Books, New Releases, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for July 2017

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Summer is going by so fast and I honestly can’t keep up in a lot of directions. Fortunately, July’s releases sound very unique and genre-bending, and I’m itching to get my hands on any of these books.

30199656What To Say Next, by Julie Buxbaum – Coming July 11th, 2017

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

This contemporary has already been garnering glowing reviews from readers on Goodreads, and while it sounds slightly cliche, I’m curious to see how it is. I hoping it’s just as heartfelt as it is cute.

31450752Because You Love To Hate Me: 13 Tales Of Villainy – Coming July 11th, 2017

Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

I remember seeing this a while ago and thinking ‘WHAT IS THIS?!’. It was such a mystery to everyone back then and it still seems mysterious now, but I can’t wait to dive into this fabulous mess.

22892448The Color Project, by Sierra Abrams – Coming July 18th, 2017

Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

This sounds like a very interesting contemporary that blends familiar romance formulas with something unique. It also seems to have a hint of mystery — definitely looking forward to it!

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Lucky In Love, by Kasie West – Coming July 25th, 2017

In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture.

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

I’m always telling myself to catch up on Kasie West’s novels, hopefully I’ll actually follow through this time. This sounds like a cute and easy read, which I’m always down for.

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Daughter of the Burning City, by Amanda Foody – Coming July 25th, 2017

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

This sounds ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Book, please be as good as you sound.

Thanks for reading, guys! What upcoming releases are you greatly anticipating? Leave a comment below 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Isla And The Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins | disappointed + conflicted

9627755Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Isla And The Happily Ever After is one of those books that is either loved greatly or hated with a burning passion, with no in between. Or at least, that’s what Goodreads seems to say. Well, allow me to be the rebel and rate it a neutral 3 stars, because I just can’t seem to overcome the conflict this book put me in. Clearly my least favorite and weakest of the contemporary series, Isla is an engaging and fairly likable love story, but lacks the right amount of depth that made the other two books winners.

The plot + writing: Perkins’ novels are always very entertaining and never boring, and Isla was the same. It was very addictive and easy to read, which is why it’s so hard to rate the book. I definitely had a fun time reading it, because most of it was pure fluff, which I didn’t expect. This novel has mastered its fluff components, but there is a severe lack in depth with its themes. Most of the narration and plot mainly centers around Josh, Josh, and Josh, and honestly, it’s a little weird. Isla herself actually has an interesting inner conflict, she’s insecure about herself and thinks she isn’t worth loving, which is totally understandable and relatable. But this theme is only half-hardheartedly expressed in the book, and that’s only toward the last few chapters. The last two books had romance take the center stage, but were still focused on the main characters and their inner conflicts, but all Isla ever seems to think about is Josh. *sighs* wasted potential.

Characters: Perkins’ characters are never easy to love, but most of the time, that’s what makes them interesting and charming even. Most of the time. Don’t worry, I didn’t hate any of the characters in this novel, but I will admit they were more frustrating than usual. Isla is a very sensitive and soft girl that doesn’t really do much besides think about Josh and plan their fantasies together. While she’s the top student in her class, Isla doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, referring to herself as a ‘blank canvas’ compared to Josh’s detailed life plans. Of course, the book decides to focus more on the first point, making her narration easy to read but not as memorable. I hardly know anything about Isla and her complexities besides what I could figure out from the surface; she’s insecure and in love with Josh. Josh isn’t so interesting either, though he certainly insists he is. *rolls eyes* The problem with the characters is that there aren’t enough; the whole scheme only surrounds Josh and Isla’s whirlwind romance with an occasional (awkward) pop-in from Kurt, Isla’s best friend. We know more about their hook-ups and make-out sessions than their individual personalities.

The romance: Isla and Josh are cute, yes. They are probably the cheesiest and most romantic of all the couples in this series, but also the most confusing. Their relationship practically popped out of nowhere, and the justification for that is that they’ve both been crushing on each other for three years without letting each other know. One minute they’re glancing at each other and making some conversation, the next minute they’re making out. Both of them together are adorable, but their relationship escalated so quickly, where the reader can’t feel the tension and change in emotion involved with falling in love. Interestingly, for such an underdeveloped basis of a romance, the romance is incredibly overbearing throughout this book, overshadowing the characters’ true personalities and flaws. It’s annoying, because Josh and Isla are so needy and immature and cheesy sometimes, but other times they’re actually kind of cute. THE CONFLICT. UGH.

