{Book Review} The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

“Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.”*

Like Oliver, I love airports. I love the feel of being suspended, neither here nor there, waiting impatiently to be brought to different places, unfamiliar or otherwise, book and another book in hand. I love to travel, and I don’t get as much opportunity as I wish, so I just make up for it by reading books involving travel… which makes this book count.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight presents the exalting feeling of love and the downtrodden feeling of grief at its purest. The characters’ emotions are so raw, especially that of Hadley, the protagonist. I thought this would be a quick, fluffy read but it turned out to be so much more than that. Aside from the main story of Hadley and Oliver falling in love, both of them fight their own family issues, especially their relationships with their fathers. While that part of the story may be filled with so much angst, I can understand them, especially Hadley, quite a lot, because I’m close to my father and I could barely imagine how hard her father’s wedding must be for her. 

Jennifer E. Smith’s writing managed to evoke so many emotions out of me, and I know I’m quoting so much, but I can’t think of another way to show you how touching and full of things unsaid the book was. Here is my particular favorite passage, which was a flashback Hadley had of her father. It’s long, but by the end of it I hope you’ll see what I mean when I say it made me emotionally vulnerable for a time.

“Do you want me to read you another one?” he asked, gently taking the book from her and flipping to the first page. “It’s about Christmas.”

She settled back into the soft flannel of his shirt, and he began to read.

It wasn’t even the story itself that she loved; she didn’t understand half the words and often felt lost in the winding sentences. It was the gruff sound of her father’s voice, the funny accents he did for each character, the way he let her turn the pages. Every night after dinner they would read together in the stillness of the study. Sometimes Mom would come stand at the door with a dish towel in her hand and a half-smile on her face as she listened, but mostly it was just the two of them.

Even when she was old enough to read herself, they still tackled the classics together, moving from Anna Karenina to Pride and Prejudice toThe Grapes of Wrath as if traveling across the globe itself, leaving holes in the bookshelves like missing teeth.

And later, when it started to become clear that she cared more about soccer practice and phone privileges than Jane Austen or Walt Whitman, when the hour turned into a half hour and every night turned into every other, it no longer mattered. The stories had become a part of her by then; they stuck to her bones like a good meal, bloomed inside of her like a garden. They were as deep and meaningful as any other trait Dad had passed along to her: her blue eyes, her straw-colored hair, the sprinkling of freckles across her nose.

Often he would come home with books for her, for Christmas or her birthday, or for no particular occasion at all, some of them early editions with beautiful gold trim, others used paperbacks bought for a dollar or two on a street corner. Mom always looked exasperated, especially when it was a new copy of one that he already had in his study.

“This house is about two dictionaries away from caving in,” she’d say, “and you’re buying duplicates?”

But Hadley understood. It wasn’t that she was meant to read them all. Maybe someday she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a professor, a lover of stories, and he was buildng her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses.Add that to the novelty of finding love in an unlikely place, and you get a beautiful novel. Of course, the fact that the cover is gorgeous doesn’t hurt.

I love how so many kinds of love were described in the book: young love, familial love, even a love for reading, and somehow it made me understand the characters more.

Bittersweet and poignant, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight proved to be a pleasant surprise, and for that I give it 4 stars.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover, 236 pages
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy/Little Brown
Published: January 2, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

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{Book Review} Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

“Dreams come true in this hilarious, feel-good fairy tale about life, love, and dating literature’s most eligible bachelor!

After a string of disastrous dates, Emily Albright decides she’s had it with modern-day love and would much rather curl up with Pride and Prejudice and spend her time with Mr. Darcy, the dashing, honorable, and passionate hero of Jane Austen’s classic. So when her best friend suggests a wild week of margaritas and men in Mexico with the girls, Emily abruptly flees to England on a guided tour of Jane Austen country instead. Far from inspiring romance, the company aboard the bus consists of a gaggle of little old ladies and one single man, Spike Hargreaves, a foul-tempered journalist writing an article on why the fictional Mr. Darcy has earned the title of Man Most Women Would Love to Date.

The last thing Emily expects to find on her excursion is a broodingly handsome man striding across a field, his damp shirt clinging to his chest. But that’s exactly what happens when she comes face-to-face with none other than Mr. Darcy himself. Suddenly, every woman’s fantasy becomes one woman’s reality. . . .” *

 

Being a total Pride and Prejudice fan (I am a sucker for love/hate stories. There. I said it.), watching all the film and TV versions, and reading/rewatching everything repeatedly with poor, unsuspecting companions is really not enough, which is why this book immediately drew me near. Me and Mr. Darcy tackle every woman’s fantasy of meeting the dark, brooding hero of Pemberley, which piqued my interest, if not for the ‘Mr. Darcy’ in the title. 

