Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door
Author: Katie Van Ark
Published: January 6th, 2015
Paperback, 368 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever, As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she's also seen his arms around other girls - lots of other girls.

Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he's determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he's never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy's been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

I'm a sucker for romantic stories and this one certainly delivered. Going in, I knew it would be adorable and very sappy at times, and I'm not going to lie when I say I love that about it. Other people may not like the super cute adorable story about two very good friends and skating partners who realize they are meant for each other once they are put into more romantic situations. Swoon Reads has pegged itself as the go-to romantic YA central and so far I've liked what I've seen.

Maddy and Gabe have been skating together since they were kids. They've done really well in competition together and have a pretty good shot at going to the World Championships. Up until now, Gabe has seen Maddy as his little sister but she has always been in love with him, even though he can't keep a girlfriend and has a different conquest every two weeks. But when they get a new romantic program, suddenly it's very hard just to stay friends, especially when these feelings have been lingering beneath the surface for so long.

What happens next is adorable and sweet and kept me turning the pages. I loved the tension between the two, especially since it was in duel perspectives and I knew exactly how each of them felt about the other. Their relationship advanced both on and off the ice, and as they get closer together, secrets and family get in the way. It's the perfect mix of love and reality, giving these two lovers a run for their money as they decide if it's all worth it to go for it together. My favourite parts were when they were skating. I loved the skating lingo and picturing their routines in my head. I was so proud of them when they won and disappointed when things didn't go their way. There were a lot of obstacles along the way and I loved how they handled each of them. This was a fast read and just the kind of book to read around Valentine's Day or on a day you just want a snuggly book that will leave you feeling good inside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: Fairest: Levana's Story

Fairest: Levana's Story
Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: January 27th, 2015
Hardcover, 222 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana's story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her "glamour" to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story - a story that has never been told... until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death.

It takes a certain kind of author to make me feel sorry for a villain. Marissa has woven a tale that stands on its own in the wonderful series of hers. The Lunar Chronicles blew me away from the very start and Queen Levana has been a terribly evil villain from the beginning. It just got worse the more she discovered about Cinder, the more Scarlet hid from her and more Cress defied her. So we go back to the beginning, before Levana was queen, before Cinder or any of the others were even born, and started to learn about what made Levana tick.

Her life starts out horribly. Her older sister and future queen, Channery, is the most awful older sister. She uses Levana and destroys everything good about her. Levana hides her true face behind glamours, and hides her loving feelings for the one guard who always seems to pay attention to her. The closer Channery gets to the throne, the more Levana seethes beneath the surface. The fonder she grows for her guard, the more cruel Channery becomes. So when she dies and Levana takes over the throne until Princess Selena, Channery's daughter, is old enough, things change for the worse. Levana is a good ruler. She wants what's best for Luna and will do anything to protect her country. But she is not the queen, she is only holding the throne and it isn't long before thats not enough for her and she plans a way to get rid of the princess. Anyone who has read the rest of the series will see how this plays into it, and I loved seeing the back story come to life. Levana marries the guard and in so becomes the step-mother to baby Winter, someone we will soon learn more about in the final chapter of this series.

Levana's life is one of horror, deceit and unrequited love. Though she marries, she is never loved for who she is and continuously tries to be someone she is not. She takes her anger out on Luna, on Earth and on anyone who gets in her way. By the end, she is the cruel woman we know and hate, but the way she got there is heartbreaking. It's hard not to feel sorry for her and to understand why she is now the way she is, even though that person is an awful human being. Marissa created so much more drama, such a bigger world and dug me deeper into a story I'm already so far into. There wasn't anything happy about this book, not like the love stories we see in the rest of the novels. I wanted a better ending for Levana, I wanted her to get the love she wanted and to live happily ever after, but then we wouldn't have a villain or a story, so I know it will make Winter fantastic to read. I can't wait to see more of Levana, get to know Winter more, and see how this series plays out. An amazing addition to the this series and a book I won't soon forget. It was short, but boy did it pack a punch.

"The guilt and the horror and the memory of that awful smell might stay with her forever, but she was the queen."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Perfect Couple

Perfect Couple
Author: Jennifer Echols
Published: January 13th, 2015
Paperback, 336 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Can your heart be put to a popular vote?

As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents' bitter divorce has left her wonderful what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the "Perfect Couple That Never Was," her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn't lack in female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They're total opposites - the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the "perfect couple." Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they've found themselves drawn together - first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond. 

The trouble is, though they're very attracted to each other and both of them admits this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they're the perfect couple, this shouldn't be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear that the class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can't forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?

