some punch that will surely make the readers feel.

The romantic storyline is not overly used which I really appreciate. Because more than the tension between Nic and Sophie I’m honestly more invested to the family tension of the Falcone. It wasn’t deeply explore given that we have Sophie as the narrator, but that small peak inside the Falcone’s life is so much intriguing. I really hope that the next book will show more of that dark and grittier side of the Falcone family and the inner part of the mafia underground where they belong.

If it isn’t obvious yet from the character interview above, Luca is my guy here. But that doesn’t mean that I want him for Sophie. Nic can have Sophie, I’ll keep Luca for me instead. Seriously though, I don’t think Catherine need to use Luca as part of the romance. I’m happily contented with what she did in this first installment. So I hope she won’t make a love triangle by pushing Luca to go between Sophie and Nic. I believe Catherine can do better than that. There so much plot lines in the story she can develop without adding a romantic twist that is so predictable just to give readers more tension. I can give you a lot of ways what to do with Luca. The family issue alone is so much wider to explore, his role in his family and to the mafia group, add the whole dark underground world in the background for sure Luca can be a lot busier and useful than deal with teenagers angst.

Then we have Valentino. When Valentino showed up in the story, I was intrigue. All his talks with Sophie during their first meeting really catch my attention. It signals me that there’s so much about him that the narration isn’t telling, and that I need to watch the guy. As if he holds some secrets that will later reveal in the end. And true enough he is really a revelation. Something I didn’t see coming even I already anticipate his involvement in the matter. Catherine is quite sneaky in that one.

“This life is so complex that we rarely get to be the people we are truly meant to be. Instead, we wear masks and put up walls to keep from dealing with the fear of rejection, the feeling of regret, the very idea that someone may not love us for who we are deep in our core, that they might not understand the things that drive us.”

More than the romance and drama this book tells how hazy the lines between right and wrong is, so much that you can’t even decide who the villain in the story really is. Catherine Doyle successfully deliver an impressive debut novel in Vendetta. It is fast, entertaining, and thrilling read. Looking forward reading more about the world of mafia underground and the lovely characters inside it.

*This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Sholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

“You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.”

I’m trying to catch up now with all the reviews I want to write. I’ve read four more books since the last book review I posted here but didn’t have much time to write a review until now. I don’t exactly review every book I read since it’s not feasible for a working person like me with a full-time schedule. But I can’t let The Uncommon Reader pass without me writing anything about the book.

The book is a novella about the reading habits of Queen Elizabeth as imagine by the author. The Queen starts reading out of duty when her corgis stray toward a mobile library parked near the palace, she feels an obligation to borrow a book and unexpectedly finds duty turning into curiosity, and curiosity into pleasure. Soon she becomes as obsessed about reading and neglects her duties and abandons her fastidiousness in order to cram in a few more pages. She struggle finding fellow readers and approval of others in her new found hobby. Reading also, opens up a whole new perspective for her on human nature, on relationships, and on emotion. The novels she consumes transform her and humanize her and eventually give her a voice of her own. In the end the Queen discovers that there is a writer inside of her that needs to emerge as a results of her reading.

I am amazed on how the author create a fictional story from a real person like Queen Elizabeth of England. The development of the Queen into a reader in her later years is very well done and quite believable. Alan Bennett fictionalize a famous living person and created a well rounded character in paper. Written with dry wit and poignant words the story is an enjoyable short read.

As a reader I can easy relate to the story. I like how the author captured the joy of reading and the possible results of addiction to written words. How one book can lead to another and another. It made me remember why I love reading so much. Reading allows me to experience things I normally wouldn’t experience, it takes me to places I normally wouldn’t travel. It opens my mind to new possibilities and ideas. It shows me the glimpse of the past and the future. It gives me some sense of satisfaction and so much more.

More than just the reading habit this book is about finding yourself, discovering your passion and broadening your horizons, no matter how old you are and what is your role in society. This book will let you experience the power and pleasure of reading books and the vast horizon it can lead you.