Review: Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin

Another Little Piece of My HeartHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Harlequin Teen), and then I bought it on Barnes & Noble

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary

Summary: What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain?

My Thoughts

I had a great time reading this last week. It was a great retelling and even though I didn’t stop hating Jared until more than halfway into the book, I did enjoy the connection between him and Claire. They had a lot of problems but the little things that brought them together, like “hun” and other inside jokes, made me love them together.

And also, I knew I was going to at least like this book, if not love it, because I love a modern retelling of Persuasion about as much as I love chocolate and kittens, just on principle. It’s my favorite Austen novel (with Pride and Prejudice at a close second), so I expected to enjoy this, and I did.

However, that being said, while I enjoyed a lot of things about this novel, there were two aspects of it that turned me off.

1.) Claire whines.

I mean, I wouldn’t say excessively, but she’s clearly throwing a pity party most of the time and while I get that her life is pretty much awful and she’s had a gigantic heap of huge disappointments in the past two years, it kind of grated on my nerves at times. It’s a small complaint though and in the end, it didn’t bother me that much.

2.) Zach

I can deal with minors smoking and drinking and going at it like bunnies. It’s not model behavior, sure, but I can live with reading about it. But there is a scene which made me very uncomfortable, and Claire’s reaction to that scene made me even more so. Despite having come very close to being raped (and yes, it is rape if a girl says “no” and “stop” like 4 times, which apparently some people haven’t gotten the memo about), Claire completely brushes it off and gives the man “the benefit of the doubt”, and then literally nothing happens. No consequences, no confrontation, nothing. And that was a big issue for me. I would be fine with the scene itself if Claire had gotten angry, if she’d done anything rather than the “we were drunk, forget it” routine. Even the most intoxicated person can understand the word “no”. But I was very bothered that the author introduced such a sensitive topic and then had the protagonist downplay it. It was only mentioned once in passing after the scene, and I was just baffled. Claire, you were drunk with a man taking off your clothes and touching you despite the fact that you didn’t want him to and you repeatedly told him to stop. You are supposed to be more bothered by that. And also it just plays into this idea that when someone tries to rape you, it’s not a big deal and you should just get over it.

Conclusion

I really did love this novel, and I would be giving it a higher rating if it weren’t for the second issue I just mentioned. Maybe it won’t bother other readers, but I was very disturbed by that scene and it ruined the rest of the novel for me a little bit, which is why I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5. Other than that, however, this was a great, fun, well-written retelling that I’m glad I read.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Definitely.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Flash Review: The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

The Espressologist

How I got it: Local used bookstore

Genre: YA, chic lit

Summary: What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.

Things I Liked

  • Coffee porn: The author was very good at describing the coffee shop and the drinks themselves, to the point that my mouth was actually watering. And I don’t even like coffee!
  • The idea of Espressology: I just think the idea of matching people based on their drink orders is really awesome. (Not so sure about the scientific accuracy of it, but whatevs.) It’s fun to think about, and it actually makes sense in a lot of ways that what kind of coffee you drink says a lot about you.
  • Derek: This guy made me smile. He’s just such an awkward turtle. He’s in charge of all these girls and you can tell he’s just like “I did not sign up for this”.
  • It was fun: I just finished reading something pretty heavy, so having something that took maybe an hour and a half to read was nice. I didn’t have to think hard and it was light and simple, which was a bit of a relief.

Things I Didn't Like

  • Jane: The main character was just really shallow and immature. I’m not sure if the author was basing her characters on what she thinks teenagers are really like, but honestly, an 18-year-old senior in high school? I understand she’s not going to be quoting Sophocles or anything, but a little emotional integrity and sense of responsibility wouldn’t have hurt.
  • Gabby Girlz: Just. No.
  • There wasn’t really a plot: I mean, there was, but it didn’t feel like it. It sort of just felt like a circular pattern of two steps. Step 1: Jane makes awesome match. Step 2: Jane whines. Rinse and repeat.

