The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

The Smell of Other People's Houses

“We don’t have to be blood to be family.”

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

Personal Thoughts:

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is surprisingly absorbing read. It’s a powerful story that offers a truly unique reading experience with its melancholic and quiet tales of life’s hardships and uncertainties.

The title alone, piqued my interest to read this book, it has this metaphorical vibe in it, that I feel like there’s a real interesting story behind that title, which just makes me want to discover the real deal. And after reading the book, I finally see how Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock match the smell of houses to her characters and their stories. Because the smell of houses tell so much more about the people living inside it.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is told from multiple points of view – Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank, these four characters who are experiencing life’s difficulties and hardships. Each of them has their own story to tell, which means readers can actually read each part as one whole story but at the same time Hitchcock also intertwined their stories into one, creating a more powerful tale.

“I remember my dad saying that sometimes you can be inserted into another person’s life just by witnessing something you were never really supposed to be a part of.”

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock writing style is uniquely atmospheric. I’m sure I haven’t encounter something like it before. At first, I don’t know what to expect, the first chapter kinda throw me unexpectedly but once I get the hang of the writing style, I get to appreciate the uniqueness of it. Hitchcock descriptions of 1970 Alaska is easy to imagine and the life of her characters are vividly described. So vivid that I can easily feel their struggles, hopes, and dreams. That sometimes I wish there’s something I can do for them to feel more better. And the way Hitchcock tied all those characters together is simply impressive.

All in all, The Smell of Other’s People Houses is a unique addition to young adult genre. With sympathetic characters, atmospheric settings, and writing format that offers a unique reading experience this debut novel from Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock deserves to be experience and appreciated. It’s haunting, heart-wrenching, and more importantly beautifully crafted.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children via NetGalley.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Personal Thoughts:

When there’s an overwhelming amount of hype that surrounds a particular novel, I usually try my best not to pick up the book until my expectations lowered. So after months of ignoring the gorgeous copy from my shelf, I finally agreed to Precious to read An Ember in the Ashes together.

Being a fantasy novel, An Ember in the Ashes is a familiar ground to me. So familiar that sometimes it feels like I have read the same book before. The main characters, Elias and Laia are from different side of life. A mask and a scholar who are opposite in status but brought together by circumstances. The other came from the military, serving the government/emperor while the other once is from a group of rebels called the resistance. These two are our main narrator who delivered a flowing and gripping story in-spite of alternating points of view.

“Just because he’s a good leader doesn’t mean he’s a good person.”

Elias mother, The Commander is an interesting character but unfortunately wasn’t developed or explored much in this first installment. If only her motivations and reasons for being bad or not caring much about her son is explained or at least hinted more I might applaud the author for creating a menacing and well rounded villain.

Also, I still don’t understand how Elias’ mother become the Commander at the first place? For a world that is dominated by men, how come a woman like her managed to get the highest position in the military? And why she doesn’t have remorse for girls like to the slaves she has if ever she ever actually experience low treatment before? Isn’t it too convenient for the plot to have one girl once in a while to join the military just like having Helena as one of the top students, and Elias’ best friend who also like him more than a friend?

“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be.”

The romance just didn’t work for me. I think I would prefer this better without any romance at all. As much I want to get the “feel” factor, the romance in here are more irritating than anything else (well at least for me). It’s not even the pairing or choices that I have issues with. The romance frustrate me because it feels unnecessary for the plot. It feels so force. The pairing, whichever pair it is has no spark at all.

Same with the gore and actions. As much as I enjoying reading all those gory details, I don’t think it gives any push to the plot. Sure I like the idea of the trials where the best of the best are fighting each other for the position of the next ruler. But is it really necessary? Is brutality the only way to become a ruler? What about intelligence, compassion?

All in all, An Ember in the Ashes is a gripping read with all its gore and actions but unfortunately I think it didn’t live the hype that surrounds it. Though I enjoy the story as a whole the plot holes and not so original plot lines are impossible to ignore.