If y’all want an entertaining, cute, and easy to read romance with a typical formula, Isla And The Happily Ever After is probably the book for you. I was definitely expecting more than that from this book in terms of depth though, considering I’ve always thought Perkins’ novels blended deeper teenage themes and fluff pretty well. Still liked it though, and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for pure fluffiness.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin | a frustrating contemporary on rebuilding relationships

22449806Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

The Year We Fell Apart contains a combination of elements I usually love in contemporaries, a heartfelt romance and an amount of frustration/angst to challenge the couple together and individually. Unfortunately, while The Year We Fell Apart was engaging enough, the classic combo didn’t work out so well this time around. This book tried to accomplish a number of things, from rekindling a friendship, dealing with problems rattling a family, redeeming oneself, but it all ended up quite directionless ultimately.

The writing was extremely simplistic besides a few moments and I often felt as there were ‘holes’ in the story. The ‘introduction’ of the characters, the relationships, and Harper’s history with Declan was very, very vague and continued to be the same throughout the entire story. It was as if the reader was already supposed to know every thing that took place, and there was very little detail on the things that mattered. There was so much angst with unclear context; Harper and Declan’s past relationship is slowly revealed over time but nothing is ever stated definitely and the order of events is still confusing. This is why the drama and angst feels so forced, there is hardly any context to balance the amount of commentary on Harper’s pain and frustration. I’m sure the cancer subplot was added as another reason for Harper’s constant angsting, but it was entirely useless since it failed to add any message to the story.

Harper herself is indeed a flawed heroine, but is incredibly hard to warm up to and understand fully. I can sympathize with her to an extent, but she keeps repeating the same mistakes and expects comfort from those around her without recognizing her issues. She’s extremely selfish and hardly grows throughout the story, regardless of her comments toward the end of the novel. I suppose her actions would have made more sense if the book delved deeper into her psyche and psychological state, but it decided to focus more on her deal with Declan. In fact, most of Harper’s narration is filled with constant, repetitive comments on Declan’s attitude, his appearance, and whoever he’s hanging out with. It’s annoying and unrealistic, and also amazing how there is so much commentary on Declan yet so little on his history with Harper, through that could just be attributed to bad storytelling.

The most underdeveloped portion of The Year We Fell Apart would be whatever the fuck happened with Harper and Declan, if that isn’t clear already. Like I said before, their relationship is so damn unexplained, and their random up-and-downs get even worse as the story goes on. Harper starts talking all this shit on why she split from Declan and how she was afraid of losing people, and it was all so contrived and nonsensical. If anything, these two just skirted around their feelings and thoughts for each other and decided to finally confront it in the last 10 pages. Those 10 pages where the best part of the book but there is still no depth in their relationship.

I feel as though this book would have been so much better if there was a focus, a central point. Harper’s identity and struggle to make amends, her damaged relationship with Declan, and her mother’s cancer are all interesting plot points but they serve no purpose because they aren’t utilized correctly. If the story focused more on how Harper dealt with her mother’s illness and how family values and dynamics changed due to it, it definitely would have been more well-rounded. If the story also delved deeper into Harper’s psychological state and her issues with fixing herself, that aspect would have gone well with the rest of the themes too. The book definitely took on more than it could handle.

The Year We Fell Apart is a standard angsty romance that is entertaining enough, but there are many better contemporaries out there that explore the same themes deeper yet keep a good balance among all of them.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Lola And The Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins | an adorable and charismatic contemporary romance

22247695Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

Fall in love with the international bestseller from queen of young adult fiction, Stephanie Perkins.

I’m half embarrassed to say I actually liked this book, but I believe there was no way I couldn’t have fallen for this book eventually, at least a little bit. Even with its flaws and occasional cheesiness, Lola And The Boy Next Door is undeniably charming.

Plot + writing: The book got off to a somewhat slow start, but quickly fell into a pattern that I could recognize and follow. The writing was delightfully sweet but not saccharine, and there is just a very light, happy vibe to it even when something stressful is taking place (and trust me, there are a lot of stressful moments). Perkins also has a great talent for combining the most relatable feelings when it comes to crushes and liking someone with the fun maintained throughout the book. All the confusion, heartache, and butterflies are so subtly and perfectly conveyed, creating a great balance between deeper subjects concerning love and the mindless entertainment that Perkins does so well. I will admit that elements of this book can come across as somewhat unimaginable, from Lola’s outlandish apparel to the overall outlandishness of some events that take place. However, Lola’s feelings and struggles with being herself and finding love are so realistically told and the romance is so positively swoon-worthy, that these elements don’t do much to hinder the overall message of the story.

