[Blog Tour: Review] Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters 
   Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
   Author: Francesca Zappia
   Publisher: HarperCollins
   Release Date: May 30, 2017
Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.
You've ever had the feeling like you want to cry after reading a book? Not because it's terrible or there's an intense cliffhanger, but because it's just flat-out amazing? And when I say cry, I don't really mean quiet tears streaming down your cheeks either - I mean loud sobbing complete with that tightness in your chest. And you don't want to cry just because you enjoyed the book either - rather, it's also because you find yourself relating so much to the main character. Well, folks, this all is how I feel about Eliza and Her Monsters.

The plot of Eliza and Her Monsters is pretty straightforward - high school senior Eliza is LadyConstellation, the creator of wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea (thus making her someone famous in the interwebs), but in school, she has become a master of keeping her head down, and making herself invisible around her peers. A tale of opposites, if I do say so myself. Also, other than Eliza's family, no one knows that she creates this comic and this story that has millions of fans because Eliza keeps her two worlds separate. This notion however gets challenged when Eliza meets Wallace, a transfer student who is a Monstrous Sea fan, and who quickly becomes her friend... and something more.

I feel like Eliza's story is something most of us living in the 21st century can relate to, with keeping your online activities separate from your day to day life. I don't think it's as pronounced now in 2017 as it was 15 years ago, but back then, practically no one on forums and communities you are a member of know what your real name is. You are known by your username, and while your username can be traced to to a blog, that one doesn't have your name either. The only people who know are those you consider your friends, and not just people you talk to every now and then on the forums. I remember being especially meticulous about this when I was younger - I wasn't a BNF (big name fan) by any means, but there were only a handful of people whom I met online who both know my username and who I also text or email. It's the same way that only people I consider good friends know my mobile number and my address. It's about being private and careful about personal details. I really understood where Eliza was coming from, and I related to her from the get go.

Another recurring plot line in Eliza and Her Monsters is how her parents may know about Monstrous Sea and her online life, they don't really understand it, and I would go as far as to say that they didn't try to understand it either. They're always encouraging Eliza to live in the real world, to play outside, and to spend more time with her family without the presence of her sketchpad or her smartphone. I get why they're concerned, and I do think that some of their worrying is valid, but I do believe that this is the generation gap rearing its head. Eliza's parents believe that she has no friends, and despite Eliza constantly telling them about her two best friends whom she met online, Max and Emmy, her parents don't consider the two Eliza's 'real' friends. This is something that really frustrated me. In our world today, we talk to most of our friends all over the world via different apps, so it really bothers me that there are people who don't think that people you meet on the internet are 'real' just because you don't bump into them when you're walking your dog or whatever. Eliza's parents' hearts are in the right place, however, and I like how they gradually started communicating with Eliza and actually getting to know who she is and what she does instead of subconsciously judging.

We have a handful of characters in the book, but the two I connected to the most are Eliza and Wallace. I truly feel like I've gone through what Eliza went through in the book (though I'm nowhere near a creator of something that has millions of fans) because I was immersed in fandom from a very early age. I also loved reading about how both Eliza and Wallace used fandom to help them through both everyday life and tragedy because I have done the same. Fandom is an important part of life for many people, and it truly was a pleasure to read about two people who feel the exact same way. From reading the blurb alone you know what's going to happen well into the book and to whom it will bring tension to, and reading how Eliza and Wallace's relationship progressed was elating, pain-inducing, relaxing, and frustrating at different points, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

I have yet to find a book that I've read this year that I have related to so much. This is YA at its best, and Francesca Zappia has made me a fan of hers for life. I recommend this book to everyone who has ever been in a fandom, and anyone who enjoys a good book, really. Oh, and if you're a fan of beautiful drawings? This book is for you.

Rating: 5 Stars

[Blog Tour: Review] Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Seven Days of You 
Title: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?
Seven Days of You has a simple premise - Sophia is about to leave Tokyo for good in seven days, and in those seven days, the boy she doesn't like thinking about - the boy she has all these unresolved issues with - will be coming home to Tokyo for good. As much as she would like to avoid Jamie until she leaves, it's clear from the get go that everything she knows will change during these seven days.