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry (Review & Giveaway)

Nowhere But Here

“Sometimes people create a world that gives them power. Sometimes people create a world to find friends with similar interest. To me, motorcycle clubs are a rougher man’s sci-fi convention.”

An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

Book Links: Amazon UK | Book DepositoryGoodreads | National Book Store

Personal Thoughts:

When I pick up Nowhere But Here, I wasn’t aware that the story is centered in a motorcycle club. I just know that I have to read it because it was written by Katie McGarry whose previous works I enjoyed reading. Normally, this type of story won’t piqued my interest but if anyone can pull this kind of story, I know it is Katie. I saw it happen in Crash into You and in here she did it again.

“The only way to break free is to understand the past so you don’t continue to follow in their footsteps.”

One of the things that I like about Katie McGarry is the way she weaved her characters. Most of her characters (if not all) that I’ve encountered are well-fleshed out, memorable, and root-able. Even her side characters and bad guys are worth reading. They are all well written – portrayed with depth, emotions, realistic background and compelling story. Emily and Oz are no exception. Like with other Katie’s characters these latest addition to Katie’s contemporary worlds are both well written.

Emily though not easily like-able character is strong and brave. Her journey to self-discovery is an emotional road that readers will surely walk as they read Emily’s story. Oz is the caring guy. I like that he isn’t ashamed to show his soft side. He owned it and so proud of it.

Emily’s biological father surprise me. For someone who is basically leading the tough guys of bikers Eli has a soft heart, especially when it comes to his daughter Emily. All the things he did for Emily will surely melts tough hearts.

Another interesting character is Emily’s grandmother, Olivia. She’s feisty and strong in-spite of her health condition. I love how she value her family.

Isaiah’s dad, James was mentioned too in the story too. When the word “James” first pop up as the name of stuffed toy elephant it automatically remind me of Isaiah’s dad, so when the connection between Emily’s dad and James was revealed it is a much welcome connection.

“Our fears are what stifle us and we’re only scared of what we don’t understand.”

The depiction of motorcycle club in the story is both educational and believable. Katie McGarry seems did a very good job with her research, showing us the in and outs of the bikers’ subculture. It’s like she’s been part of them – people who lives and breath motorcycles and speeds, and who value integrity and family among others.

“Because I’m a part of a family and I’ve been entrusted with a secret that I swore I wouldn’t tell. You accuse me of having no integrity, but integrity doesn’t mean breaking promise. It means keeping it.”

Katie McGarry once again deliver a well written novel. Having read all books from her Pushing the Limits series and her novellas, I feel like this is a natural progression for Katie. Her style though not so much different from her previous books shows level of growth. It’s simple and precise but capable of tugging readers emotions. She really knows how to create drama and throw romance that will make readers feel. In here, she tied up the mystery, romance and family drama into one huge compelling story. There are lots of things that is happening but never feel too much to read. Instead I feel like the more I read the more I want to know more what will happen. I’m literally on the edge of my seat. And the best part, I was surprised with some of the revelations in the story. I really like how Katie plot Nowhere But Here.

With its fast and interesting plot lines, engaging and easily like-able characters, and well research story line Nowhere But Here is another must read novel from Katie McGarry. She is really a talented writer who never fail to deliver memorable, entertaining and riveting stories.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Harlequin (UK) Limited via NetGalley.

Check out the rest of the tour here.


What’s up for Grabs?


The Rules:

  • Open to PH residents only
  • There will be one (1) winner only
  • Winner will be chosen by rafflecopter

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Ignite (Defy #2) by Sara B. Larson


“I feel like a pawn in a game that on one bother to teach me.”

Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson’s acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion’s people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy — before it’s too late?

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters | Goodreads | National Book Store

Personal Thoughts:

IGNITE is definitely an action and tension-filled fantasy story. Sara B. Larson didn’t waste time putting her characters to another whirlwind of challenges, both personal and professional.