Overall

I had fun with it, even if it wasn’t what it could’ve been. I would’ve liked it a lot more if Jane had been a bit less of an airhead.

Rating:

Three Stars

Recommend it?

Maybe to a younger teen

Purchase it:

Barnes & NobleAmazon | Book Depository

WWW Wednesday #3

WWW WednesdaysWWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. It’s a chance for us all to talk about books we’ve just read, books we’re reading now, and books we’re planning to read next.

Just Finished

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

I finished this Friday? Saturday? In my antibiotic-induced haze I can’t quite remember. But I did enjoy it. I’m trying to go back through and finish the series. I do love a good spy story, and the Gallagher Girls are one of my favorites.

Reading Now

Branded by Abi Ketner

I started this over the weekend and I liked it but I’m just like mehhh so I haven’t touched it in a few days. It won’t take me long to finish so I’ll probably read the last of it this weekend.

What's Next

Don't Judge A Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Loved #2, so I’m looking forward to this one. As a celebratory, oh-my-God-finals-didn’t-kill-me-dead huzzah, I might just marathon the rest of the series over the weekend. (Well, I’ll have to buy the last two books first, but whatevs.)

I must confess, the only thing I’m actually reading right now is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and it’s for my lit class. I think it’s supposed to be about the Belgian colonization in the Congo, but so far all he’s talking about is a bunch of dudes with names that start and end with lots of vowels. Oh, and there’s a lot of polygamy going on. And giving of virgin girls.

Education is a marvelous thing.

Anyway, after this week’s finals I have a milestone birthday (okay fine, it’s not much of a milestone, all I can really do is smoke, vote, and join the army) on Saturday to kick off winter break, so hopefully I will not be sneezing, coughing, and/or sleeping on my birthday cake.

How’s your reading going on this fine and festive day?

Review: Weather Witch by Shannon Delany

Weather Witch

How did I get it? Local used bookstore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Steampunk

Summary: In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

My Thoughts

Okay, let me just get this out first: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH OMFG ASDFJKLDS.

Ahem. I’m done. (Not really.)

I don’t really read much steampunk, mostly just because the stars align that way when I’m book-shopping. But I saw this one in my local bookstore and had a love-at-first-sight moment because a) the cover is really freaking cool, b) witches are awesome, and c) weather witches? Hell yes. So I took this baby home and then read it on a flight to Philadelphia, which is funny since the book is set in Philadelphia, and fell in love. The flight back was spent crying and spending every last minute of my layover researching the sequel, Stormbringer, which comes out on January 14. (Eep!)

But on to the actual story. Weather Witch was intriguing from the first sentence, and although I could tell certain people were bad news from the start and I had a general notion of where things were headed, the author’s writing and her ability to make me feel the emotions of her characters really drew me in and held my interest throughout the book. Shannon Delany is a strong storyteller, and the way she crafted this strange version of 1840s Philadelphia was fascinating. Jordan, with her strong will and determination to survive, was easy to love and sympathize with, and by the second chapter I was rooting for her all the way. Rowen, who’s perhaps my favorite character, was wonderfully refreshing as a male lead. He’s not the strongest, or the bravest, or the most attractive, but he knows who he is and who he wants to be. He obviously cares for Jordan, and despite his own fears will do whatever he must to protect those he loves, which I adored.

Even when there wasn’t a huge amount of action going on, it still felt exciting and suspenseful, and I was on the edge of my seat until the very end (the same end which tore me apart, no joke, that was not okay, Shannon). Every character tugged at my heart at some point, and I cried a bit at some point, which I don’t do often despite what you may think from previous reviews. I felt so close to the story and the characters, to the point that when I finally finished it, it took me a minute to sort out my surroundings, which is a true sign of a good book.

Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

Duh.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

7230309 8662410 9339970

ARC Review: Counting Shadows by Olivia Rivers

Counting ShadowsTitle: Counting Shadows

Author: Olivia Rivers

Series: Duplicity (#1)

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

How did I get it? Netgalley

Summary: Faye’s soul-mate is everything she should hate—an Angel, an outcast, an enemy. Ashe is just one more imperfection in her life that somehow makes everything… perfect.
Until he’s murdered.
With the only person she loves ripped away, Faye sets out to avenge Ashe’s death. The task seems impossible, until she finds Lor—an Angel who looks nearly identical to Ashe’s killer. Arrogant and hot-headed, Lor is everything Ashe wasn’t. But Lor is connected to her soul-mate’s past, and Faye needs him to find the killer—even if Lor is potentially deadly.
But when Faye discovers that Ashe’s past isn’t as black and white as she thought, she faces an impossible choice: Give up the hunt, and risk the lives of others. Or continue pursuing Ashe’s murderer, and forfeit the lives of everyone in her family—including herself.

Review: I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading this. The summary doesn’t mention that Faye is a princess, or that the actual revenge plotline makes up no more than 50% of the plot. So I was a bit blindsided.

Firstly, to get it out of the way, there were some things that weren’t working for me in this. The writing was well and good on its own, but the dialogue annoyed me, mostly because I couldn’t picture a princess/angel/king saying “okay” and there was also a good deal of phrasing that made me roll my eyes. The king also really bothered me, because at first, I got the impression that he was a very loving father, and then all of the sudden he does a 180 and becomes a heartless monster. I’m sorry, what?

That being said, I liked the concept of it. Faye being hated by everyone was certainly refreshing, and even if she and Lor had less than spectacular chemistry, it certainly felt more authentic than this “he completes me” routine with Ashe. I didn’t feel any real connection with the characters but neither were they incessantly annoying like they could have been.

But unfortunately, this one just fell flat for me. It felt a bit unorganized overall, more of a mishmash of ideas and thrown-together plotlines rather than a coherent story, and so many of my questions went unanswered that I just couldn’t make myself care about what was going on.

I understand that this is the first book of a series, however, so I might try reading the second book when it comes out to see if it gets any better.

Rating:

Two Stars

Recommend it?

Probably not.

Purchase it:

Amazon

ARC Review: Endless by Amanda Gray

EndlessTitle: Endless

Author: Amanda Gray

Genre: YA, romance, time travel

How did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Month9Books)

Summary: Jenny Kramer knows she isn’t normal. After all, not everybody can see the past lives of people around them.
When she befriends Ben Daulton, resident new boy, the pair stumble on an old music box with instructions for “mesmerization” and discover they may have more in common than they thought. Like a past life.
Using the instructions in the music box, Ben and Jenny share a dream that transports them to Romanov Russia and leads them to believe they have been there together before. But they weren’t alone. Nikolai, the mysterious young man Jenny has been seeing in her own dreams, was there too. When Nikolai appears next door, Jenny is forced to acknowledge that he has traveled through time and space to find her. Doing so means he has defied the laws of time, and the Order, an ominous organization tasked with keeping people in the correct time, is determined to send him back.
While Ben, Jenny, and Nikolai race against the clock—and the Order—Jenny and Nikolai discover a link that joins them in life—and beyond death.

Review: I really enjoyed Endless, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Time travel, Romanov Russia (I love this time period), art, romance…it’s right up my alley. Not to mention, the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I read it in just about one sitting, and it was an evening well spent. Jenny was everything a main character should be: brave, smart, quick on her feet. The chemistry between her and Nikolai was sizzling, but I also really enjoyed the connection between her and Ben. Ben made me want to hug him, and I actually teared up during a particularly ouchy scene with Nikolai.

The dreams/flashbacks/memories of their Russian past together were probably my favorite part. I’m a sucker for that era of Russian history, and the incorporation of the Romanov family was just really awesome. I loved the way it was written and the way it fit into the contemporary plot, and it had me on the edge of my seat.