Two books into the new Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols and I'm sold. In this one, we got to focus on Harper, one of Tia's friends from Biggest Flirts. Harper is the yearbook photographer and she thinks she has it all down packed. She has a successful boyfriend, Kennedy, the cherished yearbook position, and a bright future set up for her. But when she gets voted Perfect Couple That Never Was with Brody, the star quarterback, she starts to rethink some parts of her life. Thinking she's missing out and finding Brody very attractive, she starts to see him more often and flirts heavily. Things progress between the two of them even though they are both in relationships and soon they find that they are great together, something they never thought could happen. But are they only attracted to each other because the class voted it so or do they actually have a chance at being happy together.

Harper is a sweet girl, timid and shy, who loves photography more than anything. She constantly has her camera around her neck and takes pride in the photos she takes for the yearbook. She cares about the way she looks, having always had a certain persona attached to her looks and suddenly changing who she is to get attention from Brody. Thankfully, he says he loves her glasses and 50s style more than what she starts wearing to please him. Her point-of-view was lovely and I'm glad we got to know her in her own voice. Brody starts off as the typical high school football player but quickly becomes someone who I could actually fall for. He has a bad home life, but Harper helps him in the same way he helps her, which made them perfect for each other even though it took them awhile to see it. Wouldn't make for a good story otherwise though would it?

I loved seeing the rest of the cast make appearances throughout. I love companion books like this where you catch glimpses of the other characters after they've already got their happy endings. Tia and Will quickly become the perfect couple that Harper compares herself too and it's important for her to see that what she and Kennedy have is not real love. There were hints of the next book as well, with small glimpses of Kaye and Sawyer's soon-to-be love mayhem. Side characters play such big roles in books like this and Echols made sure they each had their moments. The high school is full of drama and it's the best kind. The characters are realistic and jumped off the pages. It was an easy read to get into, and I loved getting to know these wonderful teenagers. Harper and Brody's story caught me from the beginning and never let me go. This is the kind of contemporary romance I crave and I can't wait for the last instalment in the series.

"The world is beautiful exactly like it is. You just have to frame it and bring it into focus."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mini Review: Please Remain Calm

Please Remain Calm
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: January 20th, 2015
Kindle Edition, 96 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

In this gripping sequel to This is Not a Test, Rhys and Sloane are headed for a safe haven when they get separated along the way. Rhys is determined to reunite with Sloane until he discovers people who might need him more - people who offer him the closest he'll get to everything he's lost, if they can hold on long enough.

Rhys thinks he has what it takes to survive and find the girl he's lost, but in a world overrun by the dead, there are no guarantees and the next leg of his journey will test him in unimaginable ways.

In case you aren't aware yet, Courtney Summers is my favourite author. She writes broke characters who always seem to end up helping others or doing good things. This is what stood out in This is Not a Test. Sloane was suicidal, but ended up helping keep her classmates safe and falling for Rhys, in a world where zombies roam and lurk. The ending of This is Not a Test left everything open and scary. Rhys and Sloane had escaped the school and were in a car trying to get to a safe haven. Please Remain Calm picks up right where it left off, this time with Rhys narrating the story.

Rhys isn't sure if he can trust that Sloane will keep herself alive. He's afraid she'll throw herself at the zombies like she's done before and he's determined to get her to a safe spot before she can pull it off. With a beat up car and not enough gas, they set out in hopes of outrunning the undead. From the start, I was on edge. Rhys and Sloane out on their own with only a car and a baseball bat, not very promising. Every time they encountered zombies, I feared for their lives, hoping above all hope that they would make it out alive. When they got to the house, I relaxed, eager for a soft moment between the two of them. I didn't get one, but I can't say I was surprised. Sloane was going through so much that after seeing her sister die that it would be wrong for a romantic moment, but I can't say I didn't want it. The house was only the beginning and this short story threw me into a tailspin of emotions. When Rhys and Sloane get separated, I wasn't ready for what was to come. Rhys meets a family on their way to their own safe haven and he quickly becomes an important part to their survival. So much happens in such a short time and I don't want to ruin any of it, but there was no telling how this story would end and boy do I wish there was one more page!

Summers is a master story telling. She's taken a world we've seen on TV or read all about before and put her own spin on it, her own mark in the zombie genre. She puts her characters through hell and gives them. There was always an ounce of hope in the moments of darkness and even when I feared the worst, I somehow had faith it would be okay. Though I'm still not quite sure about that last page...

"I wonder if all hearts are made with the same pockets for fear and pain and sadness. They must not be, or if they are, maybe we all don't know how to use them. Because otherwise so many of our stories would have ended differently."

"Do you have a credit car or something?" I ask because who wouldn't have a credit card handy during the zombie fucking apocalypse."

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