Damian is the new King of Antion trying his best to rebuild the Kingdom after the devastating war. He is trying to make amends to his people after what the former King, his father done for the sake of power. His best guard, Alex/a still continue to hold a position as one of his guard, protecting him with her best of ability without hiding her true sexuality anymore. As the only female in the King’s guard, Alexa earned both respect and judgment from people around her. Some love her guts and other hate or envy her. But still she continue to serve the new-King and the whole Kingdom of Antion even being closer to the Damian means more heartache for her. She may not be pretending to be a boy anymore but she is still hiding something. She has to hide her true feelings for the King because she think that she isn’t good enough for him, and that Antion deserves a much better Queen than a scarred soldier like her.

Then new threats are coming, the peace that Antion held for awhile is in danger once more. There are attacks in their Kingdom and the blame leads to their new found ally, Blevon. But Alexa and Damian cannot believe it, not with Eljin saying differently and not after they made peace to the neighboring Kingdom. They have their theories but they need proofs before everything else goes wrong.

“I didn’t like him demonstrating his skills unnecessary. The people’s trust in him was a tenuous, fragile thing, and I was afraid that one wrong act on his part would cause it to break.”

Alexa is still the smart and tough soldier that she is just like in the first book, DEFY. But without the pretension of being a boy we are now be able to see more of her softer side. Her feelings for Damian though concealed to everyone but her, gives readers access to a more loving and caring Alexa. Her confusions, and heartache are more visible and easy to felt. Her struggle to adopt to being the only girl in the King’s guard is handle very well by the author. Showing Alexa’s insecurities and doubts make her more accessible and relate-able.

“Again, I wondered what he was hoping to accomplish.”

Damian is constantly an enigma to me. Just like in DEFY he continue to be so mysterious that sometimes I wish the story is written in his point of view instead of Alexa or at least in dual perspective just so I would know what he was thinking or planning. Like during the dinner with Lady Vera, I keep on wondering his plans for the girl, what he really think her motive is for visiting and how is he planning to handle the situation in his Kingdom or with Alexa. I really wish I know what’s running in his mind. I think he holds the answers to most of my questions than Alexa.

“I wish I could go after him. I feel so trapped here, in my palace. On my throne. I am a king, and yet I’ve never felt more powerless to do something.”

As a new King, Damian holds so much power in his hands, he has a whole battalion of guards/army to command, a whole nation is under him. But Damian has his own low moments too. And in this novel, Sara successfully shows Damian’s vulnerability without making him weak. Like when he wants to go to the jungle to save someone he love. As much as he wants to put himself out there, as a King he can’t just do so, because he has now a whole kingdom to protect, and a whole nation to serve. It’s not about just him or his love ones, he needs to consider the majority of his people, and sometimes it is kingdom first before anyone or anything else. During those times it’s so easy to feel Damian’ struggles which in return shows more of his emotions, love, and honesty. It makes it so easy to connect to him and to just love him more.

As I close the final page of IGNITE, I feel contented even with the cliffhanger ending. Sara managed to deliver a full story in this novel even with a few plot arcs to work around. For a middle book of a series, Ignite is pretty impressive. It doesn’t just act as a bridge to next book but it is very essential to the whole series. It’s like Ignite has it’s own plot running inside a much larger plot arc of the whole series. If in DEFY, we have the war between the two Kingdoms of Antion and Blevon, and Alexa and Damian’s secret identity and special ability to uncover, now in Ignite we have a new enemy for Antion – a much frightening and more deadlier enemy which actually playing an important role in the first book without the readers knowing it. There’s also more progress to Alexa and Damian relationship, and more secrets and powers to explore. I don’t know how Sara planned this whole series but it feels like she has the whole story panned out from the start. Like she knows where she is going and what steps she is taking to get there. And those cliffhangers are there not for the gimmicky purpose of getting the readers to read the next book but because the characters has more exciting stories to tell. And even without the cliffhangers, I personally still read these novels of Defy series simply because I care for the characters that I am so eager to know what’s their next adventure.

