Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

27190613Title: And I Darken

Author: Kiersten White

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: Hardcover, 475

Publication: June 28, 2016

Synopsis:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

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So, when I first heard about this book, I was very intrigued. A fictional, historical account of Vlad the Impaler? Count me in!

I didn’t really know much about Vlad the Impaler going in, but I knew that, historically, he was a great warrior, hence the nickname. However, this isn’t your regular historical fiction novel. And I Darken is a gender swapped version of Vlad the Impaler’s story.

So not only would I be reading historical fiction, which is, slowly but surely, becoming one of my favorite genres, the main character is a badass female.

Picking up this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard good reviews from some of the blogs I follow, but I didn’t want to get my expectations too high.

As soon as I opened the book, I had an intense desire to keep reading. It blew my expectations out of the freaking water.

For me, the beginning of this book started out slowly. It was still really entertaining, but I felt like I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I did in the latter portion of the novel. However, seeing as the first half or so of the book takes place in the main protagonists’ younger years, I think the reason I didn’t necessarily connect was because of the characters’ ages.

When Lada, Radu, and Mehmed were younger, they were much like caricatures of their older selves– strong in only one defining characteristic. Lada was strong. Radu was weak. Mehmed was fanatical.

However, as these characters aged, I grew to love them. The older they got, the less they seemed like caricatures, and the more they became complex, authentic humans. For example, Lada softened up quite a bit and learned to be more empathetic towards others, and I really loved that.

Radu, who was, probably, my favorite character, became such an incredible character. He exhibited his strength, not in showing an overt amount of masculinity, but in his unwavering intelligence. He was so incredibly clever.

Mehmed was probably the most stagnant in terms of character development. If anything, he grew to be more compassionate toward his people and more clever against his enemies. I’d like to think that Radu and Lada groomed him to become, as his historical influence suggests, Mehmed the Conqueror.

The side characters in this book were also excellent, especially the females. All of the women in this novel were powerful in their own way; they embraced their situation and created power for themselves, most specifically Mehmed’s mother, Huma. I think that all the women showed Lada that just because you’re a woman and in a disadvantaged situation, doesn’t mean that you’re powerless.

In terms of relationships, I really loved how Mehmed and Lada’s developed. They loved each other in a breathless and passionate, yet authentic way. In fact, at the end of the novel, (I won’t mention it specifically to avoid spoilers) I felt like my heart had literally been torn from my chest.

I’m really glad that Kiersten White decided to make one of her fantastic main characters gay. The thing that I love the most is that we didn’t know, (of course, I had my suspicions), until closer to the end of And I Darken. White made sure that we knew this character truly and fully before she disclosed his sexuality. I just really want him to have a happy ending with someone who truly loves him in the full way that he wants to be loved.

Besides all the fantastic characters and relationships, my favorite part, above all, was the religious factor in the book. I don’t know much about Islam, but I feel like I got to see a rare, positive representation of the religion. It was ingrained in a lot of the book’s story, and I loved it so so so much.

And I Darken was such a beautiful and pleasant surprise. Kiersten White has torn out my heart and kept it hidden in the pages of this book. I feel like I’m so connected to this story and these characters and that I’ve been filled with a weird sort of understanding.

This book was just really fucking good, and if you like historical fiction, I would highly recommend reading it.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author(s): J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Genre: Fantasy; Play

Pages: Hardcover, 343

Publication: July 31, 2016

Synopsis:

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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When I bought this beautiful book that was originally priced at $29.99, I turned to my friend and said, “This better be worth $30.” While I was extremely skeptical about the play, truth be told, it was definitely worth the money I paid for it.

Like a lot of people, I went in to this book with high hopes, yet with cautious expectations. I had been excited about this story since it was announced, but after listening to MuggleCast’s spoiler-free review, I was scared. They said that it was very “fan fiction-esque,” in its plot, and that terrified me.