Characters: The characters are actually quite likable, despite the occasional eccentric behavior they display in the commonly eccentric situations presented. Lola is a witty, quirky, realistic teenage girl who I’m sure any teenager could relate to. It is easy to presume her personality as being childish or immature (her ornate wardrobe could play a part), but despite all the wacky situations she stumbles into, Lola remains a likable character who is positively and negatively affected by her hormones just like the rest of us. Cricket is a fairly fleshed-out and realistic character as well, and I definitely liked him more than St. Clair in Anna And The French Kiss. Speaking of Anna And The French Kiss, both Anna and St. Clair make cameos in this book, which was absolutely great. I think they stuck around for a good amount of time without taking the spotlight away from Lola’s story, and even shared details of their future after leaving Paris.

One thing I have to comment on is the amount of side characters in the book, which is significantly lower than Anna And The French Kiss. While I do like this, I wish the main secondary characters were more fleshed-out and three-dimensional, similar to the leads. Rashmi and Josh from Anna were pretty layered side characters, and Lindsay (Lola’s best friend) and Calliope (Cricket’s twin sister) don’t really match up to their amount of depth. Max is a bit confusing, because while he was a flawed person and boyfriend, I thought the sudden change in character toward the end and the lack of resolve in his relationship with Lola … well, lacked resolve. I do feel as though his character and many of the secondary characters could use some work. Lola’s dads are great though.

Romance: The romance obviously takes center stage in this story, and it is just as adorable and fuzzy yet angsty as one might imagine it to be. Cricket and Lola are a charming pair and aren’t short of any chemistry. While there is a substantial dosage of cheese, it’s not too much to make you cringe (well, not always at least). The angst factor is similar to any real-life situation dealing with young love (young being the key word), and I loved the angst because I could totally feel where Lola was coming from. Coming to terms with your feelings for someone, experiencing heartbreak, and discovering your self-worth are all such relatable feelings and Perkins depicted it all so realistically. Cricket and Lola’s relationship is full of ups and downs, but the ride is so worth reading about.

While I enjoyed Anna And The French Kiss, Lola And The Boy Next Door was definitely and surprisingly more engaging to me, and I’m so looking forward to the next installment and whatever Perkins decides to write next. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fuzzy romance with the right amount of depth to match it.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (reread + re-review) | an utter disappointment this time around

17756559Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I read The Winner’s Curse for the first time approximately 2 years ago (interestingly, in April too 0.0), and I rated it 4 stars. I also put it in my ‘awesomeness’ shelf on Goodreads, yet never happened to fully review it. Why, I decided not to review it, will always be mysterious to me, perhaps I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought it did and was going along with the extensive hype it had during the time. I’ll never know, but after this re-read (originally in preparation for the sequel I had pretty much ignored), my opinions have changed drastically. I don’t know what my original opinions were, but I’ve noticed so many aspects that are lacking, faulty, or underdeveloped in this book and I can only attribute it to my changed tastes and possible iffiness on the book initially.

The underdeveloped world-building and flat atmosphere: The Winner’s Curse is extremely lacking in world-building. Glaringly lacking. The only elements that display a semblance of a setting, are the facts that we already know from the summary: the Herrani have been enslaved under the Valorians for a good amount of time and Valorians are masterful warriors. Valorian culture itself is hardly touched upon in the book, and there are only about 2-3 paragraphs in the entire that explain how they conquered the Herrani in minor detail. The Herrani were supposed to be a cultured and highly advanced country, however none of that richness is touched upon at all. I have no sense of the Herrani traditions, religion, and social norms, or the Valorians’ culture besides their obvious military power. Arin and other Herrani mention things like, ‘the god of lies’ or ‘the god of madness’ but who are these gods?? Why are they mentioned? What significance do they carry to the Valorians and Herrani themselves? Kestrel goes to many parties and functions throughout the course of this book, yet I have no idea how society works and what the atmosphere of the aristocrats is. There isn’t even an atmosphere at all, actually. While the writing is quite nice and even beautiful at times, it is severely lacking in detail when it comes to description. Most of the time I do not know what anything looks like, such as the governor’s palace or the market place that are briefly mentioned yet not described at all. I don’t know what the aesthetic is, and by this I’m not talking about tumblr or some shit. I’m saying that I do not know what to picture as the story goes on, because there is no sense of setting at all.

What is even worse, is the fact that I cannot muster any feelings for the Valorians or Herrani slaves because I know absolutely nothing about them. We are only told that the Herrani are treated terribly, but there are hardly any examples of this treatment. There are only vague references to murder and mistreatment, but we never get to hear any stories or see any of this. In fact, this book’s concept of slavery is not even fully executed. The book shies away from everything that makes enslavement a brutal, terrible thing and covers it up with Kestrel and Arin’s vague and unexplored thoughts about whatever. So how am I supposed to sympathize with the Herrani? How do I make myself root for them or want for them to succeed and acquire the justice they supposedly deserve? Telling is most certainly not showing, and this book is almost all telling. The Valorians are just as flat, and I’m honestly confused if I am supposed to hate them or like them, or feel anything for them really. They are all talk and no show, the Valorians are only deemed ‘cruel’ do to their capture of the Herrani, yet I cannot believe in that cruelty because are hardly any places in the book in which a Valorian even interacts with a slave. I have no idea what the dynamic between a Valorian and Herrani is, and it is embarrassingly clear that the slavery concept was partially created for the sake of star-crossed lovers and an angsty romance.

Dear god, I am ripping this book apart.

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The equally boring characters (except for Kestrel, thank god): There are a majority of characters in this book that are nameless, which is unfortunate since they could have added to the emotional aspect of this book, but the characters that do have names are so useless and drab, they might as well have been nameless. Arin doesn’t have much of a personality, he is monotone and emotionless throughout, and while that might just be his ‘character’, I was really waiting for him to blow up and show some emotion. It doesn’t have to be explosive, I just need to know he’s alive every now and then, because this man has barely any presence. Kestrel’s social circle, Jess, Ronan, Benix, and Irex are equally pointless and somewhat one-dimensional characters that are only meant to up Kestrel’s angst and give her more to think about other than Arin. Kestrel herself is a great character, I love her shrewd, cunning nature and how she is constantly plotting something. She’s smart, but is not met with surprise and unnecessary praise whenever she shows it off. My only problem with her rests in her thoughts for Arin, leading us into the dreaded romance section.

A confusing, and dare I say it, baseless love story: I honestly have no idea where the hell the romance between Arin and Kestrel came from. In the very beginning of the story, Kestrel buys Arin for practically no reason (she lowkey states this) just to move the plot along, and they barely interact throughout, because um, he’s a slave! Most of their ‘interactions’ are both of them staring at each other across the room at parties Kestrel attends, and these instances end up in one of them choosing to leave. The only time where they actually spend some time together is when they play Bite And Sting (a card game) together. I don’t understand what made Arin fall in love with Kestrel and what Kestrel saw in Arin. Kestrel never even sympathizes or tries to understand Arin’s struggle with slavery, and whatever motivates her to worry about or think about him is clearly not expanded on in the least. Arin is equally vague and superficial with his feelings for Kestrel. He doesn’t show any signs of attraction toward Kestrel and is pretty indifferent to her outings throughout the book. They are both separate in terms of interest and class but suddenly, a romance! Attraction! Angst! How did this happen? Someone enlighten me, I’m serious.

Putting aside my disdain and disappointment in everything listed above, I can recognize some positive aspects of the book. The writing is beautiful, and while it isn’t so special to absolutely blow you away, many of the ideas communicated are not forceful and said well-enough to make me feel something or another. I appreciated the effort to explore military tactics and overall strategic and political nature of the last few chapters. One thing this book does do right, is that it actually talks of more serious elements existing in fantasy worlds, politics and military and war. Unsurprisingly, this side of the book is only brought out in the last few chapters, and also unsurprisingly, I didn’t care enough by that time to read these strategies fully. But, they are well-thought out and some discussion I enjoyed.

