Book Review – ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Maurene Goo

Chasing celebrities through the city…

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 328

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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

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This was a cute slow-burn romance. Loved the inclusion of K-Pop and aspects of the industry… and its introduction into America through the idol ‘Lucky.’

Told in alternating perspectives between K-pop singer Lucky and her love interest paparazzi photo-journalist Jack, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ was a pleasant mash up of culture and romance. This rang all the same notes of the only other title from Maurene Goo that I’ve read ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ It’s a light breeze romance much in the same vein as Kasie West. Don’t expect anything too complex or angsty, just a fluffy rom-com that’s easy to digest and escape for an afternoon.

This is a quick read and Goo managed to keep the pace going all the way through with comedy and hijinks.

Lucky is an authoritative protagonist, in control of who she is and where she wants to go (sort of.) It was refreshing to read a capable main character in this genre and not have her as some wilting flower. I want to say she was slightly immature, but given the circumstances in which she has grown up, being sheltered by her managerial staff in the Korean music industry, I feel her naivety is on par with her exposure to the outside world. Having said that, in other matters she is mature beyond her years with an assurance that was inspirational.

I read ‘Hello, I Love You’ by Katie M. Stout in 2016 which is tackles a similar storyline, but Maurene Goo has executed this story much better. And because of this ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ did not feel all that original.

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Jack was an interesting character for and I loved him as a love interest. He’s a bad boy that’s not quite a bad boy. I also think that more research could have been done on the lifestyle of the paparazzi and photography equipment, because this aspect of the novel lost a lot of realism for me. I know a bit about this occupation and Jack did not seem to even tackle even the most basic aspects of this line of work. It was just a very loose, uneducated guess at what that career is actually like.

As with all contemporary romances, this was extremely predictable, but it did take me on a bit of a ride, and offered a slight twist which gave ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ a breath of fresh air.

I loved if for its sub-genre and cultural representation but was an average read. I’m kinda thinking it’s going to be easily forgettable because it’s such a light uncomplicated romance. I can see it being fun for its intended demographic. I read it in one sitting in one day and enjoyed my time with it, but I don’t know if this is for everyone.

I’d only recommend this if you like cute contemporaries.

Overall feeling: okie-dokie

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Can K-pop be Graceful?

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

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I picked this up because I’ve had a good run of contemporaries lately – and I love k-pop… it should’ve been a winning formula for me, but unfortunately it was only so-so. Later, discovering that it had been compared to ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ was glad I hadn’t read that comment, because I would have been even more disappointed. Though, having no expectations, ‘Hello, I Love You’ was a pleasant easy read that left me with a smile on my face.

Starting off with a premise that grabbed my attention – country music virtuoso is sent to boarding school in a foreign country where she doesn’t even speak the language. Grace is a fish out of water with her big blonde hair and struggles with homesickness to find her place in this unfamiliar region. Sophie embodies much of the K-Wave phenomena: pop culture dominating for overseas export (fighting!) Then there’s Jason… who suffered much of the typical misunderstood bad boy trope so familiar in YA. He didn’t treat Grace particularly well either – all of those points had me disliking this character most of all and I lost much of my investment in his story arc.

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With pop culture intimately wrapped up in the story, you had to expect an amount of superficial – which came in the form of Sophie – and she lost a bit of realism for me. As well did Grace when she succumbed to Sophie’s will; I wanted to see Grace take her own journey, rather than be lead about by Sophie so much.

Katie M. Stout has a soft writing style, like the understated manner of the Asian culture itself, but I was hoping to get some edge to it from the pop side of things, or maybe something more melodic and sophisticated nodding to Korean History… but it was fun to read nonetheless. I think there were a number of points that could have enriched this story because if fell a little flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is substance, and what is there packs a punch, but it wasn’t enough. ‘Hello, I Love You’ ultimately felt somewhat immature – perfect for a run of the mill YA Audience.

There was too much coincidence with the story line and it came off as corny rather than kismet. I think with characters that were fleshed out more and not so typical of this genre I’d have been convinced that the outcome was destiny rather than some after school special.

Overall, I did like the book, the clash of culture, the trappings of fame and plenty of angst. I’d only recommend to a younger audience and lovers of contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: bubble-gum pop cute

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.