Me and Mr. Darcy is one of those books that are laugh-out-loud funny. I can’t help but laugh at Emily’s antics and her encounters with Spike Hargreaves, the only annoying person in the whole literary tour, and Mr. Darcy himself, who is either real or the result of continuous banging of your head against a rock. There are passages of Pride and Prejudice inserted in the paragraphs that put the parallels between Emily Albright’s and Elizabeth Bennet‘s stories in full relief. It’s everything you’d expect a romantic comedy to be – fun, playful, the works. However, I give it 2 stars for a simple but major reason:  I really didn’t like Emily all that much. I admit I did find some of her thoughts funny as she scrambles to understand everything that’s going on, but that’s just it – for a P&P fan, it took her too long to realize the parallels between her life and the book, and she found it rather hard to understand Mr. Darcy’s personality. Maybe I shouldn’t have read anything that says Mr. Darcy isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, but I can’t grasp her indignation at his seriousness and stiff manners – I mean, isn’t that part of the charm? And customs and etiquette of centuries ago is obviously so different from now that she shouldn’t have been so surprised when Mr. Darcy brings uses silverware in a picnic or try to cover her with his coat when he sees her wearing a revealing dress, or something. For somebody supposedly intelligent she took long enough to understand that. I found it really annoying. And I couldn’t understand how the time travel thing worked. 

On the other hand, the real love story made it up for me (I’m not spoiling anything, right? It’s obvious she ends up with Spike anyway, from the blurb). It was enough to make me finish the book. It stuck too closely to the original text to offer much variation, but it’s okay. It’s not Bridget Jones, but it’s fun in its own way. It’s really hard to find decent Pride and Prejudice-based books (I’m much pickier here than on any other kind of book), and I can see that Alexandra Potter‘s a really big Darcy fan, so I won’t hold it against the book. Still curious about Alexandra Potter’s other books, though (this is my first), albeit a bit more cautious now. 

In a nutshell…

Rating: 2/5
Paperback, 336 pages
Author: Alexandra Potter
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: November 12, 2008
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit


{Book Review} Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green‘s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.*

Looking for Alaska is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years but never got around to doing it. It was published seven years ago (2005) and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association the year after. I first heard of it through this magical microblogging website called Tumblr where I saw the powerful quote that made the book very memorable for me:

I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my hands around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.

Right then and there I wanted to read the book. I never got to obtaining a copy, though, until last Christmas, when my friend Yong gave it to me as a present; when I unwrapped the book, all the excitement started flowing back. He told me it wasn’t the happiest book ever, so I tried putting off reading it until what I thought was ‘the right time’. I never knew if this was the right time, however, but I decided to just read it and see why everybody else loved it so much. 

Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story that deals with love, life, friendship, loyalty, and the uncertainties of “the Great Perhaps”. It is divided into two parts, Before and After, but I can’t tell you what the reference point is, lest the whole story is spoiled. All of its characters are very well-written. Miles “Pudge” Halter was very effective as the protagonist, existing most of his life as a general nobody before transferring to Culver Creek Preparatory School, collecting last words and looking for a change in his life, or at least something different from what his life before used to be. These changes come in the forms of Chip “the Colonel” Martin, his roommate, and his friends Alaska Young and Takumi Hikohito. Miles gets instantly smitten with Alaska, a bookworm-slash-prankster extraordinaire who also happens to be impulsive, daring, and bold, something I suppose he considered as a refreshing change.  

More than being a story about teenagers going through high school while living rebellious lives, Looking for Alaska presents thought-provoking questions that adds depth to the book. How will I get out of this labyrinth of suffering? I loved how, between the lines and layers of teenage angst and rebelliousness, John Green managed to insert wisdom and insight about life, and even though some of it is deep, his writing can make you understand and grasp the beauty of it.

Looking for Alaska is my first John Green book (I know, I’m so late!), and true to the testaments of several other readers, this is indeed a book you will never forget. Funny, witty, clever, and insightful, I highly recommend this book. 

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Paperback, 221 pages
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Published: March 3, 2005
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Coming of Age

{Book Review} First Date by Krista McGee

Addy Davidson is the last girl in the country who wants to be on the new reality TV show to win a date to prom with the President’s son. She’s focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn’t even audition for it.

But she got selected anyway.

So she does her best to get eliminated on the very first show… right before she realizes that the President’s son is possibly the most attractive guy she has ever seen in person, surprisingly nice, and seemingly unimpressed by the 99 other girls who are throwing themselves at him.