I will say that I wish there was more character development. Jenny was great, but I would’ve liked a bit more…something. I didn’t have trouble rooting for her, but at the same time I felt a bit distant from her. As for Nikolai, I really loved him and his devotion to find Jenny, but by the end of the book he was still very much a stranger. I mean, I still think he’s the hottest thing since Dante’s Inferno, but I wish I’d gotten to know him a bit better as a human being. So far his only flaw that I can find seems to be his resemblance to one Edward Cullen, though admittedly a version far less inclined to behave like a psychopathic, controlling jackass. I’m really hopeful that the sequel will address that and allow the reader to feel more familiar with him, since I really think he’s an awesome character with a lot of potential.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Yes.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

Review: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

How did I get it? Powell’s (absolutely incredible and GARGANTUAN bookstore in Portland, Oregon)

Genre: YA, Coming-of-Age

Synopsis: Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She’s pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he’s got a crush on a boy. It’s not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it’s totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.

Review: I honestly don’t know how to explain how much I loved this book. It made me laugh (I actually have bruises from falling off my bed, I was laughing that hard), it made me cry, and it made me feel so many emotions that by the end of it I just sat there grinning like a fool.

The unique formatting of it was so refreshing, from the IMs to the parents’ ridiculously amusing emails to letters to newspaper clippings. Everything about it felt original and unique, and it really warmed my heart to read about the purple balloon and Wei’s immortal words and all the lovely little things that made up this story. Every single character was relatable, lovable, charming, and genuine, and I adored the way they interacted with each other. Hucky especially made me cry while smiling, which is just not okay, and I basically wanted to high-five Alé constantly. Everyone had a moment to shine, everyone was dynamic and interesting, and every last character made me feel something, which is a very rare thing in a novel.

My Most Excellent Year was not only a blast to read, it was sweet and meaningful and so, so true that I’m pretty much convinced that every adolescent needs to read this book.

There’s honestly not much more to say without being repetitive. I loved everything about this book, point blank. It’s probably one of my all-time favorites, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

1000%. If you know how to read, you need to read this.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Other books by the author:

239092 2074974 113773

Review: Ash by Malindo Lo

How did I get it? Bought it

Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Fantasy

Synopsis: In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Review: If you’ve been around for the past few weeks, I have been obsessing over this book for some time now. When I got it two weeks ago, I had to finish some other things before I started reading it, and the damned thing sat there on my shelf looking seductive and alluring as nobody’s business until I caved and picked it up.

I’ll admit, I wanted to love this book so much that it sort of blinded me to a few of its faults, such as the ending, which was a little bit too anticlimactic and underwhelming. But I was so captivated by the author’s writing and the beauty of the world she crafted that I didn’t even really care. Ash was someone I could feel connected to, even if I wanted to roll my eyes at her once or twice for being so completely blind to how she feels. Kaisa, while a more static character than I would have preferred, is still lovely and had me making a few embarrassingly girly noises, and the fact that she’s such a friggin’ badass was just awesome. I mean, who wants a prince when you can have a huntress warrior goddess?

Ms. Lo’s use of folklore and mythology in this story was just gorgeous to read, and the way she incorporated it into Ash’s life and her personality was probably my favorite thing about this novel. It felt so authentic and I really loved the portrayal of a society caught between tradition and modern ideas. Ash’s struggle to define herself in a changing world and the value she places on the stories she grew up with really endeared her to me, and the way those stories touch everything in her life, from her mother’s death to her relationships with others, was just extremely thoughtful and well-done.

Overall, I adored this book. The writing was stunning, and with the bones of the traditional fairytale in place, reading Ash felt like visiting with an old friend. I’ll definitely be checking out Malinda Lo’s other novels; I think I’ve found a new love.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it? Would I ever.