All in all, IGNITE is a thrilling and intense sequel to DEFY. Sara B. Larson is up on her game of giving us a new fantasy series to love. The stakes are higher, villains are more irritating, and actions and plot are more intense. This series is definitely a must read for YA fantasy lovers.

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

Losing It (Losing It #1) by Cora Carmack

Losing It

“Sometimes, it’s the scary things in life that are the most worthwhile.”

Love.Romance. Sex. There’s a first time for everything…

As far as Bliss Edwards can tell, she’s the last virgin standing, certainly amongst her friends. And she’s determined to deal with the ‘problem’ as quickly and simply as possible.

But her plan for a no-strings one night stand turns out to be anything but simple. Especially when she arrives for her first class and recognises her hot new British professor.

She’d left him naked in her bed just 8 hours earlier…

Personal Thoughts:

When Dianne tweeted last Friday that Losing It is available from NetGalley, I automatically visited NetGalley’s website to request a copy. I really thought it was the second book of the series. Once I downloaded the eGalley to my Kindle, that’s when I realized that I made a mistake. Because Losing It is in fact the first book of the series, which I already read last February. As of I know, the book is still a self published released when I first read it, then it becomes a hit and picked up by Ebury UK publishing. The paperback was released into market last March. The one I requested from NetGalley has a different cover than the copy I’ve read months ago, which is why I assumed it is a different book. Anyway, to refresh my memory about the book, I decided to do a quick re-read which turns out more than fun than what I remember in reading the book the first time.

The story is about Bliss who at the starts of the novel wants to lose her V card. With her best friend Kesley, who seems to make it a mission to help Bliss with her V card problem, they went out to a bar to hunt some guy who can help Bliss. There Bliss met Garrick while he was reading a book in a crowded room. She thought it was a style to pick-up some girl, which obviously works in her, but turns out Garrick is just honestly spending time reading. Garrick happens to be a British with an accent that can easily draw girls attentions. Bliss and Garrick had unexpected chemistry right away, which leads them both to Bliss place that night. But the night doesn’t end perfectly as there are some disasters courtesy of Bliss. But the night disaster is nothing compared to what Bliss and Garrick find out the day after. As it turns out that Garrick is Bliss new Theater professor, something more complicated than Bliss bargained for.

Bliss is a fun character to read. Her inner thoughts carry humor and wit. All the awkward and funny situations she keeps falling into makes this book so much fun and hilarious. Her awkwardness and clumsiness is endearing and pretty crazy. She rumbles a lot which usually irritates me since I’m not a fun of character who talk to much more than she thinks, but in Bliss case I welcome her blubbering as it is so fun to read.

Garrick is British with a freaking accent to die for. I love playing accents in my mind while reading and there are lots of in here, so I adore Garrick. Though accent aside, what I like about Garrick character is the way Cora Cormack make him plain and simple. He is a normal guy, with a few issues but not damaged or overly portrayed with dark past or anything. Not much hidden drama around him which is a bit refreshing compare to what I’ve been reading lately, even in contemporary novels like this one. Garrick is a genuinely nice guy who simply cares about bliss. His protectiveness is not over the top in any way, which is more sweet than irritating.

“Some relationships just end. Like a star, they burn bright and brilliant, and then nothing in particular goes wrong, they just reach their end. They burn out.”

The plot was definitely something that is already used before, I already encountered some contemporary novels with same story line, but Losing It has its own unique way of delivering a common plot. Yes, it had cliché moments, simple and predictable plot but it is was such a fun read that you can forgive all the clichés, and don’t mind the predictability. It was highly entertaining and the best part is it didn’t try to be something that it is not.

“We want what we can’t have. It’s human nature.”

For a debut novel, Cora Carmack successfully deliver a fun, sweet, and romantic story in Losing It. It is a quick and light-hearted read that will put a smile on your face, and your heart melting and giddy.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Random House UKEbury Publishing via NetGalley.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“It’s much easier not to know things sometimes.”

Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Personal Thoughts:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that’s been sitting on my shelves for years. I’ve been hesitant starting this one, because even before I got my copy I already have a lot of expectations from this book. Being branded as “powerful and deeply affecting coming-of-age story” I expected this book to move me after I’m done reading. But based on experience high-expectation doesn’t always serves me right in reading. Most of the times it ruins my reading experience, so I know I need to extract those expectations first in order to fairly experience this book. So, after few years and with the film adaptation coming out, I finally decided to dive in.

The story is presented in letter format written by the main character, Charlie to an anonymous friend. This friend is someone readers never get to know except that he/she is older than Charlie and in fact an adult. I actually tried to be clever, working out who the mysterious friend is but obviously I failed. Stephen Chbosky didn’t confirm who is the recipient of Charlie’s letters. Anyway, back to Charlie, his letters consist of everyday experiences during his freshmen year in high school which he start writing after his best friend, Micheal commits suicide. In there he talks about his nervousness in starting school, his lack of friends, his extra homework from his English teacher, his crushes, his family and anything he feels writing. Through his letters, we get to know Charlie as a shy, sweet, polite teenager but highly sensitive and socially awkward. It easy to see how detached he is by the way he tell his stories. Being different as he is, he tried to ‘participate’ in life and tried to understand other people around him. He gain friends and life experiences. He deals with many different issues that later pushed him to recognized and accepts changes in his own life and understand other people around him.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

As a character, Charlie is simply endearing especially when he is so naive. Even I can’t relate much with him, I still understand his struggles and pains in growing up. The way he tells his story through each letter has personal touch that makes it easy to see the world in his eyes. Even his voice is a bit detached, it is still easy to feel each and every emotions he went through. The feeling of isolation and trying to blend in to everyone around him is so raw and real, that I want Charlie to finally find where he really belongs. I want him fit in, find friends who will accept him for who he is and understand his struggles. And more than anything else, I want to see him live and be his own person.

Even with so much sensitive themes like drugs, cigarettes, homosexuality, rape, violence, suicide and abortion, the story never felt too much to read. As if all those things can really happen around to one teenager like Charlie. Everything that happened to him and around him, contribute to what & who he is now. But in the end, what really stands out were not those heavy & heart wrenching events but Charlie. Charlie with his sweet innocence and wisdom makes this book plausible.

The big twist in the end is something I didn’t expect. It is briefly describe in the book but the impact is nevertheless powerful. I’m not sure how other teenager will handle that but I like that Charlie is so hopeful in his situation after the revelation. I like that he didn’t blame anyone, not even the person who I think should be blame. His logic and reasoning simply bemuse me.

“It’s like if I blamed my aunt Helen, I would have to blame her dad for hitting her and the friend of the family that fooled around with her when she was little. And the person that fooled around with him. And God for not stopping all this and things that are much worse. And I did do that for a while, but then I just couldn’t anymore. Because it wasn’t going anywhere. Because it wasn’t the point.”

Just like the story told by Charlie’s doctor about the two brothers whose dad was a bad alcoholic, where one brother become successful & never drank and the other brother end up like dad who drinks a lot, it’s all about choices. Our choice sets us different from other people. Like Charlie we have a choice, a choice to move on with our life or to just stay in our past and consume ourselves with old ghost. Maybe we can’t choose to change the past but we can choose our future.

“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”

Somehow this book reminds me of my own high school life. Charlie and I may not have the same path of growing up, nor the same experiences but he still reminds me of what it is like to be a teenager. At some point while reading I missed my best friend and I remember some of my teachers and mentors. I also smiles reminiscing parties, dates and other high school experiences. Charlie’s experiences isn’t that far from everyone’s experiences, his struggles, pain and confusions is something we all went through one moment in our life.

Through The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky perfectly captures the high and lows of growing up. It is not particularly life changing as I’d expect it to be but nevertheless it is thought-provoking and genuinely great read. A raw and gripping story that has a timeless quality in it. With Charlie’s charming innocence you will want to find your own life experiences that will make you feel infinite and make you want to choose your own path in life.