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Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

ruin and risingTitle: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 422, Hardcover

Publication: June 17, 2014

Synopsis:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

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So, it’s been almost 3 years since I’ve read the second book in the series, Siege and Storm. Despite reading through a few summaries, I didn’t really remember all that much about the books. However, as soon as I opened Ruin and Rising, I fell into the familiar rhythm of Bardugo’s writing and the complexity of her characters.

Writing this review, my heart hurts because the entire book was so bittersweet. It was filled with loss and heartbreak, but managed to end on a hopeful note. Leigh Bardugo understands the human condition and knows how to write it.

I fell in love with Alina, Mal, Nikolai, and The Darkling all over again. God, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how great her characters are! Despite this book obviously being fantasy, the characters were entirely rooted in reality.

The ending, however, caught me a little off guard. I guess I didn’t really know what I was expecting. But it was definitely not what I wanted. I docked off a half point because of this reason. Despite the story wrapping up in a well-written and truthful way, I found myself disappointed. I honestly have no idea why. Perhaps it was the fact that the ending was so gritty and real, kind of like the ending to Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

Actually, I feel almost exactly like how I felt after finishing Allegiant. Except a shit ton more satisfied.

I’m actually struggling to find words to exactly describe how I felt after I finished the book.

Maybe I was disappointed in the fact that the relationships in this book didn’t go the way that I wanted them to go. After finishing the first two books in the series, I thought that Mal and Alina ending up together seemed impossible. I even felt this while reading this book. So many obstacles were in their way. Alina and The Darkling had such a deep connection despite his many, many flaws. Same with Alina and Nikolai. While reading this series, I felt like those two characters held and showed more love for Alina than Mal did.

I’m usually able to tell right off the bat who the main protagonist will end up with, and this time I didn’t.

(I know that shipping isn’t something to judge a book on, but I’m just drawn to talking about it.)

It feels so weird to be done with this series. I feel heartbroken, yet satisfied. Leigh Bardugo is such an eloquent writer, and I can’t wait to read her Six of Crows series.

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Review: The Wrath and the Dawn Duology by Renée Ahdieh

 

Synopsis for The Wrath and the Dawn:

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

 

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Y’all have heard me talk about how much I absolutely love with The Wrath and the Dawn, the first book in this beautiful series by Renée Ahdieh.

First of all, when deciding to dive into this series, I was drawn by its plot. A mad, evil king who kills his brides? Sign me up. I wanted to fall in love with characters who were incredibly complex and three dimensional, and this book definitely gave me that. I fell in love with Khalid with his brutish harshness and gentle kindness. While I didn’t like Tariq in the first book, I really grew to like and respect him in the sequel because we get to see his motivations and understand his reasonings.

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Review: A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

*This review was originally posted on The Fandom, an awesome fandom-centered news website that I write for.*

26192555Title: A Totally Awkward Love Story

Authors: Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Pages: Hardcover, 320

Publication: May 3, 2016 by Delacorte Press

Right from the beginning, A Totally Awkward Love Story grabbed and pulled me into the story. This story is about two characters, Hannah and Sam, who are both struggling to find the things that they want from the world. Hannah wants to lose her virginity and find her “lobster” (aka her true love) before college, and Sam wants to lose his virginity and move on to another girl. When Hannah and Sam randomly meet at a party and completely hit it off, all that they think about is each other. Although they both have different friend groups and go to different schools, Sam and Hannah vow to themselves that they’ll find each other. After two failed hook-ups (with other people), a falling out with a friend, heartbreak, and exam results, Hannah and Sam finally find love in each other.

What I loved the most about this story is that it’s told by two different perspectives: Hannah and Sam, both of which are going through exactly the same things. These two narrators, though starkly different, have the same completely dorky and adorable qualities. The best thing about the narrators is that they’re insanely funny and incredibly witty. These two perspectives had me laughing out loud several times.

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ARC Review: The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan

leaving seasonTitle: The Leaving Season

Author: Cat Jordan

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: Hardcover, 352

Publication: March 1, 2016

Synopsis:

Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season—the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time.

It happens every late August, but this year Middie’s boyfriend, Nate, is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America.

And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him.

But when tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is…except for Nate’s best friend Lee.