This review is absolutely brutal and a complete 180 from what I thought it would be, but I’m glad I finally got my feelings down. I am still going to read the second book regardless of my indifference for this one, in hopes of it being better. Pray for me.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | a fluffy romance that contemporary fans will devour

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Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.
But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

We essentially had a free period in my last class a few days ago, so I decided to get lit and read Anna And The French Kiss. I had already read nearly a quarter of it throughout the day, and guess what happened? I finished it about 10 minutes after I got home from school. BOOM. I read a whole book in a single day. That might sound commonplace to some readers, but is a big deal for me, who has to take certain breaks whilst reading because I just can’t focus that long on one thing. And that serves as proof that Anna And The French Kiss is immensely engrossing and difficult to put down. I may have my problems with it here and there, but it definitely brightened up my (very boring) day with its never-ending fluffiness.

A beautiful setting and just the right amount of depth: This book is set in Paris, which is unusual for a YA novel, but I enjoyed it. There were many descriptions of the local settings and museums and art that Anna explored, and it definitely made me want to explore France and travel abroad in general. The descriptions were a little simplistic, somewhat typical for a chick-lit novel, and I do wish Perkins took it a little further, but I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day life in France, Anna’s new life. The overall atmosphere of the book might seem to be a bit sunny and happy most of the time, but there are themes such as belonging and learning to navigate life on your own, which are relatable for teenagers. Not to mention there was much commentary on relationships, intimacy, and unrequited love as well. Etienne has a girlfriend, Rashmi and Josh (Anna’s new buddies) have their issues, and Mer (Anna’s first ‘friend’ in Paris) is in love with Etienne. Lots of relationship drama which may get annoying at a point, but I liked how subtly realistic it was when it came to being alone, falling in love, and how it can change you. Again, I do wish it was explored a bit deeper, however for a chick-lit book, these themes were expanded enough to entertain the reader and provide insight.

The frustrating yet likable main characters: The characters were a problematic point to an extent, it’s hard to like them and hard to hate them, simultaneously. Anna tends be a bit irritating throughout, mostly due to her actions and words and even thoughts. She comes off as a little dumb towards the beginning, pretty much representing the stereotype of an ignorant American. Her rambling when it came to conversing with Etienne (not all the time though, thank god) was cringey and got me feeling second-hand embarrassment. Fortunately, she changes as the plot moves on, and while she keeps that giggly persona of hers, there is also her struggle with love and all the relationship angst. She notably changes in her overall nature during the period in which she is angry and disappointed in Etienne and how he continues to stay with his girlfriend, Elise, when Anna and him have clearly shown feelings for each other. She turns into a restless, confused, bitchy person and lashes out at several people in her head, atypical for her. This aspect might be annoying most of the time, but I thought it was pretty realistic actually. I mean, when I’m frustrated and confused for a prolonged period of time, I tend to be more on edge than usual. I really don’t see all the hype around Etienne though, which caused problems for me considering everyone was constantly kissing his British/French/American ass. He’s cute and funny at times, but I just can’t seem to love him fully.

Even more conflicting side characters: There are a multitude of side characters that mostly land on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Rashmi and Josh, two of Anna’s new friends in Paris, I liked. Rashmi didn’t give a shit but also had a softer side and Josh was really funny and relatable. Both of them also had their relationship issues, which was well tied into to the initial theme of loneliness and intimacy. Mer, who Anna meets almost immediately after moving to Paris, I wasn’t a big fan of on the other hand. Not her fault, her character was just way too centered around her infatuation with Etienne and I would have liked to see more of a presence from her. Another character, Amanda, was also largely centered around her obsession with Etienne (dude gets way too much hype) and defined the term ‘bitchy’ perfectly. She was wholly one-dimensional and was made to look impure next to Anna, considering Anna slut-shames her continually throughout the book. Elise, Etienne’s girlfriend, was also slut-shamed and wasted as a character. I actually would have liked to know more about her, but her story was obviously not meant to be expanded on.

That confusing yet cute romance: Regardless of my indifference to Etienne and slight irritation of Anna throughout, there was a part of me that wanted them to be together. And how could you not? They aren’t lacking in chemistry and while their conversations aren’t as witty as I wanted them to be, they are cute together. Unfortunately, there are many elements  inhibiting them from properly starting a romantic relationship. Etienne has a girlfriend, Anna has a boy that she likes back in Atlanta, but they both are attracted to each other. They both have their issues with needing people and being alone that cause rifts in their friendship itself. I honestly don’t understand Etienne’s deal with Elise still (his ‘fear of lonliness’ wasn’t properly explored) and his whole relationship with Anna was borderline cheating. But, as much as I hated this aspect, the relationship angst definitely captured me. It made their ‘fairytale’ like relationship so much more realistic and likable even.