This book is such a quick, easy read - I finished it in one sitting, and I don't recall myself being bored at any part of the story. One particular aspect that I loved is that the writing is authentic. Throughout the entire novel, Sophia went through so much emotionally, and the writing reflects that. Her confusion, her elation, her anger, her disappointment - you feel all of them through every word. I really like that this story isn't just about Sophia and Jamie, and not just Sophia and circle of friends. A large part of the story, rather, focuses on Sophia and how her notion of home. For the most part of the book, Sophia considers home to be the permanent place that she lives in. It was engrossing to read how Sophia's perspective slowly but surely changed, and I like how it was her sister who helped her see what's she hasn't been seeing all these years.

The dynamics of Sophia's circle of friends was also interesting - albeit a little frustrating. Both Mika and David see Sophia - or "Sofa" - as a little girl who knows nothing, and while it's only during the events of the novel that all of Sofia's resentment explodes, it clearly has been building for a long time. The friendship between the three is full of tension, secrets, and hidden feelings, and was what made this book a compelling read, and Jamie returning only pushes everyone to his or her tipping point.

A section of the book primarily focused on Jamie and Sophia setting things straight and renewing their friendship, and exploring what might have been... or what was always there, and this was another part of the story that I really liked reading. I liked Jamie's character, and how kind, open and honest he was to Sophia. Sure, there was a bit of push and pull, but he was always there to help Sophia whenever she needed him the most.

I know that the story is set in Tokyo, but I have to say that it didn't feel that way to me. I know that a lot of famous places, buildings and what-nots were mentioned, but I feel like that deterred from the story instead. It really felt like a first-time tourist in Japan was our main character. I never got the feeling that Sophia lived in Tokyo for years - rather, I felt like she was a tourist, ticking places off her check list, and not going to the places that she actually frequents. Tokyo wasn't a convincing setting - take out all the places that Sofia or the people around her name drop, and she could be anywhere else. Moreover, I can't help but be surprised that there aren't a lot of Japanese characters in the story, given that the entire book takes place in Tokyo.

All in all, I enjoyed Seven Days of You and the different relationships that were explored, and I feel that this its strongest asset.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

[Speak Now...] Time to be Brave

I've been meaning to write this post for the last three weeks, and I find myself unable to. Doing so would mean revisiting a period of my life that I don't really want to think about ever again, but I owe you guys an explanation. It's been a long time. A really, really long time. I've posted here in the blog regularly enough the first half of 2016, and poof, I just vanished. Usually, even though I'm in a blogging or reading slump, I'd still be active on twitter, bemoaning my slumps, but that wasn't the case last year. Things just escalated out of control, and it took everything I had in me to hold on. I had to focus solely on holding on - and nothing else - because I felt that the slightest distraction would make me slip and fall.

2016 was a difficult year; a year of extremes. I was hopeful the first half; and I felt like I was drowning the latter half. It wasn't just being physically sick that was the reason - too many things happened, and I had trouble coping. I couldn't even make myself reach out for help, because I felt too... helpless. To be locked inside your mind where there are no good thoughts running through it is a truly terrible thing. To this day, I still have no idea how everything started. Looking back, it was probably a lot of different things at once. The development was subtle, but I didn't notice that right then and there. Next thing I know, I was falling. Drowning. I was in over my head.

To the people who noticed, thank you. Thank you for reaching out. That you for helping me get back up. To the people I had the courage to reach out to, thank you for not pushing me away. I may not have said what exactly was wrong, but thank you for noticing that something was wrong, and doing your best to help me. To the people I talked to after everything, thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for not thinking that I'm exaggerating or making all of this up. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for believing me.

And most of all, to the people above - thank you for believing in me.

Writing all of these makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but also strong. It feels good to finally be able to say all of these; to try to make sense of everything that happened. I feel like I can finally move forward.  I have no idea what is store in me this year, but I already know that I'll be able to face whatever that may be. I'm okay. I'm truly okay now.

What about reading and this blog, you may ask? Over my unplanned hiatus, I realized just how much I love blogging, and just how big a part it is of my life. I think I need to try harder when I work on the things I love, and that's why I plan to invest more time in both blogging and reading. It's going to be tough at first, but I'm confident I'll make it.

So that's it for now, guys. First post of 2017. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for sticking around.