Middie and Lee have never gotten along. She’s always known that she was destined for great things, and Lee acts like he’s never cared about anything a day in his life. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down—and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.

I was given an ARC of this book by HarperTeen in trade for a fair review. All opinions in this review are mine and not influenced by others.

Review:

I’ve literally just finished reading this book. Well, when I’m writing this review I will have just finished this beautiful and amazing book. I wasn’t expecting much from this book. I thought that it would just be a quick, fun, easy contemporary read, but it became so much more than that.

This book starts off where most contemporary books end. The girl has the guy. Said guy is literally perfect. However, from the get go, The Leaving Season turns that trope on its head. Middie’s perfect guy is leaving on a gap year, and she won’t see him for a while. Middie is pretty devastated by this. For ten years of her life, Nate has been a steady constant. He’s been her rock and her crutch. In fact, she even describes her life and relationship with him as “perfect,” which for me seems pretty unrealistic. As someone who graduated high school last June, I had no concept of the word perfect. But I think this is a deliberate choice. Cat Jordan wants us to see Middie as someone who is deluded by her expectations of life.

However, everything changes when Nate goes missing. Pretty soon, he’s presumed dead. This really struck a cord with me. Middie’s reaction to the possible death of the love of her life is devastating to her. I recently lost my grandma, who has always been a constant rock in my life, so I was literally sobbing like a baby during this scene. Cat Jordan took such an emotionally harrowing scene and handled it with such grace. To be at the receiving end of Middie’s internal monologue while she is buried in such intense grief is heartbreaking.

But for both her and us, we, luckily, get a sun to break through the clouds. Lee comes in to save Middie from her devastating grief because he understands exactly how she’s feeling. With just one word, he captures both mine and Middie’s heart: Breathe.

The development of the relationship between Middie and Lee is one of my favorite things of this novel. I honestly think that I can’t quite articulate how I feel about it because I loved it so much. They go from being patronizing acquaintances to people who genuinely love and care for each other. This trope right here, ladies and gentlemen, is my weak spot. Cat Jordan does it so well. As a reader, you can sense the subtle changes in their relationship (which are brilliant and beautiful), but Middie doesn’t realize her completely changed feelings until everything else changes. Again.

After Middie and Lee sleep together, a scene that is so freaking amazing I can’t even articulate it, there’s a huge plot twist that I wasn’t expecting. Nate is alive, and it changes everything. Middie feels so guilty for everything that she’s felt/still feels for Lee because her boyfriend is still alive. This becomes a catalyst for Middie to finally realize that it’s okay to change and grow and that it’s not her fault for wanting to do so. This is such an important message.

I just really need to say something on how Cat Jordan tackles the concept of change. With her beautifully crafted words and genuine dialogue, she reminds us that change is inevitable. Things come along and make our lives different (and sometimes difficult), and we have to deal with the consequences. From Middie’s story, we learn that there are two ways that you can deal with this change. You can either sit back and let the change bury you or you can accept, embrace, and allow it to form you. This message is something that we all have trouble dealing with, and this book shows us that it’s okay to change.

The end of this book is so incredibly powerful. Not only are the relationships between Nate/Middie and Lee/Middie resolved, but I think that Middie finally finds herself. The ending tells us that life is messy, and that’s okay.

Life is messy. Plans are written and rewritten, tossed up and down and around. The only way to find out who you really are is to take a risk, a leap, a walk under a waterfall. When you stop worrying that you’ll have nothing, then you know you’re on the right path.

In short:

God, guys this book was so good. What started out as reading a contemporary book on a whim transformed into reading a book that means so much to me. It means everything to me. People leave, things change, and at the end of the day, you have to be happy with yourself because that’s all you will always have.

As Cat Jordan so poignantly quotes Walt Whitman in the last chapter, people “contain multitudes.”

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Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

23174274Title: Glass Sword

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: Hardcover, 444

Publication: February 9, 2016

Synopsis:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Review:

Guys, this book gave me so many feels. Like I’m going to try to articulate all of my feelings and opinions, but it’s going to be extremely hard. (Just a warning: there are SPOILERS in this review).

So, Glass Sword picks up right where Red Queen left off– the Scarlet Guard, Mare, and Cal are trying to escape from Maven and the other Silvers. The beginning fight scene in this book, and, more generally, all of the fight scenes in this novel are amazing. I love seeing how Mare keeps developing her skills and becoming a better fighter because she’s just such a badass. Also, I LOVED how Victoria Aveyard wrote Mare and Cal’s fight scenes together. They work so well together, and it makes me so happy. They’re a fierce, well-oiled fighting machine, and it brings so much excitement and efficiency to all the fight scenes in this book.

The character development in this book is among some of the best character development that I’ve ever seen in any sequel that I’ve read. When I read Red Queen, I loved Cal, but I didn’t like him as much as I loved Maven (my love was misplaced, I know). However, throughout Glass Sword, Cal becomes one of my favorite characters because we get to see the inner workings of his mind. Mare tells us in the book that, as time goes on, Cal becomes easier to read, and I think it’s just showing us how excellent Aveyard has developed him.

While we don’t get as much Maven as we got in the last book, I loved what we did get. Maven is such an interesting character because he acts so evil, but, to me, you can see the cracks in the walls he’s built up to keep everything out. However, Mare is his weakness, and, somehow, that makes him more human. Cal said it best when he said:

“Maven lies as easily as he breathes, and his mother holds his leash, but not his heart.” -Pg. 248-249

Plus, despite everything he’s done (and he’s done a lot of shit), I still love Maven. Is there something wrong with me? Probably. This Tumblr post basically sums up my feelings.

But I think that my favorite development in this story is Mare. Because of what she goes through/knows what she has to go through, Mare hardens her heart to most everyone. In fact, though she pretends that she doesn’t have deep feelings for Cal, I think the only person she can be herself (old and new) is with him. While his blood is not red, he understands almost entirely why she does what she does. However, throughout the book, Mare does get a little annoying because she thinks that no one understands her. Sometimes she even thinks that she’s better than others (oh, the IRONY), which is really frustrating.

Another thing that I absolutely LOVED were the relationships in this book. Shade and Farley’s developments are so subtle and well written. The relationship that Mare had with Shade was beautiful and amazing and just so freaking well written. I love a good brother-sister relationship.

Cal and Mare’s scenes together are somehow both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Maven and Mare still have that connection, which I can’t wait for Victoria Aveyard to explore in the next books. My favorite quote in this book sums up the entire love triangle type thing (I honestly don’t know what to call it) between Cal, Mare, and Maven.

“Burn them, throw them away, send them back dripped in Silver blood– but not keep them. Not read them while I slept next to you.” -Pg. 394-395

UGH THE FEELS

So much plot happens in this book, it’s hard to even describe it all. However, I think it was handled very well. Victoria Aveyard obviously writes what happens through Mare’s eyes, and, as readers, we tend to agree with what she’s thinking. When Mare thinks finding New Bloods and training them to fight is the best thing for the Scarlet Guard, we kind of agree. However, Cal, the ever-present voice of reason, reminds us that this plan is flawed. It may not fix everything. In fact, it may make things worse. I can’t wait to see what Victoria Aveyard does in the next two books with the plot.

In short:

Victoria Aveyard has crafted a beautiful and heartbreaking sequel to Red Queen that kept me enthralled the entire time. It’s story and characters are captivating in a way that attracts them to you, but also repels them. Her characters are ambiguous and real. This story takes the classic good versus evil story and turns into a story about moral ambiguity. She shows that even a hero can do evil things. She makes us wonder: do the ends justify the means? And I love it.

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Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

red queenTitle: Red Queen

Author:Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: Hardcover, 383
Publication: February 10, 2015

Synopsis:

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.


The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.


That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.


Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.


But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Review:

Damn. Why did it take me so long to read this book???

Red Queen is absolutely everything that I could’ve hoped it to be. It was funny, action packed, a little bit romantic, and very fantasy filled. I LOVED it. Right before I started it, I saw a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads. It seemed that people either loved it (like I did) or thought it was just meh. Like it didn’t really meet their expectations.

But I’m on the complete opposite of that.

First of all, I love fantasy books that give me an unlikely hero/heroine with hidden, special powers. It is my weakness. So, as soon as Mare hit the forcefield at the Queenstrial and didn’t die, I knew that I was in for a great story.

Victoria Aveyard is an excellent writer– her words are eloquent and flowy but able to get to the point quickly. Additionally, her character building was fantastic. Mare, Cal, and Maven are perhaps among my favorite characters of all time (especially Maven). Victoria Aveyard somehow is able to build complex, emotional characters and make my sympathize with them– even those that I don’t like.

Another thing that I loved about this story was the fact that it did not focus solely on the romantic relationships that were developing. While she was betrothed to Maven and liked Cal, Aveyard didn’t use every single scene where Mare was alone with either Maven or Cal as a way to develop romantic relationships. She used those scenes as a way to build complex human relationships that are so incredibly realistic in a world that is built on the make believe. However, that doesn’t go to say that there was an absence of romance. Maven and Cal’s individual relationships with Mare are 100 percent swoonworthy, no matter which brother you favor. (The dancing scene gives me LIFE)

While the majority of the plot does revolve around Mare and her training, there is a sub-plot that quickly becomes the main plot that is about the underground Red rebellion. Maven and Mare join in the hopes of transforming the world that has deprived Reds of safety, happiness, and prosperity for too long. The Scarlet Guard was a great addition to the story; it added danger and intrigue.

However, personally, I think the best/most surprising/most heartbreaking part of the novel was the very end. When Mare was betrayed, I was literally HEARTBROKEN. I felt that I had been betrayed, but it was such an amazing twist because I wasn’t expected it at all.

“I told you to hide your heart once. You should have listened.” -Pg. 354

In Short: 

So, overall, Red Queen is a definite must read. If you like fantasy and excellent writing, this book is definitely for you. It was everything that I wanted it to be.

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Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: Paperback, 394
Publication: June 14, 2012

Synopsis:
“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.


Review:

I wasn’t really expecting much when I picked this book up. I had had this book sitting on my shelf for a realllllyyy long time and thought that it was time to finally pick it up and read. It looked like something fun and light to entertain me. My expectations were low, but this book greatly exceeded any initial thoughts I had on My Life Next Door.

Samantha is a girl who lives a seemingly perfect life. Her family is wealthy, she has a best friend who she loves to death, and she’s smart. Everything that a girl could ask for, right? 

Wrong. For a long time, Sam had been sitting on her roof and staring at her neighbors, the Garretts, wishing that she could be a part of a family like that. They are everything that her and her family are not, and I think that’s what attracts her to them. So, on a random day, Sam finally talks to one of the Garretts, Jase.

From this point, Sam and Jase’s relationship starts to take form in a slow and beautiful way. There’s an initial physical attraction that Samantha observes, but, what I really liked about this relationship was that they started off as friends and developed into a romantic relationship. When they do get together, it’s cute and fun, like any high school relationship. It’s simple.

However, when Sam’s mom, Grace, commits an unforgivable crime, that’s when things get complicated. After the accident, Samantha’s thoughts about her mom and everything that had happened simultaneously frustrated me and made me sympathize with her. While the way Sam acts for the latter part of the novel frustrated me, it’s a 100% expected reaction for a teenage person. It’s realistic. Additionally, I really love the way that this problem was resolved, even if it seemed a little to convenient.

The best part of this novel, the thing that really made me fall in love with it, was its ending. It was very bittersweet. Friendships and families are broken, but it was somehow able to end on a hopeful note because of how these characters that you’ve grown to love become individuals that you respect and admire. When I read YA romances, I don’t typically expect this. I expect everything to be happy and completely resolved at the end, but this one didn’t do that, and I loved it.

In short:
My Life Next Door is a bittersweet story somehow manages to combine be the fun and awe of first love with a story about what it means to grow up and become your own person. It had me aww-ing out loud at several points, but nearly crying at others.

Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Genre: New Adult, Romance
Pages: Paperback, 432
Publication: May 26, 2011

Synopsis:
The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. 

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


I know I’m late to the party on this book. It’s been out and very popular for several years, but somehow I’d managed to avoid it. A couple years ago, Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, and Tamara Webber all came to a local bookstore near me, and, without knowing anything about them or their books, I went. While I was at this meet and greet, the people who had obviously read their books were extremely enthusiastic about them, especially Travis’ character in Beautiful Disaster. So, I got Beautiful Disaster in hopes of falling in love with the book like everybody else in that room.

Characters:
I loved Abby in the first part of Beautiful Disaster. She’s independent, powerful, and doesn’t takes shit from anyone, especially Travis. However, in the second part of this book, it seems that she changes. Her independent nature turns into being dependent on Travis and most of her actions tend to be influenced by what he’s feeling, even when they’re broken up. It’s not consistent characterization. At the same time, maybe Abby’s change is just a realistic portrayal of passionate romantic love that affects all of us at one time in our lives.

I feel pretty similarly about Travis as I do about Abby throughout this book. Travis is the biggest smart ass of all time. He’s funny, sarcastic, and passionate about what he does. Basically the guy I would be lusting after throughout the entirety of high school. I really loved his character, but after he and Abby break up for the first time, he’s consumed by grief and even obsession. While I loved that Jamie McGuire was able to show the sensitive side of a guy, especially one who is the epitome of what masculinity is to many people, I didn’t like that he became super obsessive about Abby. He’s actions toward her in the second half of the book are extremely creepy. His character is pretty wishy-washy.

Shepley and America are, hands down, my favorite characters in this book. They’re funny, protective over both Abby and Travis, insanely loyal, and a kickass couple. I wouldn’t mind reading a book about their relationship if I’m being completely honest.

Plot:
I split this book into two parts: before Travis and after Travis, the split being the first time they actually started dating. I really enjoyed the first part. I loved the build up to Travis and Abby’s relationship. Their relationship was a slow burn, which is my favorite kind of build up to any romantic relationship in books. You could tell from the instant that Travis and Abby interacted with each other that there was an undeniable passion that can’t be ignored by either party. Abby, the POV character, went from kind of hating Travis to tolerating him to being best friends with him to falling in love with him. I loved their build up; it was intense and passionate in a way that you sometimes don’t get from YA novels.

However, the second part of the novel, I wasn’t a big fan of. I felt a disconnect from both Abby and Travis when they were in their on-again-off-again relationship. Maybe it was because I couldn’t identify with their type of relationship. 

I thought that Abby being freaking amazing at poker would play a bigger part in this story, but it wasn’t. I really enjoyed their side trip to Vegas, but I felt like the duration of that plot point was wayyyyy too short. After they left Vegas, you hardly heard anything else about it.

The plotline that I loved the most was Travis’ fighting. The fights were awesome and action filled, and it made Travis 10 times more badass. The only problem I had with that portion of the book was the very last fight and the fire. This seemed completely random and unnecessary. I understand that it was used as something to endanger the characters that we are supposed to care about and basically be the catalyst for Travis and Abby to get married, but the author could’ve done this in a million different ways.

To me, Beautiful Disaster seemedvto be made up with a bunch of random events that were haphazardly sown together in order to create a somewhat convincing love story. Sometimes, it worked, other times, like with the fire, it didn’t.

Relationship:
Another issue I had with the second part of the novel was the nature of Abby and Travis’ relationship. To me, and it may be only me who had this problem, it seemed that their relationship was extremely problematic. Many times throughout the latter part of the novel, after Abby breaks up with Travis, he basically stalks Abby, claiming that he loves her. Travis ignores all of Abby’s requests for him to leave her alone, and wears her down into giving in to being in a relationship with him. This kind of stalking, called obsessive relational intrusion, is romanticized by the characters as a type of love. Abby and others around her accept it as Travis “just being Travis,” which is extremely problematic.


In short:
For my first New Adult book, Beautiful Disaster was a great entry into this genre that I haven’t explored before. It had some problems, but it was generally an entertaining read.