Addy’s totally out of her comfort zone—but that may be right where God can show her the most about who she is . . . and who she was meant to be. -NetGalley

*Review copy from publisher

I really liked this book, hence the four stars. Even though the plot is sort of cliche and predictable, I liked how cute it was and how Krista McGee incorporated Christian belief into it through Addy, the book’s protagonist. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the characterization was well-thought out, and each one has a distinct personality. It was easy to relate to them, especially Addy, and why they did what they did in the story was understandable. Also, I loved how this book, despite initially seeming to be a cute love story at first sight, managed to make me return to my faith with a renewed vigor and understanding. It is also admirable how the insertion of things related to religion is not stifling; in fact, it was just right. Not too much to alienate people of other religions, for instance, and not too little that it did not make any effect.

I admit, I am a sucker for well-known/nobody pairings, which is partly why I chose to read this from my ever-mounting TBR pile. It’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think? A reality TV show to be the prom date of the president’s son? It was partly intriguing, partly preposterous for me. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Wow, what a guy. A reality TV show just to pick a date? Really?’ and believe me, I thought that throughout the first parts of the book, but Jonathon (not a typo, that’s really how it’s spelled) proved to be endearing, so no problem.

What I wished I could have seen more of was Addy’s relationship with the other contestants. I mean, she had her roommate (trailer-mate?) Kara as her buddy throughout the duration of the show, and it was finely established that the other girls hated everything about her, but I felt bad at the lack of closure. Much as Addy wished to help change people for the better, she was able to do that with only a few people – which is really remarkable, I’m not complaining – but I wonder what would have happened if the other girls finally softened
and were ready to be friends with Addy. Still, I guess that lack of that made this a bit more realistic, so it’s okay.

I really enjoyed First Date. I haven’t read much Christian fiction, and I hardly knew this was one before reading it, but I have no regrets! This is Krista McGee’s first novel, and I like it. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her work in the future if I were you!

PS By the way, this counts if you’re joining the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

In a nutshell…
Paperback, 336 pages
Rating: 4/5
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Published: January 10, 2012
Language: English

Genre: YA, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

{Book Review} Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules–and the battle between the sexes is about to make two lawyers hot under the collar. Original.

Lately I’ve been really in the mood to read a lot of chick lit. Even though I’m still in the middle of 1984 by George Orwell and Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, I wanted to read something light and funny like I’ve Got Your Number. Plus, this book came to my possession after a friend gave me an ebook collection as a gift. All I had to do was transfer a copy to my phone and voila! I could go anywhere and have a book in my pocket. I have been looking for recommendations from Goodreads as well, and most of my friends have been marking Practice Makes Perfect as a to-read book. I have heard of Julie James, but I never got around to reading her books, and I suppose now is a good time to start as any. Anyhoo. On with the review.


Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson have hated each other almost a decade. Payton, a die-hard feminist, believes that J.D. is a spoiled rich kid who succeeds in his field because of old money and most particularly, his gender. J.D., on the other hand, believes that Payton gets ahead because she is a woman and several men-dominated industries are trying to add diversity by hiring more women. Always competing against each other, Payton and J.D.’s eight-year-long conflict escalates to war after their law firm announced that only one of them could be a partner. Suddenly, it is only one or the other. Who would it be?

This story is narrated in a he said, she said fashion, which is really appropriate since the readers can see from the man’s point of view as well, unlike the usual heroine perspective. From this viewpoint, we can see how wrong they could be in their assumptions as well as sense something more than hate brewing under the surface.

J.D. and Payton’s is a classic love-hate relationship, which is refreshing for me since I haven’t read really intense love-hate stories in a while. Both of them are sure they couldn’t hate the other any more than they already do, and as it turns out, they  really couldn’t… in a good way. You could really see their expertise in being lawyers. There were a lot of technical terms in their conversations that made me revel in how good Julie James was in researching what they did.. but then I found out she actually took up law! There goes why her other books involve justice and the law, which I find really cool. Just the Sexiest Man Alive, Something Like You, A Lot Like Love, and About That Night definitely go to my to-read list now. Besides, they all have such nice reader ratings in Goodreads.

I really liked how, as the book progresses, J.D. and Payton realize that all of their hating to a passion for the past eight years was actually because of another kind of passion. You know. And I absolutely love how they realize it, and how, despite hating each other’s guts, they begrudgingly admit the other’s best qualities with a reluctant sort of respect.  As the decision of who makes partner edges nearer, our hero and heroine, and the reader in turn, realizes that they are both well-matched and very much crazy about the other, which makes the ending very sweet indeed. (I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying that. You know it does end happily, right?)

I found this a really entertaining book, and I still couldn’t believe I managed to finish this in six hours (from an hour before midnight till the wee hours of the morning, plus an hour during normal waking hours). It’s that addicting. So sue me for loving this book (pun intended). I recommend it for anyone who reads chick lit and contemporary romance, really. You can never go wrong with good ol’ love-hate chick lit.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Author: Julie James
Original Language: English
Published: 3 March 2009 by Berkley Sensation
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance

{Book Review} I’ve Got Your Number

“I’ve lost it. The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate Poppy. Stay positive!! 