Other Books by the Author:

9415946 10744752 17724867

Netgalley November Update

Netgalley November

So for the past two weeks I’ve been working on my e-galleys and I’ve actually reached my goal of 4 books, so I’m going to see if I can get to 7 by the end of the month, though I won’t have them all reviewed by that time.

For now though, here are the books that I’ve read so far.

Damselfly

Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic

I really enjoyed this one. It was fun and sweet but not shallow, and I smiled a lot. You can read my official review here.

The Curse Keepers

The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank (thanks @47North)

I had a great time with this one. Great chemistry between the main characters, and I loved the Native American mythology incorporated in the plot. It was right up my alley.

My official review will be up on Monday, and the novel’s release is on Tuesday, November 19, so take a look!

Endless

Endless by Amanda Gray (thanks @ Month9Books)

I really liked Endless for the time travel element and the Russian history, even if I’m kind of disappointed that Nikolai is still very much an enigma.

My official review is coming soon!

Counting Shadows

Counting Shadows by Olivia Rivers

I’m still deciding how I feel about this one, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

A Dance of Cloaks

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (thanks @ Orbit)

I’m currently reading this and it’s pretty good so far, even if I’m not flailing about with excitement or anything.

What's Next

Witch Finder

Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton (thanks @ Hodder Children’s Books)

I’m soooo excited to read this one. It looks so good, and the cover is gorgeous, and asdkfjasd.

Defy

Defy by Sara B. Larson (thanks @ Scholastic Press)

Girl dresses as boy, kicks ass, evil guy kidnaps her along with two fine fellows. Uh, hell yes. Don’t mind if I do.

That should be plenty for this month, especially since I’ve got other books on my shelf needing my attention. How’s your reading going?

Review of “City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA fantasyCity of Bones cover

Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

Review: I read this book, and its sequel, in the hazy wee hours of the night during freshman year. When I decided to start the series over, partly because the movie is coming out in August ERMAGAHD, I remembered loving it, and I remembered an adorable gay guy, but that was about it. So I started reading with a fair bit of optimism, and I wasn’t let down.

Cassandra Clare has a writing style that could satisfy the vast majority of age groups, though it is geared toward a teenage audience. She has characters and plotlines that most YA writers wouldn’t dare to attempt: a (very adorable) gay relationship between a closeted Shadowhunter boy and an 800-year-old flamboyant warlock, a *SPOILERS* not-really-but-it-seems-like-it incestuous couple, disturbingly creative methods of murdering people, etc… As a writer and as someone who maintains the motto “as long as you’re happy and your actions aren’t hurting anyone (including yourself), it’s your life”, I really appreciate Ms. Clare’s fearlessness and sensitivity toward more controversial issues (although I have to eyeroll at the thought that who someone loves and/or sleeps with is something people feel the need to argue about, because frankly, it’s none of your damn business, but that’s another issue).

I did have a few problems with this book however. For one, the main character Clary gets on my nerves constantly. Her character doesn’t flow very well, she’s childish, she can’t open her damn mouth without saying something thoughtless, and she is completely unaware of her own looks. The last bit irks me because it’s so ridiculously overused, and her lack of confidence sometimes makes me want to drown her in pickle juice. But she does have great moments, and she’s a fairly dynamic character, although I would’ve liked to see a bit more character development (ie, I want her to freaking GROW UP and act like an intelligent life form once in a while).

Also, I would’ve liked Valentine (the oh-so-dreadful villain) to be a little more original and less like a blond, better-dressed version of Voldemort. While I understand how he became who he is in the book, his backstory didn’t really grab me, and he still felt pretty one-dimensional to me by the end.

But, flaws aside, I enjoyed this book a lot and I recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of this genre. While Clary doesn’t grab me, most of the other characters do (especially Jace *swoon*) and I’m willing to look past her shortcomings in hopes that the following books in the series will spice her up and make her more likable.

Rating: 4 stars