Overall, Anna And The French Kiss was a flighty romance that surprisingly and subtly incorporated real-life teenage drama in its story. Not everyone’s going to like it, but I’d suggest it to anyone who loves contemporaries in general.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

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4.25 stars

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless is one of the most imaginative, well-written, and likable books I have read in awhile. And twisty, very twisty. I’ve been in a bit of a ‘disliking streak’ throughout March, as I’ve rated nearly every book 2 stars or 3 stars. I feel as though none of the books I’m reading lately are truly wowing me, but this one definitely did up until THAT SHITSTORM OF AN ENDING. More on that later, y’all. I’m still kind of rage-y.

Heartless is essentially a re-telling of Alice In Wonderland, which follows Catherine Pinkerton, the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, who lives in the kingdom of Hearts. Cath is constantly courted by the King of Hearts, and prodded by her parents to fulfill their dreams by marrying him, but Cath is far more interested in finding her own destiny and finally opening up the bakery she has always wanted, along with her friend and servant, Mary. After meeting Jest, the new court joker, at the royal ball, she feels a strong attraction toward him and they both become closer and closer in secret. But, Cath’s destiny is already much more planned out than she had ever imagined as she gets wrapped up in wave of intrigue, magic, and mystery.

The perfectly atmospheric writing: Meyer’s storytelling is as effortless, fun, and beautiful as ever. It’s incredible how every single moment of this novel is perfectly and intricately described, from the event, emotion, and expression. This aspect doesn’t even make the book boring or overwrought with details because of the way Meyer combines more serious writing with true entertainment. She gets the balance between darkness and light, imaginative and realistic, so right. I honestly came into this book thinking it was mainly a forbidden romance that equal parts speaks of 19th century societal issues, and while it is and does just that, there are tons of darker, more mysterious elements to up the plot and action. None of these aspects out-do each other, managing to not only create a perfect story, but a perfect retelling. There are many original characters of Alice In Wonderland incorporated into the story, including Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and even a reference to Alice herself falling down the hole. While the story doesn’t surround Alice, the same whimsical and imaginative vibe is present in Heartless. 

The most likable yet flawed cast ever: Meyer’s characters never disappoint, so I’m not surprised that the characters are my favorite part of the novel. Every single person in this book, even the minor characters, are so well-described and defined. From the snobby Margaret Mearle to the childish King of Hearts, none of the characters feel wasted or lacking in identity. Everyone has a realistic presence and contain so much life. The main characters are so likable and honest despite their flaws. I loved Cath’s ambition and passion, as well as her subtle haughty, petty attitude. Her struggles toward following her dreams and defying society’s roles were so realistic and relatable, especially concerning the time period she lives in. She tends to be a bit too spotlighted throughout the story, but remains likable due to the masterful character writing. Jest is one of the most charming male leads ever, you can’t help but fall for him, and Hatta’s complexity and overall nature is also well-done.

That adorable romance: Heart eyes, y’all, heart eyes for this couple. They just fit together so perfectly, and you can sense it right off the page when they first meet. Their actual romantic relationship develops later in the book, but their subtle flirtations, witty banter, and overall charm is so abundant that I partially wanted them to stay in that “I think I’m falling in love with you” stage. There were moments, of course, that dealt with their angst and their discussion concerning the fact that they couldn’t be together, that were frustrating in the best way possible. What is also frustrating, in not a good way though, is the end result of their relationship, which I cannot expand on because spoilers. But nonetheless, FAVES.

*sighs* when everything turned to shit:

Marissa Meyer,

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Those last few chapters were such a 180 from the original atmosphere, and while Cath’s character development is to be acknowledged (in a good way or bad way, I honestly don’t know how to feel) during those taxing last pages, but there was absolutely no resolve to it. I can’t spoil things for you guys, but I’ll just say that I was nice in docking only 0.75 of a star. That ending destroyed everything for me, but I was reminded of how much I enjoyed the rest of the book so I held back. I’m still hella angry though.

Overall, Heartless was a thoroughly enjoyable story, and I can definitely see myself re-reading this in the future. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining yet mysterious retelling, Marissa Meyer style.

-Haven