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry the ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her ‘happy ever after’ begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring but in the panic that followed, she has now lost her phone. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect! 

Well, perfect except the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life. 

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents… she soon realises that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.”*

I know it’s been ages since I last wrote something, and it’s been about a month since I last finished a book! I’ve been swamped in college stuff (still am) and this weekend is the most time I’ve had to myself in a while, so I instantly picked up this book the moment I saw it. I wanted to read something light and funny to contrast the depressing schoolwork I’ve had to deal with, and seeing as how I’ve always liked Sophie Kinsella’s witty writing style with the humor and attitude we could all relate to, I decided to read I’ve Got Your Number. This book has been on my radar since last December, when I heard that Sophie’s going to publish a new book. I even called up local bookstores in excitement, only to find out that they’re all releasing the book on February 14, Valentine’s Day. I totally forgot about it until I happened to walk by a Fully Booked store and it was on display! And once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

Poppy Wyatt is engaged to the man of her dreams – the famous academic Magnus Tavish, with his heartbreaking good looks and abundance of sex appeal – and he’s given her the perfect engagement ring, a family heirloom, to boot. Everything is going as planned, until Poppy loses the ring. In addition to that, her phone gets stolen. How could everything go so horribly wrong? But then she spies a phone in the bin – and it still works! Finders keepers. Poppy can now give out a new number in case the ring is found. All is well… until she meets the phone’s owner, Sam Roxton, who does NOT appreciate her going through all his messages. Poppy really needs the phone, though, so she strikes up a deal with the stoic businessman: she gets to keep the phone while the ring is missing, and she forwards all his text messages and emails to him on his other phone. Easy peasy. But as Poppy and Sam enter each other’s lives with a constant stream of text messages and email, with wedding preparations and strategic ways of making sure Magnus and his parents never find out about the ring, Poppy finds that out that though her life as she knows it could be destroyed, she is not alone; An unexpected person will come and help fix it.

Okay, about this book. Oh my goodness, this book. So much fluff and good vibes! Call me a sap, but the last few chapters really did me in. I know this is a standard romantic comedy, with a spunky heroine and an expressionless-but-somehow-finding-a-way-to-be-hot hero, with coincidences and misunderstandings that are too convenient for the plot, and there is no rational reason why I love these stories, but I LOVE IT. I don’t know, there’s something about the text messages Poppy and Sam send back and forth that seem real to me. I really know people who send one word messages like Sam, and people who vomit smileys and kisses like Poppy, and it all goes so well in this cyber era where most modes of communication through phone.

There’s also this quote at the end that really gets me all mushy everytime I read it.

“All I can say is, she’s the one I think about… All the time. She’s the voice I want to hear. She’s the face I hope to see.
…He’s the one I think about. All the time. He’s the voice I want to hear. When my phone bleeps, I hope it’s him.”
Come on, admit it. It’s cute.

Also, I think Poppy is a very relatable character. She tries her best to help, but doesn’t want to help herself because of all the fuss it would bring. I can understand that. And though other people might get annoyed at how heroines fuss about feelings, I don’t blame her for her doubts in this one. She is a genuine person, and I really enjoyed reading from her perspective.

One thing that irked me quite a bit was the footnotes thing. I know it was because Magnus and his family were all intellectuals who have published in academic journals, and it was Poppy’s way of mocking them, but I first read this from an ebook and it’s really tough trying to move back and forth between bookmarks to see what comment she added. It really irritated me in the beginning, but I got the hang of it and enjoyed it in the end.

I’ve been reflecting on the modern device as a way to forge and strengthen relationships. It’s still not the same as meeting face to face and having a good talk, but in the hustle and bustle of life nowadays, it’s quite an acceptable method of getting to know another person more. I like how Poppy and Sam first start getting to know each other through the phone Poppy nicked from the bin, and later on meet up, for some emergency or other until… you know. I think face-to-face bonding still couldn’t be substituted for anything, and I appreciate how Kinsella integrated that into this novel.

…And I still cannot get over how the book ended. It was very sweet and creative and so beautiful. I’d read the whole thing again just so I could get set up for that ending, that’s how much I love it.

I recommend this book for people who want a light and fun read! I somehow managed to read this in the middle of writing a lab report and answering an online exam for my Chemistry class, and it didn’t make me feel burdened at all. In fact, it got me so inspired to finish everything I need to do just so I could go back and relish the fun parts! Haha!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Original Language: English
Published: 14 February 2012 by the Dial Press
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance