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Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

 

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Book: Heartless

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy/Retelling

My Rating: 4 Stars

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

 Having rarely been immersed in the classic world of Alice in Wonderland in the past, Heartless by Marissa Meyer threw me into this impossible, whimsical world and I fell in love. And falling in love can in fact lead to a broken heart, which is one of the many emotions I endured because of this tale of the Queen of Hearts before she was the Queen of Hearts. Throughout this book I felt joyful, flushed, in love, annoyed, heartbroken, and angry.

Heartless follows Catherine (Cath), a young girl who only wants to follow her dreams of opening up a bakery. She is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness and because of this, expectations weigh her down, ones she wishes she could defy but deep down knows it would be useless. So Cath went on dreaming of the impossibilities with her maid and best friend Mary Ann. Cath knew that the inevitability of the King of Heart’s proposal of marriage was to be bestowed upon her and that her rejection would follow the disappointment of her parents, who were so pleased at the notion of their only daughter becoming queen. Cath’s dreams of the bakery were soon met with the dreams of being with Jest, the new court joker, who she encounters unexpectedly after running away from an almost marriage proposal. Jest was enchanting, entertaining, romantic, and impossible and their forbidden fondness for each other grew rapidly and passionately.

Heartless was such a beautiful but oh so strange read that was hard to put down once the story took off. Almost like falling down a rabbit hole with no tether to stop you from reaching the end. My 4 star rating was the result of my love of the characters and the entertainment of the world’s magical elements, but I was pained by the fact that I felt heartless myself at a certain point in this story, so I couldn’t give it that perfect rating.

Spoilers Ahead

 

Talking animals, a romantic relationship between a pig and a human, enchanted pumpkins that can turn someone into the vilest creature, a vanishing cat, and so much more.

Wonderland is an odd place and despite expecting all this already, it definitely had me surprised more times than I could keep track of.

My love for the main characters, Cath, Jest, Mary Ann, Hatta and Raven, left me in complete shreds by the end because all I wanted was for my favourites to be happy.

Cath knew what would bring her joy for the rest of her life, opening up a bakery and being with Jest, but was restricted by her parent’s dream of her becoming queen. Unfortunately the world she lived in didn’t see it proper for a woman to own a business, especially one who already had a high title in society. Her reputation was on the line, one she didn’t care about tarnishing, but her parents obviously thought differently. I just wish Cath was able to stand up for herself, her future, her happiness from the beginning, to not allow anyone to restrain her wants and dreams.           

Jest. Jest!

This beautiful, spirited joker who only wanted a lifetime at Cath’s side! I just can’t. I knew from the moment we met Jest that something was going to happen. There needed to be a motivation, something to turn Cath into the one thing she never wanted to be. And of course I was preparing myself for the inevitable, but when it happened, it didn’t sting any less.

There were so many great moments between him and Cath though. I loved the angst when Jest had to help woo Cath on the King’s behalf and witness their courtship, wishing he was in the King’s place. I loved when they snuck away in the middle of the night to join Hatta’s tea party, which is also where he found out how much of a talented baker she was. Or that time she chooses him and he whisks her away from the King and kisses her passionately. There were too many beautiful moments and all I can say is that Jest deserved better.

It was all just multiple catastrophic events that lead to that fated outcome. If Hatta didn’t throw those pumpkin seeds in the patch, if Mary Ann wasn’t stupid enough to venture there by herself, if Cath didn’t decide to go through that door… maybe things would have turned out alright. But it’s exhausting to think about all the what ifs.

Like I’ve said before, that outcome was inevitable. Cath needed to be heartless, to seek vengeance, to be angry, and what better way to motivate her into becoming one of the most treacherous villains we have ever known then by taking away the one person she loved the most from her life in the most horrific way.

Despite feeling sad about this conclusion, I’m actually glad that Raven stayed with her. Even though he has now become her executioner and the whole thing is entirely messed up, at least she still has a part of Jest with her. I just hope between all that wickedness she realizes it too.

I’ve always found Marissa Meyer’s stories easy to stay absorbed in from the very first line. I love how she’s able to take these beloved and well-known characters, write a unique twist to their stories, and still include elements from the original. For example, Jest gave her white roses and the castle gardens were full of them, reminding her of the grief and pain she was enduring from losing him. So she demanded only red roses to be planted, which is a parallel to “painting the roses red.”

I believe where the story ended was pretty conclusive and it makes sense that Heartless is a standalone, but I’m not opposed to a sequel if Marissa Meyer ever wanted to tell more of Cath’s story. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading more books by Marissa Meyer. 

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The Goal by Elle Kennedy | Book Review

Image result for the goal elle kennedyBook: The Goal

Author: Elle Kennedy

Series: Off-Campus, #4

Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

“We all hurt. We all love. We’re the same. And your past, who you live with, where you came from, it doesn’t have to matter. You’re creating your own future, and I want to see where the road forward takes you.”

This book took me by surprise in a good way. I found it to be so different from the previous books in the series because of the maturity and seriousness of the situations the main characters had to go through. The Goal follows Tucker and Sabrina. Tucker, despite having multiple hookups of his own, is this sweet, charming, chivalrous, and quiet guy. Sabrina is an ambitious, hardworking woman who people label as bitchy because of these attributes. These two characters were different from the characters we were introduced to before but that doesn’t mean that Kennedy wasn’t able to get me attached to them.

From the end of the third book, The Score, we learn the situation Tucker has found himself in after he reveals it to his friends. For some reason I thought that The Goal was going to start off from that point in Tucker’s life, but it made more sense when I realized that we were going back to around the time The Score first took place. Throughout The Score, Dean questioned Tucker’s whereabouts and whether or not he was hiding something and The Goal reveals exactly what was going on with him.

These were new characters, it was a new story, but it also meant we had to relive certain heartbreaking events that occurred in the previous book. I just didn’t want to have to go through these emotions or read about these characters going through these emotions all over again.

The Goal follows Tucker and Sabrina through their last year of college. They meet at a bar and end up having a connection that predictably leads to a hookup. Sabrina doesn’t mind a good hookup but she could never have anything beyond that. Her plans are to go to law school, which means working two jobs to afford tuition as well as being completely focused on her current studies to maintain good grades. Tucker doesn’t believe that whatever happened between them that one night was just a one-time thing. As much as he wants to be with Sabrina again, he gives her the space she needs in order to figure it out. He never wants to push her too far. He puts her needs before his desire and allows whatever relationship they have to be on her terms. But life gives both of them difficult decisions to make when they are forced to go down a path that was never in their agenda. They both learn the hard way that life doesn’t always follow a plan.

This book felt so long to me. It had nothing to do with the actual length of the book but with the fact that these characters went through so much in the span of a year. It felt as if I read about multiple years of their lives. I’m in no means saying this was a bad thing, I actually really appreciated the journey they went through and by the end of the book I was wishing that I could continue to read more about their story.

I thoroughly enjoyed not just this book but this series as a whole. It was fast paced, addicting, funny, and I ended up loving all the main characters we got introduced to and all the relationships that got developed.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir | Book Review

Book: A Torch Against the Night

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

“Most people are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you are no swift-burning spark. You are a Torch Against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.”

When I read An Ember in the Ashes last year I was taken by surprise because I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. Fast forward a year and I was skeptical to start the sequel, despite anticipating it’s release for a long time. But again I was surprised at how much I underestimated the book. I found it to be even better than the first.

The long wait for its release did leave me forgetting bits and pieces from the previous book, so I had to reintroduce myself to a lot of the world’s magical elements and society, which included the structure and conflict regarding the Scholars and the Martial soldiers, in order to understand what was going on.

I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars. Though it’s not a “perfect” rating, my thoughts and feelings toward A Torch Against the Night are mostly positive. One of the reasons behind my enjoyment of this book was because the experience of switching back and forth between reading the book myself and following along with the amazing audiobook was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. It had a level of intensity and enjoyment that held my attention from the very first page. The POV alternated between Elias, Laia, and Helene throughout the book. I wasn’t too sure about it at first because I didn’t really like Helene in An Ember in the Ashes, which goes back to being one of the reasons I was skeptical about starting the sequel since I wasn’t looking forward to reading her chapters. I just remember feeling frustrated at her loyalty to the Empire as she didn’t understand why Elias felt differently than her about Blackcliff Academy and how they drilled ruthless, murderous soldiers into all their students. I actually started listening to the audiobook when Helene’s chapters came up because I wanted to get through them faster, but eventually her character and her story became really interesting to me.

There were many twists and turns for all the characters; many things that completely took me off guard, but that’s what made the book fast paced. It barely had a dull moment and I couldn’t stop flipping the pages to find out what was going to happen next.

The book starts off right where An Ember in the Ashes left off and there’s literally no room to relax because the action starts off right away.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Elias and Laia are on the path to Kauf prison; their mission is to save Darin, Laia’s brother. Even though Elias has never met her brother he agrees to help Laia save him because the crucial knowledge that Darin possess could save the Scholars from being completely wiped out by the Martial soldiers and the Empire. One thing that I wasn’t expecting to remain a huge obstacle throughout the whole book was the poisoning of Elias thanks to his villainous mother. I thought the cure to save him was going to get in the way of their journey for a short period of time, but Elias unfortunately suffered throughout the entirety of the book, which lead to that huge sacrifice at the end that I still have mixed feelings about.

As they made their journey, the world expanded as we saw many places and got introduced to new characters, such as Shaeva, Afya, Harper, Mamie Rila, and the creepy Warden.

Regarding Keenan: That was quite the twist… and I totally saw it coming. I actually shipped him with Laia in the first book because there wasn’t anything really happening between Laia and Elias for me to be onboard with. Even in A Torch Against the Night, when Keenan got re-introduced, I was okay with either of them being with Laia (even though I slightly changed my mind and liked Elias better). Then little hints were being dropped here and there, and even though it seemed far-fetched to think that Keenan could be some kind of enemy, when it was revealed I wasn’t really surprised. I found the whole thing to be rather creepy actually, especially with the fact that he and Laia slept together. He manipulated her in order for her to give the armlet from her mother to him out of love. Something that was mentioned that I found interesting was that he wouldn’t have been able to take it from her if he didn’t love her in return. I’m wondering if this will be an important factor that will make an appearance in the future books.    

Romance is obviously not a focal point in this series, and usually I would want it to be more present in any book I read, but I found this story captivating enough that I didn’t really mind its small presence. But the funny thing is, despite its small presence, this book literally had a love square. There was Elias and Keenan who were both into Laia, and then there was Helene who was jealous of Laia being with Elias because she was in love with Elias.

I also think that Helene and Harper have the potential to become a romantic thing in the future, but I think I need more convincing if that’s the path that will be taken because of the fact that he literally tortured her in an interrogation at the beginning of the book. Obviously he was taking orders but that still doesn’t sit well with me.

All the twists and turns in this book left the potential for an amazing third book in the series. Such as Darin and Laia finally catching up, Darin healing and later begin making weapons for the Scholars, Elias’s new situation, his and Laia’s relationship, Keenan maybe coming back, and the fact that Elias and Harper are brothers! I’m really looking forward to the next book but unfortunately there will be another long wait for its release.

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder | Book Review

touch-of-power

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Book: Touch of Power

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sorry. An overdeveloped nurturing instinct comes with being a healer.”

Touch of Power follows Avry, a twenty year old healer who has been on her own for 3 years; hiding from people who blame her kind for being responsible for the outbreak of the plague. This lead to angry mobs executing them because of it, which resulted in our protagonist, Avry, being the only healer left. Right before Avry gets executed herself, because her powers were discovered after she healed a little girl, a group of men rescue her. They have been searching for a healer for two years to heal their friend, who has the pledge and is put in a temporal stasis so he wouldn’t die while they searched. But is being forced to travel with these men against her will any better than being thrown in prison to await execution? Many adventures and encounters with different groups of people out to get Avry occur, which leads her to believe that perhaps she is in safe company with these men, especially once she starts to consider a few of them as her friend.

I knew right when I read the summery of Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder, that it was the kind of book I was going to enjoy. My expectations were definitely met, but that didn’t necessarily mean I didn’t have some problems with it. I never read a book by this author before, but I’ve heard numerous times that “Poison Study” is really good! I have every intention of reading Poison Study now that I have read Touch of Power and enjoyed her writing and story. Touch of Power drew me in from the first line and didn’t let go until the end. It was addicting and I gave up hours of sleep just so I could read “one more chapter…” (As any good book has persuaded an avid reader to do.)

For about the first quarter of the book I completely despised Kerrick, with good reason too. He was a complete jerk; hitting Avry and acting all cold and emotionless towards her. I was actually a full on Avry and Belen shipper at the beginning, (am I the only one?) He genuinely liked her a lot from the very start, this doesn’t mean he romantically liked her or vise versa, but I just thought that kind of relationship between them might have worked out. But that idea quickly changed in my mind when Kerrick eventually warmed up to me, but I was still a little hesitant about him. Usually I’m all about the angsty male lead with a haunting past who has never had someone break through the cold ice shielding his heart, until he meets that one pain-in-the-ass individual that he begins to care about and doesn’t know why. Although this book was for the most part following this trope, I feel like the transition between the “I hate you,” to the “I love you,” was a very fast and weird one. Don’t get me wrong, it was a slow burn relationship development for sure and I was excited about it, but there was a point where I thought the development that was building up immediately jumped into a “being in a relationship” status. Maybe I’m the only one who thought this?

But that’s not the only reason I didn’t give this book a solid 5 stars. A part of the story that completely turned me off was something that bothered me a lot: The main character was influenced and manipulated by a crazy man who kissed/touched her without consent. It was absolutely disgusting and I have no sympathy for the guy. If he acted like a decent human being, maybe his tragic backstory would have been more heartbreaking. But he’s the antagonist of the story and he’s done a list of horrific stuff, but his enjoyment of manipulating girls with his magic so they couldn’t fight back from his pursuits is at the top of the list for me.

But putting these couple of negative opinions aside, for the most part there was many things I enjoyed. Avry was a great protagonist. She didn’t allow anyone to boss her around, her healing power was interesting to read about, and her stubbornness made her extremely determined to do whatever she wanted. What I loved most about the book was that around 95% of it consisted of Avry and the group of men traveling to their destination. It took months! One thing I’ve always loved is road trip books and Touch of Power is the fantasy version of it.

Overall, I got really invested in this book so I’m happy that I decided to pick it up. It was such a relief because it helped me get out of a really long reading slump. The main characters were fun to get to know and the whole magical & political aspect of it was really interesting. I highly recommend it if my summary of the book sparked an interest in you. I know for sure that I’ll be picking up more of Maria V. Snyder’s books in the future.

When We Collided By Emery Lord

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“Maybe we were dying planets, Jonah, being drawn into the darkness. When we collided, we bounced each other back into orbit.”

This is a 2.5 stars rating from me. I feel really bad about this, but I just had a hard time getting through this book. I persevered and didn’t give up, but there was just too many times when I wanted to put this book down and never pick it up again. I thought for sure I was going to DNF this book, but I hate it when I leave books unfinished, so I kept going, even though my determination deprived me of reading another book for over a month!

Now I hope I don’t sound too harsh because I didn’t completely despise the book. There were reasons that kept me going. I was interested in certain aspects of it, like Vivi’s unique personality and the fact that the book included mental illness, a topic that is very important, but from my experience, hasn’t been very present in the YA books that I’ve read.

What I didn’t enjoy though was the romance, which sucks because the romance is the number one thing I look for when I choose a book to read.

I didn’t feel the connection between Jonah and Vivi. I didn’t believe they romantically loved each other or that they were actually a couple. There was no chemistry and it just felt really forced. It might also be because their relationship was very instalove…

These two characters collided during very difficult times in both of their lives. Their relationship was about meeting and unexpectedly helping put a positive impact in each other’s lives. This still could have happened if there was no romance, if their relationship just developed as a friendship. It would have still worked out!

I want to talk about why Vivi’s personality intrigued me so much. She is so different from most of the protagonists that we read about these days. She’s outgoing, has a unique and crazy sense of style and voice, and has a strange way of thinking and describing things:

“Don’t even ask me how my wild brain works, which points connect to the other parts, but the interconnectedness makes me think of bureaucracy.’

“I know you’re not just daydreaming about riding a pink pony to your job as a cupcake taster.”

“I’m a fountain of truth, splashing past each concrete tier until I hit the bottom and spout right back to the top.”

Anytime I read her chapters I was completely stunned.

I appreciated Jonah too. The brother that took care of his little siblings, with his passion for cooking, and having to grow up too fast.

These hardships that the characters went through was what had my interest. I wanted to know if/how they would overcome and accept the darkness in their lives.

Some of Vivi’s chapters were really random, and I guess it just has to do with her character and personality, but at some points I was like… what?
I mean one chapter she’s looking for her dad, then the next she’s on a crazy artistic mission, then she’s looking around town for clues about numbers that spoke to her…
It was fun and weird in a way… like what is Vivi going to do next?
It always remained a mystery…

I felt for the characters though. What they were going through had me tearing up at times, especially during Jonah’s chapters. Right off the bat we know what is going on in Jonah’s life, but it takes awhile to see past Vivi’s strange but welcoming presence and understand what is going on beneath the surface. We don’t even know what type of mental illness Vivi has until almost halfway through the book!

This obviously wasn’t my favourite contemporary book, but I still appreciated the story and I feel like I have a piece of it marked in my soul. (Vivi was here).

I just wish it didn’t take me a long time to get through it.

***

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Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

**4/5 stars**

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

Here I am trying to come up with the perfect words to sum up how I feel about what I just read, but I’m utterly speechless. It was such a unique, frustrating, fun, and heartbreaking love story. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it. It made me seriously think about life and how just a small miscommunication can make a huge difference, and in the case of Matt and Grace, it unfortunately cost them 15 years of their lives apart.

The story follows a thirty-six year old man named Matt who has no motivation in life to move forward. His ex-wife, her new husband, and him all work in the same place, which can get awkward, and he has no one to go home to at the end of the day. That all changes when he sees Grace again at the subway station. It’s a second too late, the train’s doors already close, but they make eye contact and recognized each other immediately. This persuades Matt to write a missed connections ad on Craigslist in hopes that Grace will find it. The story goes back 15 years to when Matt and Grace meet in their college dorm building and how they become fast friends. They’re both unique and weird; she’s a cellist he’s a photographer. Their relationship develops slowly and they become inseparable. Unfortunately, life gets in the way, and they become victims of bad timing.  

They cared about each other so much and didn’t give a damn about what other people thought of their relationship. The use of their talents really drove the story forward. Matt couldn’t stop taking photos of Grace, no matter if she was dancing, playing the cello, etc, etc. Grace practiced her cello non-stop. Their song tastes were nothing I’ve heard of before, but I somehow understood their passion and connection through the music in their relationship. (I may have just listened to some Jeff Buckley songs and now I have a lot of feels.)

I loved the New York atmosphere, I thought it was really fitting. The flashback took place in the 90’s, so it was cool to read about how their lives were different because of the lack of technology. The reason I gave it a 4 stars was because in the first quarter of the book I didn’t feel really connected to Matt and Grace. I didn’t desperately want to know how their story continued. BUT once I got past the middle, it really picked up for me and I fell in love. This book shattered my heart so many times but still managed to mend it back together, again and again. I would love to see this book adapted into a film! (can someone please make this happen.)

***

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Blurred Lines by Lauren Layne

**3.5 /5 Stars**

“I’m saying find someone who you can talk to. Someone who makes you laugh. I think you’ll realize that that’s what you find attractive.”

This story follows the POV of two protagonists: Parker and Ben. They’ve been best friends since freshmen year of college and over the years they have been roommates. Throughout this novel, the one question that keeps getting brought up is, can a guy and a girl be best friends without having any romantic feelings for each other? Parker and Ben thought so. Sure they had to convince many people that they were just friends, such as the many girls that Ben brought home, but what they claimed was true. They were just best friends who cared a lot about each other, but not in the way people thought. That is until Parker’s boyfriend breaks up with her. Ben and her later decide to have a no strings attached, sexual relationship. They didn’t want sex to change their friendship, so they made it all about having fun. 

I love reading the occasional New Adult novel. In between finishing a fantasy or YA contemporary, I find that I’m in the mood for something different, fun, and easy to get into. When I read the blurb for Blurred Lines, I immediately wanted to read it. It involved the type of tropes I often see in fanfiction, or in some other New Adult stories out there. Like the friend to lover, roommates, and friends with benefits tropes. This novel had it all. I enjoyed the story a lot, but I have to say it wasn’t my favorite. I thought Ben and Parker were fun to read about, but I didn’t connect or fall in love with them as much as I usually would with the main characters. There were some side characters that I absolutely despised though; Lance and Lori. I don’t think it was the author’s intentions to make these two characters unlikable, but for some reason I was always annoyed when they were in a part. I know we’re supposed to despise Lance a little, but Lori was also on my list of characters I wish weren’t in the story, and I’m not really sure why.

One thing I absolutely loved about this story was Parker and Ben’s friendship. They were so adorable with all the silly games they played and how they always looked out for each other. I also LOVED the fact that they actually communicated! What I mean by this is that whenever there was something wrong, they always told each other. For the most part they talked to each other about their problems and how they felt; the talk or mute game was usually how they began these conversations. I absolutely hate it when there’s conflict going on in books because someone didn’t tell the other person something. Such as, a big secret that a character finds out from a different source instead of from the person that was actually supposed to tell them. This usually begins a lot of drama. The communication between Parker and Ben was really refreshing.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It’s obviously not my favorite New Adult novel I’ve ever read, but it was still a quick and fun read. 

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